A Time to Reflect, Recognize, and Celebrate – Michigan Medicine Headlines

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Main sockets:

  • Michigan Medicine chronicles the outstanding black leaders and dreamers who made history.
  • From the first black man to graduate from UM’s medical school in 1872 to the president of the first chapter of the National Association of Black Nurses in Ann Arbor in 2022, Michigan medicine has been home to many pioneers and start-ups.
  • Several events are held on the University of Ann Arbor campus as part of UM’s Black History Month celebration. This year’s theme is “Rooting for Every Black Person”.

February is here and it’s time to celebrate Black History Month. Michigan Medicine has a long and complicated history when it comes to the experiences of black students, faculty, and staff.


William Henry Fitzbutler, MDbecame the first black man to graduate from UM Medical College in 1872. One of the four “houses” that UM medical students now belong to is named after himHe is also a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine.


Sophia Bethina Jones, M.D., was the first black woman to graduate from UM Medical College in 1885. She came to Michigan from Canada, frustrated with the University of Toronto’s limited medical training program for women.

Humble beginnings

From humble beginnings, it has had a massive impact on the university’s black students, medical professionals, and staff. Similarly, Michigan’s committed and welcoming atmosphere is among the best when compared to other US medical schools.

For example, in 1920, UM’s association with the historically black Lincoln University outside of Philadelphia was noted by the AMA’s Board of Medical Education and Hospital. Lincoln sent many students to Michigan for medical school.

Just four years later, Marjorie Franklin enrolled as the first African American student in the UM Hospital School for Nurses, now known as the UM School of Nursing.

Albert Wheeler in his office at UM in November 1968, seven years before he became Ann Arbor’s first black mayor. Ann Arbor News Archive Courtesy of OldNews.AADL.org

By 1952, Michigan hired its first African American faculty member, Albert Wheeler, Ph.D., to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Wheeler later became the mayor of Ann Arbor in 1975 during his second career in social activism and politics.

“As a persistent and outspoken leader who raised community consciousness and fought for human rights, he pioneered higher education to grant full access and equal opportunities to all minorities,” said James Duderstadt, UM’s president at the time.

More than just nurses and doctors

The history of black people in Michigan Medicine extends beyond nurses and doctors, too. In 1959, Jimmy Crudup was hired as a technician to set up a vascular surgery laboratory for Gardner Child, MD. Although he had no formal medical training, his self-taught skills in surgical technique and instruction led to his reputation as one of the best surgery instructors at UM for 30 years.

In 1969, 21 African American students enrolled in the UM College of Medicine. This was the fourth largest number of black students enrolled in non-historically black institutions. Moreover, at the time, UM was thought to have graduated more African American physicians in total than any school except Black Meharry College of Medicine (Nashville, TN) and Howard University (Washington, DC).

Firsts continued in the late 20th century, which included UM graduate Alexa Canady, becoming the first African-American neurosurgeon in the United States in 1981.

Rhetaugh Dumas, Ph.D., joined the UM School of Nursing as its first dean, and UM’s first African-American dean before becoming the deputy dean for health affairs from 1994-1997.

Most recently, Latoya Freeman, DNP, APRN, ACCNS-AG, CPPS, HNB-BC, PCCN, Clinical Nurse Specialist for the Subdivision of Adult Medical, Emergency, and Psychiatric Hospitals and UH 8C, became the first president and founder of the Ann Arbor chapter of the National Nurses Association Blacks, founded last year.

These are just some of the stories of Michigan Medicine’s pioneering black faculty, staff, and students. You can read more about Pioneers and Pathbreakers: Milestones of Black History in Michigan Medicine.

Rooting for all is black

This year, Black History Month is an intentional partnership between the Office of Multiracial Student Affairs (MESA) and student organizations, Incoming Black Student Support (SIBS) and the Black Student Union (BSU). This year’s theme is “Rooting for Every Black Person”.

All Michigan medical personnel, faculty, and learners are welcome to attend Events around campus which will be held throughout the month of February.

Every day, Michigan Medicine is committed to promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion, and has made significant progress in recent years. The percentage of black students, faculty, and staff at the university has increased, and the university has implemented programs and initiatives to support them.

Black History Month is an opportunity to reflect on the history of black students, faculty, and staff at Michigan Medicine, and to learn about the contributions they have made to the university and the community. It is also a reminder that there is still much work to be done to ensure that all members of the Michigan Medicine community are treated with dignity and respect.

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