It takes a brave soul to dedicate one’s life to caring for others. Medicine is a taxing profession that requires compassion, dedication and making some extremely tough calls. All of those that take the Hippocratic Oath vow to upload the values of the profession, but Rebecca Lee Crumpler upheld her strong personal values as well. Not only was Dr. Crumpler a woman, she was a woman of color. She went against all odds to find her place in the medical field so she could take care of people in need no matter what their race, gender or creed. All of these things make her the perfect person to celebrate during Black History Month.
Celebrating Groundbreaking Work During Black History Month
Dr. Crumpler was drawn to the medical field from a very young age when she watched her aunt, who raised her in Pennsylvania, care for their sick neighbors. She began working as a nurse in Massachusetts without any formal training before she was admitted to the New England Female Medical College. Upon graduation, she was the first African-American woman in the United States to earn an M.D. degree, and the only African-American woman to graduate from the New England Female Medical College.
Dr. Crumpler practiced in Boston before she moved to Richmond, Virginia following the Civil War. She yearned to do “real missionary work.” Through the Freedmen’s Bureau, she cared for freed slaves who would not have otherwise had access to medical care, despite the harsh racism and hate she experienced on a daily basis in the postwar environment. After her work in the south, she returned to Boston.
Throughout her professional career, she undoubtedly healed numerous patients. But her bravery and compassionate spirit in the face of turbulent times healed much more than the physical body. The Rebecca Lee Society was one of the first medical societies for African-American women, giving medical professionals a place to turn for support. She paved the way for many to follow their dreams and make use of their unique gifts no matter what obstacles stand in their way.