Black History Month Celebrates Black Health Professionals: Daniel Hale Williams and Emma Reynolds

Updated | Published

There are many people who deserve recognition during the month of February for Black History Month. There are two that had such a wide ranging effect, that they deserved the spotlight both individually and together. Daniel Hale Williams and Emma Reynolds are a permanent part of healthcare history in Chicago and across the United States.

by Brenda F. Johnson Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience.

Black History Month 2022 theme - “Black Health and Wellness”

Black History Month Celebrates Black Health Professionals: Daniel Hale Williams and Emma Reynolds

Black History Month Inception

The inception of Black History month was in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland with the formation of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. It wasn’t until 1926 that Woodson began the annual celebration in February. The purpose of changing themes every year is to emulate the varying ways in which people of African descent in America perceive themselves and the effect of social movements on their endeavors as a community. 

There have been many influencers over the years in all fields of life such as politics, social justice, sports, etc. The year 2022 is one that focuses on those who forged a road for themselves and the black community in healthcare. We will look into the stories of those who contributed to the field of medicine and nursing. Each one paved a tough road with courage and fortitude, earning themselves a place in the history books. 

Daniel Hale Williams, M.D.

daniel-hale-williams-general-surgeon.jpg.8f2ba27de698da6cfcab88ab83ee262d.jpg

We will start by looking into Daniel Hale Williams, M.D. a general surgeon, and his accomplishments as an individual along with his contribution to nursing. His work in the medical community was far-reaching and laid a foundation for present-day cardiac surgery by performing the first cardiac surgery (see link below for more info).   He had many accomplishments, one of which we will look at closer - the birth of Provident Hospital and its associated nursing school for Black citizens. 

Daniel Hale Williams (1858-1931) was one of seven children who lost his father at a young age. His family moved many times, but Williams was determined and got his education at Chicago Medical.  Williams was the co-founder of the National Medical Association, an alternative to the American Medical Association because of its prejudice in not allowing black physicians to join. 

In 1890, Williams opened the first Black-owned interracial hospital. Provident hospital was not just a place for the Black community to find medical care, but it was the home of the first nursing school to open in the United States for Black nurses. But it wasn’t all William’s idea, he had a catalyst - Emma Reynolds

Emma Reynolds, R.N., M.D.

emma-reynolds-nurse-teacher.jpg.4bc3993986976d9333db2de855d3dd95.jpg

Emma Reynolds wanted to attend nursing school but was rejected based on her skin color. She knew of Williams and asked her Reverend brother to talk to him, asking for his help. Initially, their effort went into changing the existing school standards. But soon Williams began to raise money through wealthy, powerful white citizens as well as Black citizens. He also approached organizations and began collecting money, equipment, and supplies. The first building was bought with the help of Armour Meat Packing Company who gave the down payment. In 1890, the 12-bed facility opened and in 1891 the nursing program began. Along with the donations, community volunteers kept the hospital going through their service. 

Provident Hospital

Not only did they grow, but the ‘Provident Hospital Training School Association’ in Chicago had a full board and a first-year budget of $5429. Emma Reynolds, who went on to get her M.D was on the board of the association. The hospital struggled some during a couple of financial crises, and finally closed in July of 1987. It did reopen in 1993 as an adjunct to Cook County Hospital in Chicago.

Williams and Reynolds made history with their brave, intelligent endeavors. They opened up services for the Black community that were not available at the time, ranging from education to healthcare. When an association wouldn’t allow them entrance; they created their own. When a school wouldn’t allow them entrance; they formed their own. When a hospital wouldn’t allow Black citizens; they built their own.  Their footsteps led the way for Black doctors, nurses, and patients in so many ways. 

Highlighting Williams for Black History Month was important because of his contribution to cardiac surgery, medical treatment for Black citizens, and the nursing profession for Black nurses. He is recognized for his work as a surgeon, professor, innovator, and leader.  Emma Reynolds is recognized for her contribution to getting the Provident Nursing program for Black students started, as well as her continued work and service for the Black community. There are many who should be recognized, but these two represent such a broad and encompassing part of our healthcare. Their intertwining story is one that reaches across the spectrum.  What they began so many years ago opened up opportunities for Black doctors, nurses and patients. 

What they taught us has been built on and has improved healthcare tremendously. Recognizing Black citizens who made the world a better place in healthcare was a good choice for 2022. Look for more on those to be recognized this Black History Month.


References
The Provident Foundation - History Provident Hospital

12 Black American Pioneers Who Changed Healthcare

Black History Month

90 Articles   302 Posts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

4 Comment(s)

Guest757854

498 Posts

Excellent article!

Tweety, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 30 years experience. 30,852 Posts

The first African American Chief of Staff at the Hospital I worked for was a pillar in the community.  He also did my screening colonoscopy and told his staff "he's a nurse, don't charge him co-pays".   He was generous like that.  

He passed away in 2019.

https://www.tampabay.com/news/st-petersburg/2019/09/19/epilogue-paul-mcrae-was-a-pioneer-but-you-didn't-hear-that-from-him/

Another doctor named Fred Alsup was legendary here.  I worked with a nurse that said he was her doctor for over 50 years.

https://www.tampabay.com/archive/2002/04/12/physician-fred-alsup-dies-at-88/

From a nursing perspective, I have to honor the African American LPN's that I worked with   as a new grad RN 30 plus years ago.  I was a young gay white man who technically was "in charge" of them.  But they took me under their wing and showed me what it meant to be a good nurse.  I'm forever thankful.

Happy Black History Month!!

Edited by Tweety

amoLucia

Specializes in retired LTC. 7,641 Posts

TY for the histories.

Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience. 90 Articles; 302 Posts

14 hours ago, Tweety said:

The first African American Chief of Staff at the Hospital I worked for was a pillar in the community.  He also did my screening colonoscopy and told his staff "he's a nurse, don't charge him co-pays".   He was generous like that.  

He passed away in 2019.

https://www.tampabay.com/news/st-petersburg/2019/09/19/epilogue-paul-mcrae-was-a-pioneer-but-you-didn't-hear-that-from-him/

Another doctor named Fred Alsup was legendary here.  I worked with a nurse that said he was her doctor for over 50 years.

https://www.tampabay.com/archive/2002/04/12/physician-fred-alsup-dies-at-88/

From a nursing perspective, I have to honor the African American LPN's that I worked with   as a new grad RN 30 plus years ago.  I was a young gay white man who technically was "in charge" of them.  But they took me under their wing and showed me what it meant to be a good nurse.  I'm forever thankful.

Happy Black History Month!!

Thank you for your input, and the links!