Black History Highlight: 5 Black Doctors Who Changed the Medical Playing Field

Full BHM Virtual Series Lineup…

Happy Black History Month!

Throughout all of February WBLS will be celebrating black excellence with our Future Black Leaders Speaker Series and multi-platform content.

Today we’re kicking off our editorial highlights by saluting 5 African American Doctors who have made history by shaping public health and the medical world. Take a look below at the inspiring achievements from these trailblazing physicians.

Dr. Alexander Augusta

Alexander Augusta, MD. is known as the first black physician appointed director of a U.S. hospital. Alexander Augusta attended Trinity Medical College where he earned his medical degree. He established a successful medical practice in Canada and he relocated to the U.S. in 1862. After serving timein the Civil War, Dr. Augusta became the first commissioned black surgeon in the U.S. Army. He later became the first black physician to direct a U.S. hospital – Freedman’s Hospital in Washington D.C.He left the hospital to started his private practicenand becaming a professor at Howard University Medical Department in Washington D.C.

Dr. Charles Drew

Charles Drew, MD. was the first physician to use blood plasma to store blood for transfusion. Dr. Charles Drew discovered ways to organize the first large-scale blood bank and how to store blood plasma transfusion in the United States during World War II.  Following the war, Dr. he began developing a blood storage program at the American Red Cross but resigned soon after officials decided to segregate the blood of African Americans. Dr. Drew career propelled as he went on to become the chief surgeon at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., and the first black examiner for the American Board of Surgery.

Dr. Patricia Bath

Dr. Patricia E. Bath invented a surgical tool used to treat cataracts, the Laserphaco Probe, in 1986. She is also the first Black American to finish a residency in ophthalmology and the first Black American female doctor to receive a medical patent. Dr. Bath was born in 1942, Harlem, New York and became interested in science after her mother bought her a chemistry set as a young girl. She later went to receive a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry at Hunter College and graduate with honors, from Howard University College of Medicine.

Dr. Lonnie Bristow

Dr. Lonnie Bristow became the American Medical Association’s first Black president, in 1995. Raised in Harlem, New York, Bristow attended Morehouse College in Atlanta Georgia then later joined the U.S. Navy. Growing up he watched his mom work as a nurse practitioner and that’s where he found his love in the medical field. This pushed him to complete medical school and then establish himself an internal medicine practice in San Pablo, California. Dr. Bristow joined the AMA after the ban of racism and allowed black membership. In 1994, he became the first black physician to lead the organization.



Dr. Robert Boyd

Robert Boyd, MD. was the first President and co-founder of the first professional organization for black physicians. The organization is known as the National Medical Association making it the nation’s largest and oldest organization for black healthcare professionals, physicians and doctors. According to reports, ‘Racial exclusivity and segregation laws at the turn of the 20th century made black physician membership in America’s other professional organizations, such as the American Medical Association, virtually impossible.’ Due to the frustrations and lack of representation, the NMA was founded to serve black medical community. Robert Boyd, MD, of Nashville, Tenn., would later be appointed as the group’s first president in 1895.