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Picture of Daniel Hale Williams
Daniel Hale Williams

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, pioneer in radical heart surgery, was born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. He received his medical degree in 1883 from Chicago Medical College.

Williams founded the nation's first interracial medical facility, Chicago's Provident Hospital, in 1891 and developed the first black nursing school there. He performed the first successful heart operation at Provident Hospital on July 10, 1893, by closing a stab wound located a fraction of an inch from a man's heart. Williams opened the patient's thoracic cavity without the aid of blood transfusions or modern anesthetics and antibiotics. During the surgery, he examined the heart, sutured the wound of the pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart), and closed the chest. The patient lived at least 20 years following the surgery.

In 1894, President Grover Cleveland appointed Williams to head Howard University's Freedmen's Hospital in Washington. Williams resigned from Freedmen's in 1898 and returned to Chicago, where he became the only black on the staff of St. Luke's Hospital. He continued to practice there and at Provident Hospital. He also served as visiting professor of surgery at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. Williams became the only black charter member as Fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 1913.

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