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The story of early African American physicians begins in 18th century Philadelphia with James Derham who is recognized as the first black allopathic (regular, non-sectarian) medical doctor. The first medical school in the U.S. to admit an African American was Rush Medical College in Chicago that awarded, in 1847, David J. Peck his degree. Dr. Peck came to the “Quaker City” to set up his practice the same year that the A.M.A. was formed, also here in Philadelphia. In 1877, Jefferson doctors protested the seating of the delegates from Howard University, the nation’s most important black medical school, in part, because that school admitted men and women students in the same classrooms. In the nineteenth century, JMC had a reputation for the highest standard in medical education and, unfortunately, also shared some of that era’s racial and gender prejudices. JMC’s conservative admission policies rejected people of color and women applicants until a brief period in the first decade of the 20th century when a modest percentage of African Americans were admitted. But byWorldWar I, the doors had again closed until the late 1940s. This first generation of “Old Jeff ” African American graduates laid down foundations and created original strategies to overcome barriers to not only succeed, but to excel, as they served their neglected community. This exhibition celebrates the remarkable achievements and lives of that handful of early pioneers.

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History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Medicine and Health Sciences

African American Graduates of Jefferson Medical College: The First Hundred Years