DARC Ethiophile Chronicles
On this day
July 9, 1893 Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performed the world’s first successful open-heart surgery without anesthesia at Provident Hospital in Chicago, IL,
Born on January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, Daniel Hale Williams pursued a pioneering career in medicine. An African-American doctor, in 1893, Williams opened Provident Hospital, the first medical facility to have an interracial staff. He was also the first physician to successfully complete open-heart surgery on a patient. Williams later became chief surgeon of the Freedmen’s Hospital.
Williams set up his own practice in Chicago’s Southside and taught anatomy at his alma mater, also becoming the first African-American physician to work for the city’s street railway system. Williams—who was called Dr. Dan by patients—also adopted sterilization procedures for his office informed by the recent findings on germ transmission and prevention from Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister.
Due to the discrimination of the day, African-American citizens were still barred from being admitted to hospitals and black doctors were refused staff positions. Firmly believing this needed to change, in May 1891, Williams opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, the nation’s first hospital with a nursing and intern program that had a racially integrated staff. Famed abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass publicly championed the facility, where Williams worked as a surgeon.
In 1893, Williams continued to make history when he operated on James Cornish, a man with a severe stab wound to his chest who was brought to Provident. Without the benefits of a blood transfusion or modern surgical procedures, Williams successfully sutured Cornish’s pericardium (the membranous sac enclosing the heart), becoming the first person to perform open-heart surgery. Cornish lived for many years after the operation.