Black Doctors in White Coats
African American Doctors Who Became Medical Pioneers

The 2022 Black History Month’s theme is Health and Wellness. Its focus celebrates the legacy Black professionals contributed to the well-being of all people. Despite having experienced profound discrimination, racism, under-employment /under payment throughout their professional and personal lives, many Black doctors pioneered breakthroughs in the field of medicine and medical science.

At the forefront of the development and production of the Covid-19 vaccine is 34-year-old Kizzmekia Corbett, PhD., a Black female viral immunologist. She was the scientific lead of the Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, and is the co-developer of the Moderna vaccine.

Other pioneers:

  • Dr. Mae Jemison, physician, global health activist, astronaut and mission specialist aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor.
  • Ala Stanford, M.D., pediatric surgeon. Founder and CEO of The Black Doctors’ Covid-19 Consortium, Philadelphia. In April of 2020, at the start of the Pandemic, Dr. Ala rented a van with her own funds, and started bringing medicine and testing to marginalized people’s neighborhoods. After the Covid vaccine became available, 70% of Philadelphia adults were vaccinated. Only 25% of the vaccine made it to communities of color, although they comprise 40% of Philadelphia’s population. Dr. Ala and medical staff vaccinated an average of one thousand people a day - in parking lots, on Septa platforms, at mosques and churches, and provided Covid-19 testing to hundreds.
  • Charles Drew, M.D. was a surgeon and researcher. During the Second World War, he discovered an innovative way to separate blood plasma and store it in blood banks to be reconstructed for transfusions. He developed the Red Cross’s first large scale blood bank, which saved hundreds of soldiers' lives. But Black people were prohibited from donating blood until 1942 - their blood was then used only in segregated blood banks until 1950.
  • Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D. was the first Black American psychiatrist. He was a pioneer in the understanding of and treatment for Alzheimer's disease. He studied in Munich, Germany directly under Dr. Alois Alzheimer.
  • Dr. William G. Coleman, Jr was the first Black scientific director of National Institute of Health Intramural Research Program and director of NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
  • Ben Carson, M.D., retired neuro-surgeon, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. Dr. Carson was director of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital at the age of 33. One of his biggest achievements was leading a 70-member surgical team in separating conjoined twins. He has received at least 60 honorary doctorates and other prestigious awards. Dr. Carson was a Republican candidate in the 2016 primary election for President of the United States.
  • Michele Obama, Ph.D., First Lady (2009-2017) brought attention to the childhood obesity epidemic. Her "Let’s Move" initiative in 2010 encouraged young people to exercise and eat nutritious food. Ms. Obama also devoted her time to increasing access to healthy food and improving food labeling. She championed the "Healthy Hunger - Free Kids Act" in 2010 which promoted healthier balanced breakfasts and lunches during the school day.
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