Daniel Hale Williams (1856-1931)

Daniel Hale Williams (1856-1931)
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was an African American physician who made history by performing the first successful open heart surgery operation ever performed, on July 9, 1893 before such surgeries were established. On July 9, 1893, a man lay on an operating table with a knife wound near his heart. He would die unless the internal bleeding stopped. The only doctor capable of closing the wound was Daniel Hale Williams. Williams was born in Holidayburg. His father died when he was 11, and his mother abandoned him soon after. He wound up living with a family in Wisconsin. There he was encouraged to pursue a career in classical music. However, Williams was more interested in healing bodies than playing the violin. When he was 21, Williams was taken under the wing of a Wisconsin physician and apprenticed with him for two years. After that, he was accepted at Chicago Medical School (now Northwestern University). At the age of 27, he received his medical degree. As a black doctor, Williams was barred from practicing medicine in hospitals. So he started his own practice in Chicago. He soon gained a reputation as a fine surgeon. In 1891, Williams was asked to work at Provident Hospital, Chicago’s first black-owned and operated hospital. It was here that the stabbed man was brought. When Williams opened the man’s chest, he saw his beating heart. He also saw that a small artery and the pericardium were cut. Williams used sutures from the guts of silkworms to close the tissues and stop the bleeding. The man recovered. Williams lectured on his procedure, and heart surgeries soon became a frequent practice world-wide. He became the only black charter member of the American College of Surgeons.
In 1913, he was the only African American member of the American College of Surgeons.

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