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Daniel Hale Williams

Born in January 1856 in Hollidaysburg, Daniel Hale Williams was one of the first physicians to perform open-heart surgery in the United States and founded a hospital with an interracial staff.


In 1891, Williams opened Provident Hospital in Chicago.  He, later, became chief surgeon of The Freedmen's Hospital in Washington DC.

According to local historian Harriett Gaston, Williams began his career as an apprentice to a barber.  She adds, that barbers of that time period did cutting.


His father, the elder Daniel Hale Williams was very active with the Equal Rights League, a black civil rights organization during the Reconstruction Era, which was very active in getting the black man the right to vote.  He was also one of the Underground Railroad conductors.  After the elder Williams died, ten year old Daniel was sent to live in Baltimore with family friends.  He became a shoemaker's apprentice, but didn't like the work.  So, he returned to his family, who had moved to Illinois.

After taking up barbering, he decided that he wanted to pursue his education.  He, then worked as an apprentice to Dr. Henry Palmer, a highly accomplished surgeon and then completed further training at Chicago Medical College.

At the time that he graduated from medical school, black doctors were not allowed to work in Chicago hospitals.  As a result in 1891, he statrted Provident Hospital and training school for nurses in Chicago.  According to Gaston, this facility was aimed at black citizens.  She also said that he and others had to create an association for black physicians.  He is considered to be the first president of that organization.


To read the complete article, please check out our upcoming book release They Came From Blair County due out by the end of the year.

**Information for this article was obtained from the following sources **


1. In-person interview with local historian Harriett Gaston

3. Wikipedia article on Daniel Hale Williams

4. Shumacker, Harris B (1992) The Evolution of Cardiac Surgery, Indiana University Press p12

5. Dalton, H.C. (1895) Report of a Case of Stab-Wound of the Pericardium Terminating in Recovery after Resection of a Rib and Sutre of the Pericardium-Annals of Surgery

6 Asante, Molefi Kete (2002)- 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encylcopedia-Amhurst, New York, Prometheus Books ISBN 1-57392-963-8

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