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Profiles in Diversity - Timeline of Prominent Achievements in Medicine by African American Men and Women in Pittsburgh

"Graphic with same text as title"The Department of Anesthesiology is reviving our Profiles in Diversity article series. We began the articles in 2010 to highlight our fellow colleagues who have used their skills in unique ways or showed extreme determination. We continue the series with our fifth article, which I prepared with Robert Hill, MS (Retired Vice Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh) and Theodore Yarboro, MD (Retired Family Practitioner). The article's focus is prominent achievements in medicine by African American men and women in Pittsburgh throughout history. The Department of Anesthesiology is part of this history; the timeline includes the story of Dr. Peter Safar and the Freedom House Ambulance Service, which was the focus of our last Profiles in Diversity article.

If you would like to nominate a colleague for a Profile in Diversity article, please e-mail me. With the continuation of this article series, we aim to publish new profiles several times a year.

William Simmons, MD 
Visiting Associate Professor and Chair, Advisory Committee on Diversity, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
President, Gateway Medical Society, Inc.

Timeline of Prominent Achievements in Medicine by African American Men and Women in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has a rich history of physicians, nurses, researchers, and other medical professionals who broke through racial barriers to become the first Black clinicians and scientists to work in medicine in the city and pave the way for social change. Here, we share the stories of these medical pioneers.

Circa 1840

Martin Delany was born a free man in West Virginia, educated in Pennsylvania, and in 1850 was among the first three Black men to enroll in Harvard Medical School. White protests forced them to leave. He finished his medical training as an apprentice under Dr. Edward D. Gazzam, a prominent physician in Pittsburgh. Martin Delany became the first African American to practice medicine in Pittsburgh. He joined the Union Army during the Civil War and was commissioned as the first Black combat major in the Union Army. He was the highest ranked African American in the military up to that point.


George G. Turfley was the first registered African American physician in Allegheny County. He was trained at Western Reserve Medical College in Cleveland, Ohio, graduated in 1879, and set up a practice. He was the only African American doctor in Pittsburgh for more than 10 years.


Allen Gilbert Gantt was the first African American MD graduate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He was born in South Carolina and served as a pastor for two years before coming to medical school in Pittsburgh. He practiced in Pittsburgh for 50 years. At the time of his death, he was Medical Advisor at the Davis Home for Colored Children.

1904 - 1906

Harrison M. Brown, Charles Henry Carroll, and James Charles Gill Fowler were early graduates of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine that set up practices in Pittsburgh. In 1906, Gantt, Brown, Carroll, and Fowler founded a graduate level fraternity of African American men, the Pittsburgh Chapter of Rho Boulé (Sigma Pi Phi).


Ella P. Stewart was the first Black woman graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 1916 and the first Black woman to be licensed as a pharmacist in PA and the United States.

She operated two pharmacies in Braddock, Pa, opened another pharmacy in Pittsburgh, and hired an African American University of Pittsburgh pharmacy alumnus, William Wyatt "Doc" Stewart, who was in the class of 1914. Several years later in 1920, she and Doc were married.

Ella Stewart broke the color barrier by becoming a druggist at Youngstown City Hospital and in Detroit. Their biggest success was a business they opened together in Toledo, Ohio. She became an important figure in Toledo by participating and holding local and national office in women's organizations. She was appointed commissioner to the United Nations, was president of many women's organizations, and had two schools named after her: the Ella P. Stewart Academy for Girls and the Ella P. Stewart Elementary School.

Upon her death in 1987, her estate was bequeathed to the Biology Department of the University of Pittsburgh Detrick School of Arts and Sciences an endowment to award a student in the second year for first year excellence.


Matthew R. Hadley, a graduate of Howard University in 1928, came to Pittsburgh and started his practice that would lead to his being named Director of Clinics and Chief of Pulmonary Diseases at McKeesport Hospital. In 1964, he received recognition by the Governor's Committee for Employment of the Handicapped as Physician of the Year.


Charles Greenlee graduated in 1943 from Meharry Medical School and came to practice in Pittsburgh. He was the national spokesman for the genocide theory, a belief that there was a conspiracy to decrease the number of Blacks through encouraging abortions. He led anti-birth control campaigns from 1966 to 1969, causing Pittsburgh to reject federal funds for birth control clinics.


Charles Joseph Burke attended the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, graduating in 1943. He was the only African American of 85 students in his class. He claimed he finished second in his class, yet could not get a residency in Pittsburgh hospitals. He went to St Louis Homer G. Phillips Hospital and returned to Pittsburgh in 1946 after his residency and a short stint in the military.

