This Day in History: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Performs First Open-Heart Surgery in 1893


Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, shown in an undated photo, was the first American general surgeon to perform the first documented, successful pericardium surgery in 1893. He founded Chicago's Provident Hospital, the first integrated hospital in the country, and an associated nursing school for African Americans. (AP Photo)
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On this day in 1893, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams made history as a pioneering open-heart surgeon. Williams began his medical journey as an apprentice under the esteemed surgeon Dr. Henry Palmer, which paved the way for his admission to the prestigious Chicago Medical School at Northwestern University. After earning his M.D. in 1883, Williams became one of the few Black physicians in Chicago.

Motivated by the plight of a Black woman who was denied entry to nursing school due to her race, Williams co-founded the Provident Hospital and Nursing Training School.

On July 9, 1893, he performed the first open-heart surgery, demonstrating his exceptional medical intuition and surgical prowess. That night, James Cornish arrived at Provident Hospital with a deep stab wound near his heart, setting the stage for Williams’ groundbreaking achievement.

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