Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halle Johnson-1st female A.A Doctor in Alabama

Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson was an American physician who in 1891 became the 1st female African-American doctor in Alabama. Johnson was well educated and as a young girl became familiar with the work of prominent African-American intellectuals. She worked with her father on The Christian Recorder, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where he ministered. In 1886 Johnson married Charles Dillon, and the couple had a child before her husband's sudden death. A widow at 24, Johnson returned to live with her family and decided to enter medical school. After 3 years of study at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, she earned her M.D. in 1891, graduating with honors. Around the time of her graduation, African-American educator Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, had written to the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania to request a nomination for a teaching position he had been struggling to fill for 4 years. He hoped to find an African-American physician to serve the school and its surrounding community. Johnson accepted Washington's offer of US $600 a month, including lodging and meals, and arrived to begin her service in August 1891. Before beginning her new job, however, young Dr. Dillon had to face a significant obstacle: passing the Alabama State Medical Examination. The very fact that she was sitting for the examination caused a public stir in Montgomery, Alabama. She spent ten days taking the exam, addressing a different area of medicine each day. Her examiners included the directors and leading figures of most of the state's major medical institutions. Dillon impressed them with her responses and she passed the test. During her brief tenure at Tuskegee she was responsible for the health care of the school's 450 students and 30 faculty and staff. She also established a training school for nurses and founded the Lafayette Dispensary to serve the health care needs of local residents, often mixing medicines herself for their use. She also taught two classes each day.

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