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Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, Surgeon

Daniel Hale Williams quote

When a young Chicagoan was stabbed in the chest one hot night in 1893, it could easily have been a death sentence. Luckily for James Cornish, he was rushed to surgeon Daniel Hale Williams.

Williams cut through Cornish’s rib cartilage and repaired a gash in the pericardium – the membrane covering the heart. It was one of the earliest successful heart operations.

Daniel Hale Williams was born in 1858 in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. The son of a barber, he started his career as a shoemaker. He kept pursuing education and managed to become apprenticed to a prominent surgeon. By age 25 he had graduated from the Chicago Medical School.

Opportunities for black doctors and nurses were limited, so Williams founded the Provident Hospital and Nursing Training School in 1891 – the first U.S. hospital to employ both black and white doctors. He also helped organize the National Medical Association as a counterpart to the American Medical Association, which did not accept black members.

Children’s Health Fund carries on Williams’ work by reaching out to all children regardless of race or ethnicity. Since Williams was an early adopter of antiseptic techniques, the doctors on our mobile clinics also honor his legacy every day when they wash their hands and use sterile instruments.

Want to help us celebrate Black History Month? Share a photo of the happy, healthy children in your life on Instagram or Twitter and tag your post #StartWithASmile. For every photo posted, Colgate-Palmolive will donate $1.00 to Children’s Health Fund.