NMA Celebrates Black History Month

During the month of February 2015, the National Medical Association (NMA) will recognize four black Americans who made significant contributions to the art and science of medicine.

Featuring: Dr. Ruth Marguerite Easterling

Dr. Ruth Marguerite Easterling entered Tufts College Medical School in 1917 at the age of 19. She was one of two women in her class and one of the first black women to be admitted.  After completing her internship at Metropolitan Hospital in New York, she began her career as a pathologist. Dr. Easternling’s career included private practice, serving on the staff of Tuskegee Veterans Hospital in Alabama, and affiliation with Harvard laboratories and Beth Israel Hospital in Boston.

Among her professional accomplishments was her work with Dr. William Augustus Hinton, who in 1927 perfected the Hinton test for syphilis. Dr. Easterling also conducted tuberculosis research with Dr. Hinton and Dr. John B. West.  Their findings were published in 1939.

Dr. Easterling died of breast cancer at Cambridge City Hospital in 1943 at the age of 45. She is memorialized by a scholarship for minority students established in her name at her alma mater, Tufts University.



National Library of Medicine

Tufts University School of Medicine


Featuring: Dr. Alexander T. Augusta

Lt. Colonel Alexander T. Augusta, M.D., was the first African American faculty member of Howard University’s College of Medicine, and is believed to be the first African American to serve on the faculty of a medical school in the United States. Augusta served on the Howard faculty from 1869-1877.  

Born a freeman in Norfolk, Virginia in 1825, Augusta immigrated to Canada in order to attend medical school, earning his degree in 1856 from Trinity Medical College, Toronto.  Augusta established a medical practice and drugstore in Toronto, before applying for a position as surgeon with the United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.) through a letter of application to President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in 1863. Augusta’s application was accepted and after successfully passing the Army Medical Board’s rigorous three-day examination, became the first commissioned African American surgeon in the military. Augusta also became the first African American to head a hospital in the United States when he directed Freedmen's Hospital from 1863-1864.

After military service, Augusta joined the newly formed Medical College at Howard in 1869 becoming the only African American of the original five faculty members.

Alexander T. Augusta died in Washington, DC in 1890. He was the first black officer to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Howard University College of Medicine


Featuring: Dr. Muriel Petioni

Muriel Petioni, M. D., was dubbed the "matron of Harlem health." She was an energetic, mischievous pioneer and a self-proclaimed "meddler."]

Muriel Petioni was born in Trinidad in 1914, to Rose Alling and Charles Augustin Petioni. Her father became a prominent Harlem physician and was a co-founder of the Carver Federal Savings Bank. She graduated from Howard University Medical School in 1937 and in 1942 she married Mallalieu S. Woolfolk, a Tuskeegee Airman and lawyer. When their son was born in 1947, she took a few years off from medicine. She returned to establish her practice in her father's Harlem medical office in 1950. For the next forty years she saw to the health needs of poor and underserved patients in the Harlem community. She was also school physician in Central Harlem for the City's Department of Health from 1950 to 1980 and supervising physician for Central and East Harlem from 1980 to 1984.

Dr. Petioni was known for her vigorous commitment to women's issues, community medicine, social justice, and health care for the underserved. Women's advancement in medicine has always been important to her, and in 1974 she founded the Susan Smith McKinney Steward Medical Society for Women, a professional association for African American women physicians in the Greater New York area.

In her work with the Coalition of 100 Black Women, Muriel Petioni has developed a mentorship program that guides young African American women into careers in science and medicine. In 1976, she also founded, and was the first chair of, the Medical Women of the National Medical Association (was later the Council on Concerns of Women Physicians of the National Medical Association).

Among her many honors and awards are the Howard University College of Medicine Outstanding Alumni Award, given in 1992, and the New York Urban League's highest tribute, the 1999 Frederick Douglass Award, bestowed by Douglass's great-great granddaughter. In 2002 she shared with her son, New York businessman Charles M. Woolfolk, the City College of New York's Generations Public Service Recognition Award. Dr. Petioni died December 6, 2011.

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Featuring: Dr. William E. Matory, Sr.

William Earle Matory, Sr., M.D., FACS, distinguished surgeon, teacher and innovator, was a longstanding member of the National Medical Association (since 1961) and for more than 30 years served as the NMA’s director of Continuing Medical Education (CME).

Dr. Matory was widely respected for his significant contributions to trauma care, burn care, continuing medical education, the National Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons and as developer of a number of new programs at his alma mater Howard University, including the Family Practice Training Program.

As director of the NMA’s CME program since 1977, Dr. Matory implemented several program enhancements. He organized CME training and planning for all sections and regions of the NMA; maintained at least 40+ AMA Category 1 credit hours for the Annual Scientific Assembly; developed the NMA Family Medicine Section; initiated NMA certification to provide Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for all health professionals; introduced the wireless audience response system to Assembly activity; and introduced poster sessions and oral resident research forums, along with many other CME activities. Under Dr. Matory’s guidance of the NMA’s Continuing Medical Education program, the NMA has continuously maintained ACCME accreditation.

Dr. Matory’s medical specialty training included an internship at Philadelphia General Hospital and surgical residency at Freedmen’s Hospital system, which included the Staten Island United States Public Health Hospital and Norfolk Community Hospital. His residency was interrupted by his service as a captain in the United States Air Force (Japan) from 1955 to 1957. He was certified by the American Board of Surgery in 1961 and later recertified in 1980. He served a surgical fellowship from 1961 to 1962 and a renal fellowship at Howard University Hospital from 1963 to 1965. He received special renal dialysis training at the District of Columbia Veterans Administrative Hospital from 1964 to 1996.
Dr. Matory was responsible for the burn service at Howard University Hospital. His general surgery practice, from 1960 until his retirement in 1997, included trauma care and general surgery with a special interest in colon/rectal surgery.

In 1971, Dr. Matory became a professor of surgery at Howard University College of Medicine. His academic contributions included the teaching of gastrointestinal surgery and trauma care and the development of a popular course on surgical pathophysiology. For 37 years he had full responsibility for the development of the surgery curriculum, which impacted approximately 4,000 medical students.

Always an advocate for medical students and young physicians, Dr. Matory developed the primary care and surgical fellowships for rising junior students. The 100 student- surgical fellows and primary care student fellows included winners of competitive forums throughout the country. In recognition of his outstanding teaching and mentoring skills, he was awarded the Student Council Teaching and Leadership Award in 1962, 1982 and 1984; the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Society Faculty Induction Award in 1983, and the Distinguished Scholar–Teacher Award in the Howard University Health Affairs Division in 1985. He has received numerous other University and community awards.

During his long tenure at Howard University College of Medicine, Dr. Matory made outstanding contributions in a variety of positions. He served as director of the Medical Education for National Defense Program (MEND) for training in mass casualty care; developed the Howard University program in Continuing Medical Education; and authored 16 publications and produced 130 surgical and general medical videotapes in continuing medical education. He also established the Department of Family Practice, serving as its first chairman from 1970 to 1979. He was co-founder of the Physician Assistant Training Program; and initiated the Annual Resident/Faculty Competitive Research Forum, the "Magnificent Professor" Recognition Ceremony, and the annual Charles Ireland, M.D. Memorial Lectureship and Competitive Forum.

Dr. Matory’s hospital activity included the directorship of the Emergency Care Area at Freedmen’s Hospital/Howard University Hospital from 1960 to 1982. He began the hemodialysis service at Freedmen’s Hospital in 1966 and later introduced vascular service in preparation for the Howard University Hospital chronic dialysis and renal transplantation programs.
After retiring from practice in 1997, he continued to serve the University as director of Continuing Medical Education, assistant dean for clinical affairs at the College of Medicine, and assistant medical director for postgraduate affairs in Howard University Hospital.

Among his many professional memberships and affiliations, Dr. Matory was president of the Washington Academy of Surgery and the Washington Chapter of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). He served on the governing board of the ACS, representing the NMA surgical section for several years. He also served as chairman of the Washington, DC Board of Medicine and was a delegate to the Federation of State Medical Boards.

His membership in local medical societies included: the American Medical Association, the Medical Society of the District of Columbia (past chairman of Emergency Medicine Committee, the Continuing Medical Education Committee and the DC Emergency Medicine Planning Subcommittee), and charter member of the Society of Medical College Directors of Continuing Medical Education (now Society of Academic Continuing Medical Education). He was also a member of the National Academy of Science, Robert Wood Johnson Committee, which encouraged the national “911” emergency response system.

Among his many honors and awards, Dr. Matory received the Distinguished Surgeon Award from Congress in 1998, and the LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr. Distinguished Surgeon’s Award from the DC Chapter of the American College of Surgeons and the Washington Academy of Surgery in 2000.


Featuring: Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller

Solomon Fuller was the first African American psychiatrist in the United States. His grandfather was a slave who bought his freedom and moved to Liberia where Dr. Fuller was born. In 1889 he enrolled in Livingstone College in North Carolina where he graduated in 1893. Dr. Fuller started his medical education at Long Island but later transferred to Boston University where he obtained his MD degree in 1897.  Dr. Fuller accepted an internship position at Westborough State Hospital in Massachusetts and at the same time joined the medical faculty at Boston University School of Medicine. In 1899 he was named chief pathologist at Westborough.

