Black News and News Makers in History: Daniel Hale Williams

Black news from Pasadena - celebrates This Week in African American HistoryDaniel Hale Williams was born on January 18, 1856 in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Known for being the first surgeon to open the chest cavity successfully without the patient dying of infection. As a result, he set operation standards for internal surgeries. Often historic event lists credit him with being the first person to perform open heart surgery.

Choosing a career as a barber, he opened his own shop where he met a local physician and found his calling. After two years of being the physician's apprentice, he entered what would become Northwestern University Medical School. After three years, in 1883, he graduated and opened his own office in Chicago.

In his practice, and at Provident Hospital, he insisted on using the highest, relatively new, sanitary protocols. The result was above standard: nearly 10 percent infection rate—much less than the typical hospital.

Black news from Pasadena - celebrates This Week in African American HistoryOn July 9, 1893, James Cornish was stabbed in the chest during a bar fight. By the time he arrived at the hospital, he had gone into shock due to the significant blood loss. Certain James would die without repair to the wound, he opened the man's chest, taking the risk of infection which was common during that time. Williams repaired the pericardium (lining around the heart) using his usual meticulous sanitary protocols.

It is reported that, 51 days later, James was recovered and left the hospital to live another 50 years. The local newspapers printed articles and the photo to the right was taken of James.

In 1894, Williams was appointed Chief Surgeon at the Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C.. Among his accomplishments, he established pathological and bacteriological units, hired a biracial staff of highly qualified doctors and nurses, and established an internship program. Due to his innovative efforts, there was a decrease in patient deaths and an increase in hospital efficiency. Again he set standards and protocols other hospitals adapted.

Later he returned to Chicago's Provident Hospital as Chief Surgeon. He was Chief at two other Chicago hospitals—one of which served wealthy white patients only. He also did private consultation across the country.

Williams was instrumental in starting the National Medical Association where he served as Vice President. This association was started as a result of the American Medical Association refusing to accept African American members.  

On November 13, 1913, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams became a charter member of the American College of Surgeons.  He was also a member of the Chicago Surgical Society.

Williams received honorary degrees from Howard and Wilberforce Universities.

Williams died on August 4, 1931.

Excerpts from  http://www.blackinventor.com/pages/danielwilliams.html.