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Black History Month

By: Danielle Carranza

Over the years, Black and African American people have made and continue to make profound contributions to healthcare and the medical system. 

Historical African American Figures in medical history:

Dr. James McCune Smith (1813-1865): The first African American to receive a medical degree.

Mary Eliza Mahoney, RN (1845-1926): The first professionally-trained registered nurse in 1879. 

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (1856-1931): The first African American cardiologist and first to perform open heart surgery on a human. Additionally he founded the first interracial hospital in Chicago in the 1880s. 

Dr. M. Jocelyn Elders (born 1933): The first African American to head the US Public Health service in 1993, and only the second female U.S Surgeon General in history. She is 90 years old this year (2024)

Charles Drew, MD: Changed Blood Transfusion Storage

Otis Boykin: Improved the Pacemaker

Miles Vandarhurst Lynk, MD: Co-Founded the First Professional Organization for Black Physicians

Kizzmekia S. Corbett , PhD: Was One of the Leading Scientists to Develop the Moderna COVID- 19 Vaccine 

Dr. Robert Lee Brown founded our nation’s first hospice program for African Americans in Harlem in 1977

The relationship between African American history/contributions exemplifies the integration of justice, healthcare and empathy. 

It is essential that we remember this example as our nation attempts to tackle health concerns as well as matters surrounding social equality.

So why is there such a HUGE disparity between “Non-Hispanic White” and other Races utilizing end-of-life care? 


This chart was taken from and its data from 2021.

We will look at what are some possible barriers to AA people receiving hospice care.

  1. African Americans value caring for and being cared for by a family member as a way to express respect and dignity for loved ones

  2. Spirituality, may prefer to pray for a miracle rather than accept death through hospice

  3. Spirituality, AA culture focus on the death experience itself as a transition to an afterlife, and hospice may be incongruent with their picture of a good death. 

  4. General and warranted mistrust of the healthcare system

  5. The assumption that hospice requires private insurance

  6. Overall literacy difficulties. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) in 2003 African Americans and Hispanic people have the lowest rate of adult literacy and it may be connected to how people ask for help or understand documents. *This was the only Assessment ever completed on a national level by NAAL and it is 21 years old. So we must take into consideration changes in our systems that have happened.

How can we make hospice more accessible and inclusive for more people? Nurses and people who are responsible for discussing hospice with patients can tailor care to patients within disparities, that includes out AA community, in addition to any minority or oppressed group. Programs can have specific community outreach and engagement events that are tailored to people in the community they are trying to reach. Lastly, checking our own biases and conceptions of who uses and how hospice is perceived in other cultures will be the first and more important step to opening hospice services to all people. 

At Hope Hospice we celebrate Black History Month and the amazing contributions of African American's to our society and the medical field. We are committed to promoting diversity and providing end-of-life care that is promoting respect and confidentiality for the personal beliefs of our patients and the families we work with.


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