Americans have celebrated Black History Month (BHM) in the U.S. since February, 1915. Throughout the month, Black Americans are recognized for the countless contributions they have made to U.S. history.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson (father of BHM) believed Black people should be proud of their heritage and all Americans should understand Black American’s largely overlooked achievements.
This year’s theme, “Black Health and Wellness,” acknowledges the legacy of Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, as well as birth workers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc., throughout the African Diaspora.
Among the legacy Black American scholars and medical practitioners:
- Dr. David Jones Peck, the first Black male graduate of an American medical school.
- Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who performed the world’s first successful open-heart surgery and established Provident Hospital, the first Black American-owned hospital.
- Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first Black American female doctor.
- Dr. Ida Gray Nelson Rollins, the first Black American female dentist.
- Major Alexander T. Augusta, the first Black surgeon in the U.S. Army.
- Brig. Gen. Hazel W. Johnson-Brown, the first Black female general officer in the Army Nurse Corps.
- Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, the first Black American psychiatrist
- Lt. Col. Joseph Henry Ward, M.D., the Veterans Affairs first Black American hospital director.
- Lena Lowe Jordan, a registered nurse affiliated with the Arkansas Home and Hospital for Crippled Negro Children in Little Rock. Jordan placed a mortgage on her home to obtain funds to operate the hospital that was open to all Black patients, regardless of their ability to pay.
In 2015, Providers Association for Home Health & Hospice Agencies (PAHHHA) established the third Friday of February as National Caregivers Day (NCD)—the day Americans celebrate and honor caregivers (family, professional, independent, private duty, and informal) who selflessly provide personal care, and physical and emotional support to those in need.
Current Black American scholars and medical practitioners recognized during this year’s BHM “Black Health and Wellness” theme include:
- Dr. Alexa Irene Canady, the first Black American female neurosurgeon.
- Dr. Marilyn Hughes Gaston, the first Black female physician appointed director of the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Primary Health Care.
- Dr. Fayron Epps, the founder of Alter, the only nurse-led dementia-friendly initiative to support Black American congregations.
- Dr. DeLon Canterbury, President and CEO of GeriatRx, Inc., a Certified Community Pharmacogenomics Consultant dedicated to serving low-income and rural socioeconomic populations.
- Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the first Black female to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Just as Dr. Woodson believed Black people should be proud of their heritage, and PAHHHA saw the importance of recognizing paid and unpaid caregivers, during this Black History Month and on National Caregivers Day, we celebrate these and all other Black American scholars and medical practitioners who have and continue to contribute to “Black Health and Wellness” in the Black community.