As one of the pioneer African American physicians Dr Daniel Hale Williams was instrumental in the establishment of the first ever medical facility in the United States with an interracial work force. The Provident Hospital in Chicago opened its doors in 1893 and made history as the first staff integrated medical institution.
Williams is however most remembered for being the first African American doctor to successfully perform pericardium surgery. It was the second successful surgery of its kind that was documented, the first having been carried out by Henry Dalton. Williams’s surgery was performed on a patient known as James Cornish who had been stabbed in the chest. He conducted the surgical procedure on July 9, 1893 at Provident Hospital without any blood transfusion, penicillin or modern medical equipment. In a strange turn of events, the surgery was not reported until 1897.
President Grover Cleveland’s administration appointed Williams the head surgeon at Washington DC’s Freedman’s Hospital in 1893 and here he provided much needed health care to all manner of patients including freed slaves. He held this position until 1898 when he got married and relocated to Chicago. As a newlywed, Williams went back to work at Provident hospital and at the beginning of the 20th century he worked at the Cook County hospital and later on at St Luke’s which was a large medical facility with sufficient resources.
Williams was a co-founder of the African American chapter of the National Medical Association and later became a chartered member of the American College of Surgeons. He also carried out voluntary missions most notably in Nashville, Tennessee where he volunteered as a visiting professor at a medical college.
In 1926 Dr Daniel Williams suffered a serious stroke and passed on five years later in Michigan. His determination and passion for the medical profession made him a pioneer physician and an honoured member of the post-independence African American community.