An Early Tragedy Inspired His Pioneering Life In Medicine

Portrait of Daniel Hale Williams
Abeni Jones
January 9, 2020

Daniel Hale Williams was nearly orphaned after his father died at an early age of tuberculosis

He was fascinated by a local doctor’s work. Though he found jobs as a shoemaker’s apprentice and a barber, he dreamed of improving medical care for Black people and became the doctor’s apprentice.

Williams eventually got a degree and became a doctor. Because medical care was so much more difficult to access for Black Americans in the 1880s, he often performed house calls. 

But he insisted Black people deserve the best, so he made sure to utilize the most up-to-date medical technology available, which was usually reserved for whites. 

Still, that wasn’t enough. He wanted to do more.

As soon as he had the opportunity, Williams opened Provident Hospital in 1891. It was a state-of-the-art facility that not only treated everyone, regardless of race, but also had a pioneering training facility for Black nurses.

To think that isn’t even the most remarkable thing about this innovative genius.

In 1893, James Cornish came to Provident with a terrible stab wound to the chest. Williams performed one of the first open-heart surgeries ever, saving his life and changing the game forever.

Daniel Hale Williams knew from a young age that quality medical care was a human right that Black people deserved - and decided that he had to be that change!

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