Profiles & Personalities

Juneteenth Reflections: Honoring the Enduring Legacy of African-American Pioneers in Healthcare

The Trusted Team
June 6, 2023
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On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth, or June 19th, officially became a federal holiday marking an important milestone for not only Black Americans, but American history. Although Juneteenth has been celebrated in African American culture for over a century, in recent years there has been broader acknowledgement in the day, allowing for a brief history and overview of this monumental recognition.

The Significance of Juneteenth

As we approach the Juneteenth holiday this year, we at Trusted Health want to take a moment to recognize the significance of this day, and pay tribute to the resilience, dedication, and contributions of healthcare workers, particularly those of African descent who have played a pivotal role in shaping our healthcare system.

Juneteenth, officially recognized on June 19th, commemorates the day in 1865 when the news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached the last enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas. This was more than two years after President Lincoln’s original declaration. This day symbolizes freedom, resilience, and the continued struggle for equality and justice that has defined much of African-American history.

African-American Contributions to Healthcare

The contributions of African-Americans to healthcare are profound and immeasurable. As we reflect on the strength and resilience of black healthcare professionals this Juneteenth, we must honor those who have paved the way in the field of medicine. 

Join us in celebrating a few of the noteworthy black pioneers who have made significant contributions to healthcare:

  • James McCune Smith, MD (1813–1865): The first African American to earn a medical degree, Smith, who was born into slavery, was freed in 1827 and made incredible achievements. He was influential in defeating misconceptions about race, physiology, and intelligence during his time. 
  • Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD (1831–1895): Crumpler was the first Black woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree- she had been working as a nurse prior to her formal training. She wrote one of the first medical publications by an African American and dedicated much of her life to caring for formerly enslaved people​. 
  • Daniel Hale Williams III, MD (1856–1931): Williams opened the first medical facility in the nation with an interracial staff. He was one of the first people to successfully perform open-heart surgery, and he founded the National Medical Association for Black medical practitioners​. 
  • William A. Hinton, MD (1883–1959): Hinton created a new blood test for diagnosing syphilis that was adopted by the U.S. Public Health Service. He became the first African American to be promoted to the rank of professor at Harvard​​.
  • Jane Cooke Wright (1919–2013): Wright researched chemotherapy drugs leading to remissions in patients with leukemia and lymphoma. She became the first woman president of the New York Cancer Society and a founding member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology​.
  • William G. Anderson, DO (b. 1927): Anderson founded and led the Albany Civil Rights Movement and became the first Black surgical resident in Detroit’s history. He also became the first Black president of the American Osteopathic Association​​.
  • Marilyn Hughes Gaston, MD (b. 1939): Gaston published a groundbreaking study that led to the creation of a national sickle cell disease screening program for newborns. She became the first Black female physician to direct the Bureau of Primary Health Care in the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration

(Source: ACHE)

The Spirit of Juneteenth and the Healthcare Profession

The commitment of the professionals mentioned above mirrors the spirit of Juneteenth - a spirit of resilience, freedom, and relentless pursuit of a better future. To all healthcare workers, particularly those within the African-American community, we express our deepest gratitude. Your devotion to your profession, your commitment to patient care, and your resilience amidst adversity serve as an inspiration to us all.

For a deeper look into the experiences of African-American healthcare workers, we invite you to read our blog article, "Being the Only Black Nurse on the Unit". This piece provides a personal perspective on the unique challenges faced by Black nurses and their unwavering dedication to providing exceptional care for their patients.

Your stories, your experiences, and your perseverance not only mirror the spirit of Juneteenth but also shape the future of healthcare. We stand in solidarity with you, committed to fostering diversity, inclusivity, and equity in the healthcare profession.

The Continuing Journey Towards Racial Equality and Justice

In celebration of Juneteenth, we encourage everyone to learn more about the history of this day, and reflect on the continuing journey towards racial equality and justice. The fight for a more equitable healthcare system - one that serves all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status - is ongoing. 

At Trusted, we are committed to addressing implicit bias in healthcare and promoting diversity in healthcare. We firmly believe that a diverse workforce is a strong workforce, and that every individual, regardless of their background, plays an essential role in improving patient care and enhancing the health of our communities. We encourage you to learn how you can help dismantle racial healthcare disparities through your own practice. 

Juneteenth is a reminder that social justice needs to continue to be fought for and Black history deserves to be acknowledged and shared throughout the year. At Trusted, we will honor Juneteenth as an official holiday. As we celebrate, let us commit to uplifting and pushing Black communities, culture, and legacy forward.

Join Us in Making a Difference

We invite you to join our community of healthcare professionals dedicated to providing quality care for all. We believe in the power of diversity and inclusion, and we strive to create opportunities for all healthcare professionals, regardless of their race or background.

If you're a healthcare professional interested in traveling with Trusted, we'd love to have you on board. Take the next step in your journey and sign up to travel with us. Let's continue to make a difference together, one patient at a time.

The Trusted Team

Trusted Nurses are more than a resume. You have unique perspectives to share, ambitions to chase, new cities to explore, and experiences that can’t be summed up on a skills checklist. Let’s show the world how amazing it is to be a nurse.

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