Creating a segregated medical profession: African American physicians and organized medicine, 1846-1910.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

An independent panel of experts, convened by the American Medical Association (AMA) Institute for Ethics, analyzed the roots of the racial divide within American medical organizations. In this, the first of a 2-part report, we describe 2 watershed moments that helped institutionalize the racial divide. The first occurred in the 1870s, when 2 medical societies from Washington, DC, sent rival delegations to the AMA's national meetings: an all-white delegation from a medical society that the US courts and Congress had formally censured for discriminating against black physicians; and an integrated delegation from a medical society led by physicians from Howard University. Through parliamentary maneuvers and variable enforcement of credentialing standards, the integrated delegation was twice excluded from the AMA's meetings, while the all-white society's delegations were admitted. AMA leaders then voted to devolve the power to select delegates to state societies, thereby accepting segregation in constituent societies and forcing African American physicians to create their own, separate organizations. A second watershed involved AMA-promoted educational reforms, including the 1910 Flexner report. Straightforwardly applied, the report's population-based criterion for determining the need for phySicians would have recommended increased training of African American physicians to serve the approximately 9 million African Americans in the segregated south. Instead, the report recommended closing all but 2 African American medical schools, helping to cement in place an African American educational system that was separate, unequal, and destined to be insufficient to the needs of African Americans nationwide.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Baker, RB; Washington, HA; Olakanmi, O; Savitt, TL; Jacobs, EA; Hoover, E; Wynia, MK; Writing Group on the History of African Americans and the Medical Profession, ; Blanchard, J; Boulware, LE; Braddock, C; Corbie-Smith, G; Crawley, L; LaVeist, TA; Maxey, R; Mills, C; Moseley, KL; Williams, DR

Published Date

  • June 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 101 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 501 - 512

PubMed ID

  • 19585918

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0027-9684

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/s0027-9684(15)30935-4


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States