Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Famous Black Firsts: Recognized Physician James Durham

This one is a good example of why it is not as easy to do these as you'd think. Though James Durham did something great, the dates of his birth and death are different depending on where you look and there are no pictures of him. Anywhere. Lots of folks have written about this guy and they are using a picture of James McCune Smith who was the first formally trained Black doctor. Durham was the first Black to practice medicine without a degree. Get it together, people. 

Born a slave in 1762 and having 10 siblings he was owned by different doctors. By the time he was 11 one of his masters hired him to help out with medical services. At the age of 20 he was making $3,000 a year which sounded real low until I did the conversion and saw that it came out to about $75,870 a year. If I made that much now I'd be happy let alone in the 1700's. 

Working as a nurse at the age of 21 he was able to buy his own freedom and set up his own medical business in New Orleans. It is said that he was popular due to the fact that he was able to speak three languages: English, Spanish, and French. In 1789 he saved more patients than any other physician from yellow fever after previously meeting Benjamin Rush who is known as the father of American medicine. In Philadelphia he learned that climate and disease were related. In 1801 his practice was restricted even though he knew what he was doing and good at his job because he did not have a formal medical degree. It is said that disappeared after 1801 or 1802 and died of a heart attack.

Click here for previous Famous Black Firsts.  

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