Dr. Fuller developed an interest in mental health and even attended a conference at Clark College in Worcester, Massachusetts, which was the only occasion of Sigmund Freud’s visit to the United States. He later took advanced courses at the Carnegie Laboratory in New York, and in 1904 took a sabbatical to study with Emil Kraepelin and Alois Alzheimer at the University of Munich’s psychiatric clinic. Dr. Fuller returned to Boston where, in 1909, he married sculptor Meta Warrick and in 1912 published findings identifying one cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Fuller resigned his post at Westborough in 1919 to focus on his duties at Boston University. Just a few years later, in 1921, he was named associate professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and from 1928–33 functioned as chair of the Department of Neurology but was never officially named chair.

In the intervening years, Fuller helped develop the Neuropsychiatric unit at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama. Fuller’s interest in syphilis led to better diagnosis of the condition in black World War II veterans who had been misdiagnosed with behavioral disorders.

Today, in recognition of Dr. Fuller’s contributions, the mental health facility at Boston University is officially known as the Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center. And in 1972, the American Psychiatric Association and the Black Psychiatrists of America established the Solomon Carter Fuller Institute in Boston.

Selected Published Papers of Dr. Solomon Fuller
“Four Cases of Pernicious Anemia Among Insane Subjects” (New England Medical Gazette , 1901)
“An Analysis of 100 Cases of Dementia Precox in Men” (Proceedings of the Society of Neurological Psychiatry, 1908)
“Involutional Melancholia” (New England Society of Psychiatry, 1910)
“An Analysis of 3,140 Admissions to Westborough State Hospital, with Reference to the Diagnosis of Involutional Melancholia” (Proceedings of the Society of Neurological Psychiatry, 1911)
“A Study of the Miliary Plaques Found in Brains of the Aged” (Proceedings of the American Medio-Psychological Association, 1911)
“Alzheimer’s disease (senium praecox): The report of a case and review of published cases” (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 1912)

Featuring: Dr. Jane Cooke Wright

Dr. Jane Cooke WrightDr. Jane Cooke Wright made her mark in cancer research, developing new techniques for administering chemotherapy and evaluating new treatments for the disease. Jane Wright grew up in New York City. Her father, Dr. Louis Wright, was one of the first black graduates of Harvard University Medical School. In the late 1930s, he founded the Cancer Research Center at Harlem Hospital where Jane Wright would later do some of her most important medical research. Dr. Jane Wright graduated with honors from New York Medical College in 1945. Four years later she joined her father, then the director of the Cancer Research Foundation at Harlem Hospital. Together, they experimented with different chemical agents on leukemia in mice. While her father worked in the lab, she performed patient trials. In 1949, the Wrights began treating patients with anti-cancer drugs. Several patients experienced some degree of remission. When her father died in 1952, Dr. Jane Wright succeeded him as director. In 1955, she joined the faculty of New York University as an associate professor of surgical research, and director of cancer research. There, she continued her work with chemotherapy, studying a variety of anti-cancer drugs and developing new techniques for delivering potent drugs to tumors deep within the body. She created a database, cross-referencing cancers and patients, to help determine the effectiveness of these drugs. Later, Dr. Wright began experimenting with combinations of anti-cancer drugs. Because she believed most cancers were caused by viruses, she investigated a new class of anti-cancer agents comparable to antibiotics. During her 40-year career, she produced more than 75 research papers on cancer chemotherapy.

During the National Medical Association’s 2011 Convention and Scientific Assembly in Washington, DC, the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute presented Dr. Wright with its Cato T. Laurencin, MD, Distinguished Research Career Award in recognition of her extraordinary lifetime of commitment to medical research. 

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Featuring: Dr. James McCune Smith

Dr.James McCune SmithJames McCune Smith, M.D. was born in New York City in 1811. He is recognized as the first African American to obtain a medical degree. As a young lad, Smith attended the New African Free School on Mulberry Street established by the Manumission Society. According to the New-York Historical Society, this school was, “devoted to the education of black boys and girls as preparation for life as free citizens.” Additionally, it was also a core belief of the school that, “education would be an essential component in helping blacks to improve their position in American society”. Many abolitionist, academics, and entrepreneurs grew out of that school, including Smith. While attending the New African Free School, Smith was recognized for his natural oratory and academic potential however, life post matriculation was encased in an era when many racial inferiority myths against people of color existed. Fortunately, Smith through the financial sponsorship of a clergyman earned his medical degree at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. As soon as he graduated, he returned to New York and entered into the practice of medicine. Additionally, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported that Dr. Smith also owned two pharmacies.

