ACS releases new book exploring the history of Black surgeons and surgery in America

Feb. 1, 2022

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) has released a new publication, Black Surgeons and Surgery in America, that traces the history of Black surgeons and surgery in the U.S. from the Antebellum period to modern times.

Black Surgeons and Surgery in America showcases the careers of Black surgeons who skillfully served the sick while helping to advance the cause of racial equity. The book has seven distinct sections that identify broad themes of American history from slavery and Jim Crow to affirmative action and contemporary healthcare.

“The book describes the background of health disparities in America and gives a historical perspective of the inequities we face today,” said Don K. Nakayama, MD, MBA, FACS, Clinical Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, ACS Treasurer, and former Chair of the ACS History Committee, “Traced from start to finish, it’s the story of America.”

Notably, Black Surgeons and Surgery in America highlights figures overlooked in U.S. medical history who contributed to major advancements in health care like Dr. James McCune Smith, the first Black medical school graduate considered by Frederick Douglass to be the most important Black influence on his life; Dr. Martin Robison Delany, who was trained by an abolitionist after his chances at a formal medical education were derailed and then went onto become the first proponent of Black nationalism; and Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans, the first Black woman licensed to practice medicine in South Carolina who, when barred from admitting patients to hospitals, opened an inpatient facility in her home.

“Beginning with slavery and continuing to the present day, there are indisputable racial inequities in health care,” said ACS Executive Director Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS. “This book not only describes how Black surgeons faced the daunting challenges during each era of American history with heroism—sometimes at the cost of their lives—but it also serves as a call to action for surgeons today who seek to advance equity and justice in health care.”

ACS is offering a free download of the book.

ACS press release