For generations, people of African and Caribbean descent have been an integral part of British history. #Blackhistorymonth, which originated in the US, encourages us to share, celebrate and understand the impact of black heritage and culture. We have been educating ourselves on the achievements of the following healthcare professionals and we would like to share with you their vital influence on medical advances and the healthcare system.
Mary Jane Seacole (1805-1881)
Seacole was a British-Jamaican nurse, healer and businesswoman who set up the "British Hotel" behind the lines during the Crimean War. Unafraid, Seacole financed for her own trip to Crimea, where she founded the British Hotel at Balaclava to offer "mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers." To commemorate her unforgettable impact on thousands a powerful 10ft bronze statue has been displayed outside St Thomas’ hospital in central London in 2016.
Alexander Thomas Augusta (1825 –1890)
Alexander Thomas Augusta was a surgeon, veteran of the American Civil War and was the highest-ranking black officer in the Union Army during the Civil war. He became the first black professor of medicine in the United States and the first black hospital administrator in U.S. history while serving in the army.
Abdel Halim Mohamed Halim (1910 - 2009)
Abdel Halim Mohamed Halim was a prominent physician, ambassador and teacher whose achievements paved the way for future Doctors. Dr Halim had an extensive career that covered the years leading up to and following Sudan's independence in 1956. His career was full of noteworthy achievements. He was the first:
He has inspired many Doctors and has created a legacy of Sudanese consultants that he had trained and supported.
James McCune Smith (1813 – 1865)
Born 1813, James McCune Smith aspired to become a doctor despite being initially denied admission to American colleges because he was Black. Dedication and personal resilience allowed Dr Smith to attend the University of Glasgow in Scotland, where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and medical degrees by age 24. Following this, he returned to New York in 1837 and became the first African American Doctor to open his own practice in the United States; As a physician, he treated both Black and white patients.
James Samuel Risien Russell (1863-1939)
Was a Guyanese-British physician, neurologist, professor of medicine, and professor of medical jurisprudence. Dr Risien Russell played a critical role in establishing the British school of neurology in the 1890s. He has been commemorated with an English Heritage London blue plaque. The plaque features on 44 Wimpole Street, the impressive house which served as Russell’s home and private practice.
These are just five noteworthy individuals whose stories and achievements paved the way for many and we feel they will be inspiring to our community of International Medical Graduates. The careers of innovative Black physicians like these are a fundamental part of medical history.