Dr. Robert E. Dawson served as the first African American EENT (Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat) surgeon at Lincoln Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. Lincoln Hospital was founded to serve the black population of Durham County and th surrounding areas. The original hospital construction was financed by the Duke family, Lincoln served as the primary African American hospital in Durham until 1976.
Dr. Dawson relocated to Durham in 1946 as the first African American EENT surgeon at Lincoln Hospital. He worked with Dr. Banks Anderson, Sr., chair of ophthalmology at Duke Hospital who provided Dawson with a year-long fellowship that in return helped him qualify for his specialty boards in EENT.
Dr. Dawson also served on the attending staff at Watts Hospital and Durham Regional Hospital where he served as vice president of staff and later, a member of the board of trustees. He was the 79th president of the National Medical Association.