African-American Trailblazers in Heart Health

By: Karley Warden

African American Trailblazers in heart healthIn February, Crouse Health celebrates Black History Month with events organized by our Diversity and Inclusion committee.  Crouse wishes to acknowledge African-American trailblazers in heart health – given that February also happens to be National Heart Month.

A number of individuals have set the path for healthcare professionals in their day — and for centuries to come. During Black History Month, we recognize them for their courage, expertise and leadership in the field of cardiology. We honor and thank them for the improved care practices that we provide our patients with today.

Addressing Health Disparities
More than 120 years after he was practicing medicine, Daniel Hale Williams, a general surgeon in the late 1800s, recognized the need for specialized care for African-Americans. He opened the first medical practice with an interracial staff and founded the National Medical Association, which, to this day, represents African-American physicians and their patients. If he were still caring for patients today, Williams would surely be at the forefront of the movement to end disparities and inequalities in healthcare.

Banking Blood
According to OneBlood, types O and B are the blood types most in demand in the general population. The organization also reports that O and B are also the blood types of 70 percent of African-Americans, which are underrepresented among blood donors. This would have dismayed Charles Richard Drew, a research pioneer during the 20th century, who’s known as the “Father of the Blood Bank.” He discovered that plasma can replace blood transfusions and began preserving and shipping plasma between England and the United States. This discovery has and continues to save thousands of lives. Due to conditions such as sickle cell anemia, which primarily affects African-Americans, it is vitally important to increase the number of Black donors since genetically-similar blood is preferred for those who need repeated transfusions.

Advances in Public Health
Heart disease is a leading cause of death among African-Americans in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. With proper treatment and care, though, patients can prevent heart risks by working in partnership with heart health specialists. Jessie Sleet Scales was the first African-American public health nurse who helped enhance the field of cardiology. Scales worked on many different cases during a short period of time, including heart disease, childbirth and tuberculosis. In just two months, she made 156 calls to 41 families. Scales helped grow the field of public health in New York City and is considered a pioneer of nursing.

Improving Cancer Care
According to the American Cancer Society, African-Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival rate for most cancers than any other racial or ethnic group in the US. Known for her cancer research and contributions to chemotherapy, Jane Cooke Wright spent her career in oncology discovering new techniques for chemotherapy. Wright was one of the first providers to use chemotherapy in humans and became the first female president of the New York Cancer Society in 1971.

These individuals are just a few of the African-Americans who have made significant contributions to healthcare, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. We also thank the highly regarded cardiac team at Crouse Health for living our mission of providing the best in patient care and promoting community health. To schedule an appointment with one of our cardiologists, call 315-470-7409 or visit


Karley Warden is a Spring 2020 Communications Intern at Crouse Health. She is a junior public relations and political science student at Syracuse University.

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