Black History Celebration 2018 “Hidden Figures in Science and Medicine”


By: Alexandria Ortiz
As per tradition, Centereach High School celebrated Black History Month on the concluding day of February, reminding us that Black History should be celebrated every day, and not only through the month of February. Tommie Turner read an amazing original poem, “Power.” Her poem also reminds us that as a society we must not be ignorant towards other races.

The theme, Hidden Figures in Science and Medicine, shines light on the many inventions and procedures that have been created by black people. To reiterate this point, Eyram Atatsi recited the spoken word “A World Without Black People.”
In addition, many students impersonated the black men and women who have influenced the science and medicine fields.

The night was filled with music, song, and dance putting the audience through many emotions. The music, performed by the Centereach Jazz Band, filled the room with joy. The song, “I Was Here,” sung beautifully by the Centereach Women’s Choir, honored the seventeen lives lost in Parkland Florida. The dance, executed by the Black History Step Squad, showed how the loss of bondage gave the gift of unity and freedom.


Essay Winners

First Place

By Sumaiya Chaudhry

Numerous African American individuals, who have taken jobs as scientists, nurses and doctors have contributed greatly to the field of science and medicine.  The most significant contribution from an African American doctor is the physician, Daniel Hale Williams. Daniel Hale Williams is known in history for his role in performing the prototype open heart surgery. Williams is also given credit for founding the first interracially staffed hospital.

Born on January 18, 1856 in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, Daniel Hale Williams used to work as a shoemaker’s apprentice, but failed to find any interest in the occupation. He turned to barbering like his father; yet soon realized that he desired to pursue an education. Working as an apprentice to Dr. Henry Palmer, he succeeded in completing training at Chicago Medical College.

After his training, Williams opened up his own practice at Chicago’s South Side and taught anatomy, while also adopting sterilization procedures for his office after he was informed of germ transmission and prevention. During this era discrimination against African Americans was prominent and it prevented African Americans from joining staff positions in hospitals and medical centers. African Americans were also forbidden from being admitted into hospitals or receiving emergency medical care. Not satisfied with the way African Americans were being treated, Williams opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses. This was the first hospital to have a racially integrated staff and Williams worked there as a surgeon.

By opening up this facility, Williams was able to incorporate African Americans into the medical and science field. His actions allowed African Americans the opportunity to pursue careers in the medical field and allowed them to contribute their ideas to the world to help others. This hospital was also a place where African Americans could come for medical attention and be given the same rights as any other American citizen. His integrated staff showed the nation that anyone of any race could work together to contribute to the world’s growing science field.

Daniel Hale Williams is also recognized as being one of the first physicians to perform open heart surgery in the year of 1893. He operated on a man who had received a severe stab wound to his chest.  Williams sutured the man’s pericardium to keep him from bleeding to death, the first time that had ever been done.  The surgery was a success and the patient went on to lead a healthy and long life. This history-changing procedure was done without any advanced tools or technology of any type. It was a significant contribution to the medical field as the procedure is currently used in the modern world to save hundreds of lives every day. After his successful surgery, Williams went on to improve surgical procedures and helped to provide African Americans more opportunities to become medical professionals. Without his contribution, African Americans would not be given the opportunities they have today.

2nd Place Essay Winner

By Laiba Qureshi


Black women in the United States are, and have been for a long time, hardworking leaders, entrepreneurs, academic scholars and scientists, yet their accomplishments are not as well-known as they should be.  Nowhere is that more true than in the field of science. In 1915, Alice Ball, a talented chemist, became the first woman to graduate from the University of Hawaii with a master’s degree in science.

Born in Seattle, Ball grew up in a challenging environment as she moved to Hawaii with her family in 1903, in order to aid her father’s health issues. Less than a year later, her father died and her family moved back to Seattle. On June 1, 1915 Alice Ball became the first African American and first woman to graduate from the University of Hawaii with a master’s in chemistry. She later also became the first woman to teach chemistry at the institution.

Later, gaining an interest in the effect of chaulmoogra oil on patients with Hansen disease, she was assigned a research project on the concept by her major advisor. Hansen disease or leprosy is a rare bacterial infection which causes nerves to become swollen under the skin leading to an inability to sense touch and pain. Due to her scientific brilliance and incredible work ethic, Alice Ball developed a successful treatment for those dealing with leprosy. Sadly, Ball became ill during her research, working under extreme pressure to produce injectable chaulmoogra oil.  On December 31, 1916, at the age of 24 Alice Ball died as a result of injuries suffered from inhaling chlorine gas, during a class demonstration in Honolulu.

During her lifetime, Ball never received acknowledgement from the medical world for her marvelous discovery of the cure of Hansen disease because of her skin color and gender. Overtime, Ball was finally honored by the University of Hawaii with a bronze plaque mounted next to the campus’ only chaulmoogra tree.

Black women in the United States have contributed greatly to the world of business, science, and politics. Yet, they seem to be rarely credited. Alice Ball’s contributions in the field of science has impacted our knowledge of leprosy till this day. Ball, as well as many other black women have continuously worked hard to show that physical features of skin color and gender are not a factor in mental intelligence. The work of Alice Ball illustrates that anyone can make a change as long as they have perseverance and the right intentions.






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