African Americans have always practiced medicine, whether as physicians, healers, midwives, or “root doctors.” The journey of the African American physician from pre-Civil War to modern day America has been a challenging one. Early black pioneer physicians not only became skilled practitioners, they became trailblazers and educators paving the way for future physicians, surgeons, and nurses, and opening doors to better health care for the African American community. Collaboratively developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore, the Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons exhibition celebrates the contributions of African American academic surgeons and educators to medicine and medical education. The University of Vermont College of Medicine will host a special exhibit, from April 11 through June 5, 2011, in the Robert H. & Cynthia K. Hoehl Gallery in the Health Science Research Facility on the UVM campus. The exhibition tour, launched in July 2007, has traveled throughout the U.S. over the past nearly four years.
Rather than provide an encyclopedic look at African American surgeons, Opening Doors employs contemporary and historical images to take the visitor on a journey through the lives and achievements of four pioneering academic surgeons, and provides a glimpse into the stories of those that came before them and those that continue the tradition today. The exhibition highlights Alexa I. Canady, M.D., the first African American woman pediatric neurosurgeon; LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., M.D., cancer surgeon, and the first African American President of the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society; Claude H. Organ, Jr., M.D., general surgeon, and the first African American to chair a department of surgery at a predominantly white medical school; and Rosalyn P. Scott, M.D., the first African American woman cardiothoracic surgeon. Opening Doors also includes other academic surgeons from around the country that follow in the tradition of sharing their knowledge and passing the torch to younger surgeons.
“The UVM College of Medicine Dean’s office is excited to host the Opening Doors exhibit,” said Karen Richardson-Nassif, Ph.D., associate dean for faculty and staff development and diversity. “It is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the stories of many pioneering African American surgeon educators and their many achievements.”
Opening Doors is curated by Margaret A. Hutto, director of exhibitions at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., and former exhibitions manager at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, and Jill L. Newmark, exhibition registrar at the National Library of Medicine. The National Library of Medicine is the largest medical library in the world and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum is the largest African American museum on the east coast. To view an online version of the exhibition, visit https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/aframsurgeons/index.html