Black History: 1st Black Male Nurse

James Derham was the first African American male nurse.

1757, James Derham was born into slavery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was owned by several doctors. One of the doctors became his friend and encouraged him to go into medicine. Before studying medicine, he became a nurse.

James Derham was the first African American male nurse. In 1783 he worked in New Orleans and by 1790, he purchased his freedom. Derham was able to break social stereotypes at a time when black male nurses were nonexistent.

James Derham continued his studies and became a physician. He opened a medical practice in New Orleans. When James Derham met with Dr. Benjamin Rush known as the father of American medicine, Rush was so impressed that he encouraged James to move to Philadelphia. There he became an expert in throat diseases and the relationship between climate and disease.

James Derham disappeared in 1802.


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