Charles I. West was the first black doctor licensed by the state of Nevada.
West was born in Washington, D.C. on September 27, 1908. The Wests were a prominent and privileged family in Washington, D.C.
West completed high school at the Williston Academy for boys in East Hampton, Massachusetts. He began his college years at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and graduated from Howard University Medical School in 1933. He completed his internship at General Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, and became a resident surgeon at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, hospital.
West served in World War II as a field surgeon and was wounded in France. After his military discharge, he studied at the London Tropical School of Medicine. Before returning to the United States, he traveled to Liberia, West Africa, where he and his brother John established a much-needed hospital and later opened the first training school for nurses.
At the suggestion of Count Basie, the great bandleader of a friend, Dr. West moved his family to Las Vegas. Basie often played in Las Vegas and was disturbing lack of professional blacks in the community. Dr. West sought to change this. He became the first black to take the Nevada State Board of Medicine Examination, the first black medical doctor in southern Nevada, and the first black surgeon on the staff of Southern Nevada Medical Center.
He encouraged blacks to “get out and vote,” and to serve in positions such as deputy registrars. Dr. West also served as team physician to Rancho High School for ten years.