For the first two years in practice in Pittsburgh, he was denied hospital privileges at every hospital in town. Finally, in 1948 he was the first Black doctor to have staff privileges at Pittsburgh's Montefiore Hospital. In 1955 he was accepted at Divine Providence and St. Johns General Hospital and in 1968 was given privileges at Allegheny General Hospital.


Adena Johnson, Rachel Poole,and Nadine Grace Frye were the first African American females to enroll in the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and in 1947 were the first three to graduate with nursing degrees. Both Rachel Pool and Nadine Grace Frye received MS and PhD degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and both became faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. Rachel Poole became the first Black director of Nursing at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

Circa 1951

Oswald J. Nickens was a native of Pittsburgh who earned his MD degree at Howard University in 1949 and came back to Pittsburgh after an obstetrics and gynecology (ob/gyn) residency in Washington, DC. He was board-certified and was the first Black ob/gyn specialist to join the staff at Magee Womens Hospital and the first Black to join the staff at West Penn Hospital. He founded the first school for pregnant teenagers in Western Pennsylvania. He received a masters degree in Public Health in 1971.

He was the founding member of New World National Bank, the first Black-owned bank in Pittsburgh. He was also an investor and founding member of Central Medical Pavilion. He was the driving force behind the founding of Gateway Medical Society in 1963, making it a component society of the National Medical Association. In 1999, the Oswald J. Nickens, MD Physician of the Year Award was established in his honor for the strategic role he played in the development of the organization.


Edward H. Hale was recruited to Pittsburgh to serve as the chief of internal medicine for the Veterans Administration Hospital. His recruiters didnt know he was Black. He helped form Gateway Medical Society. He opened a private practice in Pittsburgh in 1958 and was the second Black doctor appointed to the staff at West Penn Hospital, where he served until 1992.


Charles C. Bookert graduated from Meharry Medical School in 1945. He spent two years at Harlem Hospital and became a medical officer during the Korean Conflict. He came to Pittsburgh in 1955 after leaving the military and served on the medical staff in McKeesport Hospital's Family Practice Department. Dr. Bookert was the only doctor from Pittsburgh and one of two from the state of Pennsylvania that ever attained the national office of President of the National Medical Association (NMA). He served as President of the NMA in 1977.


Adam Wade, a product of Virginia State University, was a technician in the world-renowned polio vaccine laboratory of Dr. Jonas Salk in Pittsburgh in 1958. He went on to become the first African American to host a TV game show, acted on TV and in movies (including Shaft in 1971), and recorded several records and albums.


Oswald J. Nickens, Charles Bookert, Edward Hale, Matthew Hadley, and Earl Bell Smith, members of the then Western Pennsylvania Medical Group, hosted the 65th Annual Convention of the NMA in August of 1960 in Pittsburgh. It was an overwhelming success that prompted 27 Pittsburgh Black doctors to convene at the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel early in 1963 to discuss establishing a component chapter of the NMA. The new organization was named the Gateway Medical Group, and today it is the Gateway Medical Society.


Theodore L. Yarboro, Sr. received a Bachelor of Science, a Master of Science, and a Master of Public Health on his way to Meharry Medical College, where he earned his MD degree in 1963. He started his practice in Western Pennsylvania in 1965 as the chairman of the Department of Family Practice at Sharon Regional Health System in Sharon, Pa. He was a Charter Diplomat of the American Board of Family Practice and a Charter Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He held offices locally, statewide, and nationally in the NMA, the American Medical Association, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was appointed by the Governor to many state commissions and served for many years as the president of the Midwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the American Heart Association. Dr. Yarboro's tireless service won him much recognition and many achievements, including the NMA's Practitioner of the Year in 1980. Dr. Yarboro is the oldest active member of Gateway Medical Society.

Circa 1967

Evelyn Page Parker, who grew up in Pittsburgh, graduated in 1943 from the Mercy-Douglass Hospital School of Nurses in Philadelphia because she wasnt allowed to go to Nursing School in Pittsburgh. She worked in public health, founded the Community Nursing Services in Philadelphia, and returned to Pittsburgh in 1967. She earned her masters degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1969 and taught nursing in Pittsburgh until 1981.


Dr. Peter Safar, the father of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the founding Chief of the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, assembled an unprecedented partnership between world leaders in resuscitation research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, and an owner/operator of an ambulance service. This team convened with the idea of combining an ambulance service with a program to train unemployed and underemployed Black men and women as medical technicians. Freedom House Ambulance Service was born. During 1967 through 1975, fifty African American medical attendants were trained. Using advanced life-saving techniques and state of the art equipment, Freedom House Ambulance Service became the model for emergency medical care nationwide. The program was designed to function in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, but because of phenomenal success, the service was requested throughout the city.


