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Meet the Black Surgeon Who Performed the First Successful Open Heart Surgery

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams

An open heart surgery is one of the most delicate and dangerous surgeries imaginable, and they require the utmost skill even in today’s modern operating rooms. That is what makes it even more amazing to know that the first surgeon to perform an open heart surgery did so before the turn of the 20th century! Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, an African American man, managed just that feat in the astonishing year 1893.
The Winding Road to the ER

Following the death of his father when he was just nine years old, Williams was sent away to relatives to apprentice as a shoemaker. He would go on to open his own barber shop, only to be drawn in by the allure of a career in the medical field. He began to apprentice under a local doctor before attending Chicago Medical College in 1880 and opening his own practice in 1883.

Making History

Following the first successful open heart surgery on a wound in 1891, Williams was presented with a patient named James Cornish who had been stabbed in the heart.

Despite not having access to modern amenities and technology, Williams successfully repaired the damage to Cornish’s heart, and he was able to walk out of the hospital less than two months later following his recovery.

Watch a mini-documentary about his life below: