February is not only the month of love; it’s also Black History Month.
We want to celebrate African American trailblazers in pharmacy and medicine for their contributions and their empowering achievements in breaking societal barriers and stereotypes.
These pioneers represent only a handful of the key individuals who have made a significant historical impact on healthcare, and more individuals have helped pave the way, so we encourage you all to research and continue to educate yourself in their honor.
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first black woman to become a physician in the United States. Before attending medical school, Dr. Crumpler worked as a nurse and was the only black graduate from New England Female Medical College in 1864. Additionally, Dr. Crumpler wrote and published a book on children’s and women’s health, A Book of Medical Discourses: In Two Parts. This publication is believed to be one of the first medical books written by an African American.
Dr. Herbert W. Nickens
Dr. Herbert W. Nickens was the first director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He set the foundation for promoting improved health among racial and ethnic minorities. Nickens was also an influential part of the AAMC. He was the founding vice president of the AAMC Division of Community and Minority Programs, now known as Diversity Policy and Programs. He enrolled 3,000 students from underrepresented minority groups in U.S. medical schools annually.
Julia Pearl Hughes
Julia Pearl Hughes was one of the first African Americans to graduate from Howard University with a pharmaceutical degree. After graduating, Dr. Hughes got a job at Frederick Douglas hospital, where she was one of the first black hospital pharmacists. Later on, Dr. Hughes opened her own drugstore and created a hair care product called “Hair-Vim.” Her product became wildly successful and was even endorsed by celebrities during those times.
Amanda Gray Hillier
Amanda Gray Hillier was a pioneer activist, educator, and pharmacist. Like Dr. Hughes, Gray also received her pharmaceutical graduate degree from Howard University while being heavily active in the community’s ongoing social, political, and cultural issues. In 1905, Dr. Gray became a pharmacist in Washington D.C and opened Fountain Pharmacy, making her the first black woman to own and operate a pharmacy in Washington, D.C.
Sidney Barthwell came from a low-income family and, despite all odds, was able to graduate with a degree in pharmacy from Wayne State University. Barthwell acquired his first pharmacy and made a point to help blacks by either employing them or finding them work with other pharmacists. Dozens of pharmacists later, Barthwell Drugs was born, and it was the first and largest black-owned pharmacy in the United States. Barthwell began opening a new store about every two years until he had 13 stores around Detroit. Sadly, national pharmacy and drug store chains eventually drove Barthwell Drugs out of business, with the last location closing its doors in 1987.