Forty KGH Physicians Argue Against Negro Staff in 1936

Hospital in Tiff over Shifts

by Dr. J. H. Presnell

Knoxville, Tenn. — (SNS) — A few days ago an article came out in the daily newspaper stating that forty members of the white staff of the Knoxville General Hospital were going on record as not wanting Negro physicians, internes and nurse training school at the hospital.  It is to be deplored that forty physicians whose minds and energy, both surplus and acquired could not have been directed in a better channel than worrying over the possibility of Negro physician and interne occupying a position on the staff of the hospital.  The position taken by these physicians reminds one of a story told by the late Booker T. Washington where two men were wrestling that the one on top would have to stay down with the one under the bottom so as to keep him there.

The Negro physician, interne and nurse only asked for the right to treat his race with the technique and knowledge that he has acquired.  He in the most part has attended the same type of school, in some instances had the same instructors and has had to pass the same state boards, and above all, to pass these boards with outstanding grades.  A race that has developed in the last 65 years from the use of crude roots and herbs to the technique that is displayed in all operations.

Dr. Daniel Williams of Chicago, a Negro physician, was the first to perform an operation on the heart and created a knot where the spleen can be tied so as to prevent hemorrhage, an organ that will cause instant death when punctured or lacerated, and was the first member of the race to be a member of the Royal Surgeons of the World.

Dr. Hinton, also a Negro, who is a member of the biological department of Harvard University, and has been a member of the faculty for the last fifteen years, has discovered a test that surpasses the well known Wasserman test for detection of syphilis in the blood.  This test is known as the “Hinton Test” and is being used by the state of Massachusetts.

There are 5,500 physicians, dentists and surgeons in the United States of America and if other hospital staffs throughout the country were of the same mind and idea as the local staff of the hospital it would be a calamity as to the prospects for medical attention as far as the Negro race is concerned.  The practice of medicine is not limited to race or creed, but is broad enough to include all suffering humanity.  The Negro physician only asks for the same opportunity as the white physician, that is to serve the members of his race with the skill and technique that he has prepared himself to render and to have the facilities of a hospital where such facilities are available, so as to have the opportunity to follow out his cases to a successful conclusion.

It is unbelievable to imagine a group of men whose creed is to relieve the suffering of humanity would be so biased as to say and go on record as not approving of a Negro physician being on the same staff with him where the service that is to be rendered is all for the same purpose; that is, to combat the ravages of disease.  The Negro’s money helped build this hospital and he gladly worked in all the various drives for erection, thinking that his own group would be allowed to render the service of which he is capable to those of his race that needed his service.

There is no denying the fact that with Negro physicians on the staff would mean so much to the welfare of the Negro patient.  His opinion and consultation would be of advantage.  We pause to ask this question.  “Could it be the reason that Negro physicians are not wanted on the staff, they would have too much access to seeing the Negro patient used as ‘human guinea pigs or experimental material?”

Cincinnati General hospital has seen the need of Negro physicians on its staff and has backed up this opinion by adding Negroes to the staff.  In the construction of the hospital the Rosenwald Fund which so generously gave to its construction, was wise enough to have it stipulated in their contract with the city that the training of Negro nurses, the use of Negro physicians and internes on the staff and in the hospital would be one of the essential things for which the hospital would be used.

Source:  Atlanta Daily World, September 15, 1936, page 2

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