African American Experience at YSM

The School of Medicine was established by passage of a bill in the Connecticut General Assembly in 1810 granting a charter for "The Medical Institution of Yale College". The Institution was formally opened in 1813, and the first degrees were conferred the following year.

The first African American student to graduate from the School of Medicine was Dr. Cortlandt Van Rensselaer Creed. A native of New Haven, Creed obtained his MD degree from Yale in 1857. His thesis, Dissertation on the Blood, was submitted to the faculty in partial fulfillment of his MD degree requirements. Dr. Creed spent most of his professional life in New Haven ministering to a multiracial practice until his death in 1900. The Creed-Patton-Steele Scholarship Fund has been established in recognition of his service and contributions. Nine other African Americans graduated from Yale before the turn of the 19th century, several of whom gained national reputations.

The first African American women to obtain her MD at Yale was Dr. Beatrix A. McCleary, in 1948. Dr. McCleary was also the first self-identified African American admitted to Vassar College. She still practices as a pediatrician in New York. Significant numbers of African American students enrolled at Yale beginning in the early 1970's. Since 1971, an average of twelve African American students have matriculated annually in a class of 102. The average number of Hispanic/Latino students enrolling each year has increased in the past decade to its current level of 8 to 10 per year.

A list of of known African American graduates of Yale School of Medicine has been developed thanks to the the scholarship of Dr. Daniel D. Daniels (YSM 1987) who wrote his Yale medical school thesis on the history of African Americans at Yale. Dr. Daniels' list is updated annually by the OMCA in cooperation with the Yale Alumni Association.

The Buddies Just for Kids program, run by Yale medical students, has been one of the many rewarding aspects of my Yale experience. The program matches Yale students with chronically ill children for friendship and emotional support. Through the program I've been able to partake in the lives of three siblings who are victims of the ravaging effects of AIDS on families. One of them is HIV infected (as are both parents) and has cancer. I serve as friend, tutor, and translator for the family, which hails from my native Haiti. Through this interaction I have strengthened my ties with members of the New Haven community and continue to learn why I'm here at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Darlene Gabeau, Wellsley College, YSM '02
Crossing the Color and Gender Divide

Crossing the Color and Gender Divide

Beatrix McCleary Hamburg, M.D., was the first African American women to attend Yale School of Medicine.