Every month we will focus and highlight an African American that has made advances and/or significant contributions to the field of healthcare.
Dr. Alexander H. Darnes was the first African-American doctor in Jacksonville’s history and the second in the state of Florida. Dr. Darnes was born in St. Augustine in 1840, during the midst of the slavery era in the South. Dr. Darnes completed his undergraduate degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania then completed medical school at Howard University in 1880. Upon completion of his medical degree, Dr. Darnes returned to Jacksonville and started a private practice in his home. He received renown acclaim for his heroic efforts in treating the yellow fever epidemic that was spreading throughout the city during the late 1880s. Unfortunately, Dr. Darnes died in 1894 after only 14 years of practice. In 2004, Dr. Darnes made history yet again when he became the first black man to be honored with a permanent sculpture in St. Augustine, Florida.
In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Dr. Jane Cooke Wright to the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke. In 1967, at the age of 48, Dr. Wright became professor of surgery, head of the cancer chemotherapy department, and associate dean at New York Medical College. These accomplishments made her the highest-ranking Black woman at a nationally recognized medical institution. In 1971, Wright also became the first female president of the New York Cancer Society.