The University of Pittsburgh established an affirmative action program to increase enrollment of underrepresented racial groups. Fifteen Blacks were admitted to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine because of heavy emphasis on enrolling women and students from under-represented groups.


Charles M. Hefflin Sr. graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1974 and became an Assistant Clinical Professor in Family and Community Medicine and Epidemiology. He ran a private practice office in Pittsburgh's Regent Square and served as the Medical Director of the Lemington Center, the only Black nursing home in the history of Pittsburgh. Dr. Hefflin mentored many young African American physicians.


The 1974 graduating class of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine included nine African Americans: William Hicks, Herbert Chissell, Brian Bowles, Everett Cantrell, Marion Williams, Charles Hefflin, John Houser, William David Moore, and William Cleveland.


Elaine Morris was the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.


Morris E. Turner, Sr. graduated from Morehouse College and entered the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1973. He completed his residency at Magee-Womens Hospital in 1976 and entered practice with an African American obstetrician, Dr. Robert G. Kisner. His active practices were in East Liberty, Wilkinsburg, Monroeville, McKeesport, Oakland, and Monessen.

In 2002 he joined the faculty of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He became Medical Director for the outreach sites sponsored by Magee Womens Hospital at Wilkinsburg and Monroeville; Medical Director for Adagio Health; and the Chief of Service for Obstetrics and Gynecology at McKeesport Hospital.

1976 - 1977

Jackson Wright was the first African American student at the University of Pittsburgh to earn both the MD and PhD degrees, in 1976 and 1977, respectively.


William Wallace, Carolyn Carter, and Nancy Washington respectively, were the first to hold the newly-created position of Assistant Dean For Student Affairs and Special Student Projects in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. They were charged with increasing the quality of underrepresented student life, contributing positively to the attainment of their academic goals, and increasing the number of underrepresented students in the medical school. In 1979, enrollment of underrepresented students rose from 12 to 61.


Judith L. Davenport graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine in 1979. She was in private practice in Pittsburgh and advocated for more Black faculty and administrators at the University of Pittsburgh. Governor Ed Rendell designated her as a distinguished daughter of Pennsylvania.


Velma Scantlebury became the first Black transplant surgery faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.


Henri Ronald Ford was a Harvard Medical School graduate with surgical training at Cornell. He came to Pittsburgh in 1993 as the Benjamin R. Fisher Chair and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery at Children's Hospital.


Sandra Murray, a cell biology and physiology faculty member, became the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicines first African American tenured full professor.


Willa Doswell is the first Black woman to earn tenure in the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing.


Jeanette South-Paul graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1979. She practiced medicine in the US Army and attained the rank of colonel, as well as Professor, Department Chair, and Vice President of the Uniformed University of the Health Sciences.

Upon returning to Pittsburgh in 2001, she was the first female chair of a department at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the first Black female chair in a non-historically Black college or university. In 2004, she was promoted to the endowed Drew Mathieson Professorship. Dr. South-Paul is a member of the Institute of Medicine.

In addition to the individuals highlighted in this timeline, many other African American physicians have practiced in our city and achieved excellence in the medical field. The following is a list of all the African American physicians who have practiced in Pittsburgh, Pa from 1900 to 2005.

