Williams, Daniel (Surgeon)

(More Information On African Americans)

williams_daniel_2_300x300Daniel Hale Williams (January 18, 1856 – August 4, 1931) was an American surgeon. He was an African-American general surgeon, and performed one of the first successful pericardium surgeries. He also founded Provident Hospital, the first non-segregated hospital in the United States.

At the time that he graduated from medical school, black doctors were not allowed to work in Chicago hospitals. As a result, in 1891, Williams started the Provident Hospital (Chicago) and training school for nurses in Chicago, Illinois. This was established mostly for African-American citizens.

Williams was the second to have successfully performed pericardium surgery to repair a wound. Henry Dalton was the first. Dalton successfully performed pericardium surgery a repair a wound in 1891, with the patient fully recovering. Earlier surgeries on the pericardium, which resulted in the death of the patient, were attempted by Francisco Romero in 1801and Dominique Jean Larrey in 1810.

In 1893 Williams repaired the torn pericardium of a knife wound patient, James Cornish, the second on record.Cornish, who was stabbed directly through the left fifth coastal cartilage,had been admitted the previous night and Williams made the decision to operate the next morning in response to continued bleeding, cough and “pronounced” symptoms of shock.He performed this surgery, without the benefit of penicillin or blood transfusion, at Provident Hospital, Chicago, on 10 July 1893, though it would not be reported until 1897. About fifty-five days later, James Cornish had successfully recovered from the surgery. In 1893, during the administration of President Grover Cleveland, Williams was appointed surgeon-in-chief of Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., a post he held until 1898 when he married and moved to Chicago. In addition to organizing the hospital, Williams also established a training school for African-American nurses at the facility.

Williams was a teacher of Clinical Surgery at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and was an attending surgeon at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. He worked to create more hospitals and for accessibility to African Americans. In 1895 he co-founded the National Medical Association for African American doctors, and in 1913 he became a charter member and the only African American doctor in the American College of Surgeon.