Dr. Smith practiced medicine for 25 years. However, his life’s work expanded outside of medicine to include abolitionism, collaborating with the likes of Frederick Douglass. Dr. Smith’s journey shows the benefits of investing in the education of youth and the result of investments in the area of higher learning.

Main Source
Journal of the National Medical Association. 1952 March; 44(2): 160–162

Other References
Journal of Blacks in Higher Education Vol. 62, No 2. March 1970
New-York Historical Society Museum & Library
Mapping the African American Past


During the month of the February 2012, the National Medical Association (NMA) recognized four black Americans that made phenomenal contributions to the art and science of medicine.

Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, M.D.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler, M.D.

Daniel Hale Williams, M.D.

Charles R. Drew, M.D.

Featured: Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, M.D.

Dorothy Boulding FerebeeDorothy Boulding Ferebee, M.D., was born Norfolk, Virginia in 1890. She graduated from Tufts Medical College at the age of 37 and as with many young health care professionals of African descent born during that tense racial era, this consistent honor roll student was denied professional access into predominantly white hospitals. Determined, she moved to Washington DC for an internship at Freedmen’s Hospital (now Howard University Hospital). Dr. Ferebee was actively involved in countless organizations until her death at the age of 90. Here are some of her life's work: Founder of the Southeast Settlement House; 10th President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc; President of the National Council of Negro Women; Medical Director of the Mississippi Health Project; Vice President of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of the District of Columbia; Vice President of the Washington Urban League; Chair of the Washington Community Chest; Chair of the Women’s Division of the United Negro College Fund; Board Member of D.C. Social Hygiene Society, the Washington Housing Association and the Council of Social Agencies. This phenomenal woman truly personified excellence, hence her acknowledgement during Black History Month.

Journal of the National Medical Association Vol. 62, No. 2 March 1970
National Library of Medicine (NLM)
National Library of Medicine (NLM) Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee Video Clip



Featured: Rebecca Lee Crumpler, M.D.

Rebecca Lee CrumlperRebecca Lee Crumpler, M.D. was born in Delaware in 1831. Dr. Crumpler is recognized frequently in history books as the first African American woman to earn a doctor of science degree. According to National Library of Medicine (NLM), she graduated in 1863 from the New England Female Medical College. Crumpler in her published writing entitled, “Book of Medical Discourses,” mentioned observing the aunt who raised her, skillfully care for the sick and credits that experience for awakening a passion for the field of medicine. Additionally, she cared for newly freed slaves after the Civil War while living in Richmond, Virginia. After several years there, she relocated to Boston with her husband, where according to Partners of the Heart, “Crumpler established a practice at 67 Joy Street dedicated to serving women and children, especially through nutrition and preventative medicine.” Due to her literary and medical services, Dr. Crumpler is duly recognized during Black History Month.

Sources:    National Library of Medicine (NLM) &

                    Partners of the Heart


Featured: Daniel Hale Williams, M.D.

Daniel Hale WilliamsDr. Daniel Hale Williams was born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, January 18, 1858 to Daniel and Sara Price Williams. Eight years after graduating from Northwestern medical school in 1883, he founded the Provident Hospital historically known as the first hospital in the United States operated by Negroes.

Known for his meticulous attention to technical detail, Dr. Williams has been famed as the first physician to operate on the human heart, and received significant recognition of being the only Negro to be admitted to the American College of Surgeons at the time of its formation in 1913. His surgical notoriety was compounded by the fact he was black.

Extracts from W. Montague Cobb’s article in the Journal of the National Medical Association Vol. 45, No 5 September 1953.

To download the entire article – click here.

Featured: Charles R. Drew, M.D.

Dr. Charles Richard Drew was born in Washington, DC on June 3, 1904. He earned his doctor of science degree from Columbia University in 1940. Dr. Drew’s contribution to the art and science of medicine include, “the science of extracting plasma from blood for transfusions, which saved many lives on WWII battlefields and for which Drew is most recognized throughout the world. His other seminal contributions to surgical science included a better understanding of causation of shock and accurate measurement and replacement of fluids, electrolytes and blood.”

During the month of the February, the National Medical Association (NMA) will recognize four black Americans that made phenomenal contributions to the art and science of medicine.

Extracts from Eddie L. Hoover, M.D.’s Editor Column, of the Journal of the National Medical Association Vol.97, No 6, June 2005.

To download the entire article – click here.

The NMA promotes the collective interests of physicians and patients of African descent. We carry out this mission by serving as the collective voice of physicians of African descent and a leading force for parity in medicine, elimination of health disparities and promotion of optimal health.

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