Sarah Abdulla, MD Robert Edwards, MD Adrienne Jordan, DO Velma Scantleberry, MD
Debra Abell, MD Steven Evans, MD Allison Jordan, MD Basil Selden, MD
Victor R. Adebimpe, MD Robert C. Farmer, MD Benjamin King, MD William Sessions, MD
Dale K. Adair, MD James Fisher, MD Robert G. Kisner, MD Frank E. Sessoms, MD
Betty Agbede, MD Michael Forbes, MD Paul Knott, Sr, MD William Simmons, MD
Richard Ajayi, MD Yolanda Moore-Forbes, MD Anne R. Laforte-Moore, MD Earl Sims, MD
Dunbar Alcindor, MD Stephanie Freeman, MD Harry Lananuze, MD Albert Smith, MD
Christopher Allen, MD William O. Generette, MD Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, MD Earl Belle Smith, MD
Ganya Alvarado-Reagans, MD Shelena Gibbs-McElvy, MD Robert A. Lawler, MD Tatanisha Smith, MD
Helen Analo, MD Kevin Gibson, MD Alton L. Lawson, MD Robert W. Singletary, MD
Carey Andrew-Jaja, MD Lawrence L. Gipson, MD George Little, MD Jeannette South-Paul, MD
Samuel L. Armfield, MD Jerome Gloster, MD Jan Madison, MD Nicquia Spain, DO
Cynthia G. Ayers, MD Samuel W. Golden, MD Basil A. Marryshow, MD Simone Stalling, MD
Charles Baltimore, MD Samuel Goodloe, MD Matthew Marshall, MD Sharisse Stephenson, MD
George Banks, MD Kenneth B. Goodrich, MD Duane G. Martin, MD James Stewart, MD
Herbert C. Bazron, MD Charles E. Greenlee, MD James Martin, MD Jackson Smith, MD
Marcellus Boggs, MD Dayle Griffin, MD Marcia Martin, MD Daniel S. Summers, MD
Charles C. Bookert, MD Matthew R. Hadley, MD Marvin McGowan, DO Charles Taggert, MD
Richard A. Bowers, MD James C. Hairston, Jr, MD Mckinley King, MD Royal W. Taylor, MD
Roderick Brown, MD John C. Hairston, MD CL Mellow, MD John W. Thomas, MD
Winnie Brown, MD Edward H. Hale, MD Ellen Mitchell, MD Matthew Thomas, MD
Charles Joseph Burke, MD Ronald Hall, MD Earl B. Miller, MD Stephen Thomas, MD
JD Butler, MD JF Harris, MD William B. Miller, MD Robert L. Thompson, MD
James F. Byers, MD Frank D. Harrison, MD Lawrence C. Moman, Jr, MD Richard Turfley, MD
Charles H. Carroll, MD Michelle Hawkins, MD Ronald Monah, MD Morris Turner, Sr, MD
Horace P. Christian, MD Charles M. Heflin, MD Oswald J. Nickens, MD Anthony Udekwu, MD
Brent E. Clark, MD AD Henderson, MD James Nicholas, MD Betty Udekwu, MD
Linda Clark, MD Dewight Heron, MD Anthony N. Okobi, MD Catherine Udekwu, MD
Walter Clark, MD Monique Higginbotham, MD Gloria E. Onque, MD Levi Walker, MD
Claire Cohen, MD Allen R. Hodges, MD Michael Owens, MD Dannika Wallace, MD
Arnett Coleman, MD Carroll Holmes, MD Gregory Patrick, MD Louis Waller, MD
Christopher Conti, MD Marie Holmes, MD Elizabeth Patterson, MD Christopher Washington, MD
Tracey Conti, MD Melissa Horner, MD Michael Patterson, MD Harry Waters, MD
Toni Coombs, MD Kenneth M. Irvis, MD Tamia Patterson, MD Ella Webster, MD
Wynne B. Cooper, MD Lisa Issac, MD Gregory Patrick, MD Ruthellen Denise Weeks, MD
Amril G. Critchlow, MD Timothy Ivey, MD Michael Paul, MD Lance Wells, MD
DH Critchlow, MD Alaina James, MD HD Primas, MD Simmon Wilcox, DO
Philmore Crichlow, MD Edward E. James, MD Eric Quivers, MD Leon R. Williams, MD
Khaliah Dann, MD Robert Jenkins, MD Tanya Pagan Raggio, MD Tracy Wimbush, MD
Ronald David, MD Barbara Johnson, MD Roosevelt Richardson, MD Barrett Woods, MD
Esa Davis, MD James R. Johnson, MD Vanessa Richardson, MD Dawna Woodyear, MD
Helen A. Davis, MD Marshall M. Johnson, Jr, MD EH Robinson, MD Jae Wynn, MD
Shereece Davis, MD Matrika Johnson, MD JA Rogers, MD Raymond Wynn, MD
Sinda Dianzuma, MD Rhonda Johnson, MD Darrell Rubin, MD Theodore L. Yarboro, MD
Cynthia Duarte-Evans, MD Alvin Jones, MD Patrick Safo, MD John E. Young, MD
Carol Duncan-Gloster, MD Yemisi Jones, MD Victor L. Scott, MD Lionel Young, MD
Anita Edwards, MD Sandra Jones-Gordon, MD Frank Sessoms, MD Tolin Young, MD
      Eugene Younge, MD


William Simmons, MD
President, Gateway Medical Society, Inc. & Visiting Associate Professor Department of Anesthesiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Robert Hill, MS
Retired Vice Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh

Theodore Yarboro, MD
Retired Family Practitioner



  • University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PITT MED Magazine, Fall 2011 and various issues
  • Blue Gold & Black, University of Pittsburgh, Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg Reports on the Pitt African American Experience 2006, 2008, 2010
  • The Pittsburgh Courier, several issues
  • Gateway Medical Society, Inc., office archives