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Black History Milestones at Yale Department of Surgery

March 03, 2022
by Cecelia Smith

In observance of Black History month, a curation of significant milestones in the Department of Surgery's past and recent history.

1857 Cortlandt Van Rensselaer Creed becomes the first African American to be awarded any degree by Yale when he received a medical degree from the School of Medicine in 1857. Dr. Creed later serves as a Civil War Surgeon for the Union Army.

1891 Henry Floyd Gamble is the fourth African American to graduate YSM. He graduates with honors for his thesis, “The Control of Epidemics.” Dr. Gamble later becomes a celebrated surgeon and activist for medical politics.

1897 William F. Penn graduates YSM in 1897. He would then become the first African American surgeon on staff at the Harlem Hospital.

1948 Inspired by her father’s career as a surgeon, Beatrix McCleary Hamburg pursues medicine and becomes is the first African American woman to graduate from YSM in 1948. She has a long career as a thought-leader in child psychiatry.

1975 Alexa Canady becomes the first female and first African American enrolled in the Yale New Haven Hospital surgical residency program in 1975. In 1981, she becomes the first African American neurosurgeon in the United States.

1980 Claudia Thomas becomes the first black female orthopedic surgeon in the country, when she completes Yale’s residency program in 1980.

2007 The Yvedt L. Matory lectureship at Yale was established by YSM graduates Dr. Tina Young Poussaint, Dr. Valerie Stone and a committee of YSM medical peers in 2007 in memory of their friend, Dr. Yvedt Matory — a former YSM graduate and YNHH intern who built a legacy as an influential breast surgeon before her death in 2005.

2019 Dr. Nita Ahuja, the first female to lead the Department of Surgery at Yale as Chair, establishes the Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Lectureship, an annual tradition shared with the surgical services.

2019 James Stewart’s video of the moment he matches into Yale’s General Surgery Residency program goes viral on Twitter, with the US General Surgeon hailing the moment as an inspiration to promote black males entering medical fields.

2020 In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement inspires new diversity initiatives in the Department, including the development of a required diversity training series, led by faculty Dr. Dirk Johnson and resident Dr. Raymond Jean, in collaboration with Deputy Dean for DEI, Dr. Darin Latimore.

2021 Karen E. Gibbs becomes the first black Chair of Surgery in the history, when she is appointed to the position at Yale New Haven Health, Bridgeport Hospital in 2021.

2022 Paris Butler becomes the Department’s first Vice Chair of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. He begins his tenure in April, 2022.

Submitted by Cecelia Smith on March 04, 2022