Medicine Tag

Black Is Beautiful 2023- Dr. Muriel Petioni

Dr Muriel Petioni was known as the “mother of medicine” in Harlem. Born in 1914 in Trinidad she migrated to the US with her family. Her father worked hard to bring his family to the US, attended school, and became a doctor. She followed in his footsteps becoming a practicing physician for over 40 years with a degree from Howard University. She worked at various hospitals throughout the south before returning to NYC to start her own private practice which involved caring for poor and working class families in Harlem. She saw patients and made house calls, often addressing the entire person’s health, not just one ailment. She started the Friends of Harlem Hospital and helped to get 2 million dollars for it. She was on the board of the greater Harlem nursing home. She helped mentor others through the Dr Susan Smith McKenney Steward Medical Association. She was awarded by the Harlem Hospital Center, the NYC Coalition of 100 Black Women, CUNY, The Schomburg, and by her alma mater Howard. Dr Petioni passed away in 2011 at the age of 97. 

Sources: NAACP, Harlem Cultural Archives, NY Amsterdam News

Dig this? Check out this one about Dr Dorothy L. Brown or Alice Augusta Ball

Black is Beautiful (2017) 5 – Dr. Dorothy L. Brown

Dorothy Lavinia Brown was born in 1919 in Philadelphia, PA. She was brought up as an orphan and had a tough childhood, going back and forth between custody of her mother and orphanages. She said she never had real parents until she was in her mid teens. The family that took her in gave her love and asked that she finish school, which she did. She was the top of all her classes from her days at the orphanage to high school and later Bennett College. She got an internship at a hospital in New York. And when she was denied a residency there as a doctor she went back to school at Meharry College and got her residency there.  In he late 50’s she became the chief of surgery at a hospital in Tennessee, a first for the state and the entire south. She also became the first un married parent to be authorized as an adoptive parent and was the first Black woman to represent Tennessee in the state legislature. She is an award winning doctor and activist who also gave back to the orphanage where she was raised, advocated for women’s right to abortion, and helped with the establishment of the first Black history week, which late became Black history month. She passed away in 2004.

Sources:, Black Past -Abysinnia Baptist Church, Wikipedia

Who is She? 14- Susan La Flesche Picotte

Susan was the first Native American woman to be recognized by US school standards as a doctor. I say recognized because women and men have been caring for and looking after the health of their families and tribes way before the term MD (Medical Doctor) was a title here in the US. Susan was from the “Omaha” tribe and was born in what is now known as Nebraska in1865. She was raised in a family that encouraged her to pursue her education. In 1884 she attended the Hampton Institute, which was founded to educate freed slaves. Her parents also encouraged her to learn about both the Native American and White world, which were crashing, rapidly changing, and mixing. When she finished, she returned to her reservation where she served her people, ding her best to stop outbreaks of smallpox, diptheria, and influenza. She owned and operated her own clinic in Nebraska and was instrumental in founding a hospital that is now a national landmark in her name. As an advocate for health she also participated in political efforts to protect Native Americans.

Sources: (site), (site)