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FunTimes Magazine

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams III (1856-1931)

Sep 11, 2020 08:00AM ● By Diamond Jones

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams III was born on January 18, 1856 in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. After his father passed away, Williams briefly lived with family friends in Baltimore, Maryland before moving to Illinois. In Illinois, he worked as a shoemaker apprentice and barber. In 1878 Williams decided to pursue an education in the medical field after working in a surgeon's office. It only took three years for Williams to earn his doctorate degree from the Chicago Medical College.

In 1881, immediately after graduating from medical school, Dr. Williams opened his own practice. He also started teaching anatomy at the Chicago Medical College. His practice and teachings were like no other. He was a trailblazer. His emphasis on sterilization and sanitary conditions during medical procedures changed the way surgeries were performed. His sterile methods dramatically decreased germ transmission..

In 1881 Dr. Williams co-founded the Provident Hospital and Training School Association in the south side of Chicago. The hospital was extremely successful and grew rapidly during the years of 1891-1912 due the success rate in patient recovery. The hospital is historically important because it was the first Black-owned hospital in the nation and the first training facility for Black nurses. It was also the first interracially staffed hospital in the nation.

In 1893 Dr. Williams made history by becoming one of the first doctors to successfully perform open heart surgery on a Black man named James Cornish. Cornish had received multiple stab wounds in the chest and surely would have died without the help of Dr. Williams. Dr. Williams performed the surgery despite having a limited array of medicine and equipment. It took Cornish 51 days to recover and he lived for 50 more years. Word of the surgery spread, and Dr. Williams gained national recognition.

In 1894 Dr. Williams was appointed Chief Surgeon at the Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington D.C. He made tremendous changes and upgrades to the hospital. First, he reorganized the hospital and added ambulance services. He also instituted another training school for Black nurses and provided an abundance of staffing opportunities for Black physicians.

Dr. Williams was determined to make a seat at the table for Black medical professionals . In 1895 he co-founded the National Medical Association as a response to Black nurses being denied into the American Medical Association.

In 1898 Dr. Williams married Alice Johnson. Together they moved back to Chicago and Dr. Williams rejoined the Provident Hospital. He also worked as a traveling clinical surgeon. In 1913 he became the first Black surgeon to join the exclusive American College of Surgeons. In 1926 he retired and lived the rest of his life in an all Black community resort. He passed away on August 4,1931 at the age of 75.