The 125th Anniversary of Provident Hospital

by Nolan Faust, MS18

The Provident Foundation recently held a celebration in honor of the 125th anniversary of the historic Provident Hospital and Nursing Training School. A group of classmates and I attended the banquet and had the opportunity to meet and hear from a man named Timuel Black, who was born in Alabama in 1918 and has lived through almost a century of changes in Chicago.

Mr. Black spoke of the rich history of medicine in Chicago’s South Side community. When a physician named Daniel Hale Williams opened Provident Hospital in 1891, it became the first African-American owned and operated hospital in America. The hospital began its legacy by training numerous black nurses, serving as the location where Dr. Williams performed the first successful open-heart surgery, and by providing healthcare to a community that was denied service by most public and private medical facilities. Mr. Black proudly conveyed how far the city and nation has come as a place where black people can receive and provide healthcare, while humbly omitting the large part his own work has played in making it happen.

Mr. Black’s speech, and the speeches of others such as Associate Dean of Students Jim Woodruff, MD, also served as a reminder of how far still we have to go. Even beyond disparities in healthcare access and availability, the event highlighted a disparity of hopes and dreams. It is more difficult to dream of being a physician when you have never seen a physician who looks like you, and it is more difficult to pursue those dreams when the path is wrought with expenses you cannot afford. It was surreal hearing that out of the 20,343 US medical students expected to graduate in 2018, there are only 515 black men—and I am one of them.

Timuel Black and the Provident Foundation have dedicated themselves to combating these disparities by continuing the legacy of Dr. Williams and Provident hospital. By promoting education though programs such as HPREP (Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program) and providing scholarship opportunities for minorities interested in the health professions, the foundation continues to work for the present and future health of underserved communities. At one point during her speech, Myetie Hamilton, the chair of the Provident Foundation board of directors, asked a group of high school students from HPREP to stand. “Look around the room,” she said. “We are all here for you.” 

I walked away from the event feeling inspired by speakers who model how my classmates and I can affect change in our communities. I am proud to be at a medical school with peers who participate in pipeline and after school programs, so that we can stand behind young students who will become and inspire healthcare providers for generations to come.