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More than a century ago, Dr. James McCune Smith did what had never been done before. He became the first black person to earn a medical degree and practice medicine in this country.  It took him years of determination and an education in Europe to accomplish that. Yet he paved the way for possibility. Today black doctors are still breaking ground and carrying on that legacy of dedication and determination.

Some of these black doctors have not only been first in their class, but achieved firsts in their field of medicine. They’ve gone on to open doors to the most elite medical schools including Yale and Johns Hopkins, and encourage medical leaders of tomorrow to carry on. They’ve also ventured into new fields that had never been tapped by black doctors before them, including transplant surgery and ophthalmology.  Along the way, these great physicians have garnered the attention and earned the respect of people across the nation and around the world.  Here are a few of the doctors at the top of our list:

Dr. Ben Carson is a legend in American medicine.  He’s a neurosurgeon and the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital – a title he’s held since he was 32 years old. The Detroit native and son of a single mother who couldn’t read started his medical journey at Yale University.  From there he attended the University of Michigan Medical school. Since graduation he has broken new ground in his field and famously separated adjoined twins during a historic surgery.  His autobiography “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story” was a bestseller, and was turned into a TV movie. In 2008 Dr. Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

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