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Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences celebrates diversity in our classrooms and in the communities we serve. In honor of Black History Month, the College’s Multicultural Committee compiled a list of accomplished individuals who advanced medicine and created inventions that impacted the lives of everyday Americans.

Benjamin Banneker
He was considered to be the first African American scientist. At age 24, he studied clockworks and constructed his clock from wood; he taught himself astronomy and published a popular almanac, Benjamin Banneker’s Almanac, from 1792 to 1797.

Patricia Bath, MD
Invented a new device and technique for cataract surgery known as laserphaco. She was the first black female awarded a patent for a medical invention and the first woman faculty at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute.

Guion Bluford, PhD
First African American in space when he flew on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. Former Air Force fighter pilot who flew 144 combat missions during the Vietnam War in 1966-67. Inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame.

Alexa Canady, MD
First black female neurosurgeon. She served as chief of neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, ranked one of the best pediatric neurosurgery programs in the U.S.

Ben Carson, MD
First neurosurgeon to separate conjoined twins attached at the back of the head in 1987. One of the youngest physicians to direct pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital.

Rebecca Crumpler, MD
She was the first black woman awarded a medical degree from a U.S. university in 1864. Women were largely barred from secondary education at that time. Published Book of Medical Discourses in 1883, which help women take better care of their families.

Charles Drew, MD
He was the first to use blood plasma to store blood for transfusion and he organized the first large blood bank during WWII. He was the first black examiner for the American Board of Surgery.

Roselyn Epps, MD
The first black president of the American Medical Women’s Association in 1974. She produced more than 90 articles in journals and co-editor for The Women’s Complete Healthbook.

Solomon Fuller, MD
The first black psychiatrist recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. He pioneered Alzheimer’s research and advanced the study of many neurodegenerative diseases, including schizophrenia and manic depression.

Matthew Henson
The first human to reach the pole in 1909, some 45 minutes ahead of Robert Peary, on his expeditions to the North Pole. He received many awards and tributes. Henson rests alongside Peary at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Mae Jemison, MD
First woman of color to travel into space on September 12, 1992, when she rocketed into Earth orbit on an eight-day mission aboard the spacecraft Endeavour. Written many books for young readers.

Percy Julian, PhD
He synthesized physostigmine for treatment of glaucoma and cortisone for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. He used soy protein to produce AeroFoam, which suffocates and oil fires.

Mary Mahoney, RN
First black woman awarded a nursing degree. She graduated from New England Hospital training school for nurses in 1879. Among the first women to register to vote in Boston.

Garrett Morgan
Invented a gas inhaler and the traffic signal. The U.S. Army used his device as gas masks for combat troops during WWI. Firefighters today save lives by wearing a similar breathing device.

Marie Van Brittan Brown, RN
Invented the first home security system. Her original invention consisted of peepholes, a camera, monitors and a two-way microphone. Her patent laid the groundwork for the modern closed-circuit television system.

Madame C.J. Walker
She made a fortune on her specialized beauty product line for African American women. She is one of America’s first self-made female millionaires.

George Washington Carver
Developed 325 different uses for peanuts and 118 products from the sweet potato. Inventions also included synthetic marble and writing paper. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990.

Daniel Williams, MD
One of the first physicians to perform a successful open-heart surgery. He opened Provident Hospital in Chicago, the first black-owned hospital.

Jane Wright, MD
First woman elected president of the New York Cancer Society. She was responsible for elevating chemotherapy as a viable treatment option for cancer patients. She developed a non-surgical method to deliver heavy doses of anticancer drugs to tumors in the kidneys, spleen and elsewhere.


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