NLM Traveling Exhibit, Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons, opens at the Health Sciences Library, June 5, 2013

The Health Sciences Library is pleased to announce the opening of the National Library of Medicine’s traveling exhibit, Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons, which will be on display in the Library from June 5th to September 4th, 2013.


The exhibition is located in the Health Sciences Library, in the Basic Sciences Building on the New York Medical College campus, at 15 Dana Road, Valhalla, NY. The exhibit is free and open to the public, with public viewing hours Sunday through Friday from 10am-5pm.  Arrangements for other viewing times may be made upon request by calling the library at (914) 594 – 4200.  Members of the general public may park in the Basic Sciences Building parking lot, by calling campus security from the intercom at the parking lot gate. Enter the lot from Dana Road, and proceed to the Security Office to obtain a visitor pass. View a map of the NYMC campus, here.

Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons is an exhibition celebrating the contributions of African American academic surgeons to medicine and medical education. It tells the stories of four pioneering African American surgeons and educators who exemplify excellence in their fields and believe in continuing the journey of excellence through the education and mentoring of younger physicians and surgeons.

Through contemporary and historical images, the exhibition takes the visitor on a journey through the lives and achievements of these academic surgeons, and provides a glimpse into the stories of those that came before them and those that continue the tradition today.

The four pioneers are:

  • Alexa I. Canady, the first African American woman pediatric neurosurgeon;
  • LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., cancer surgeon, and the first African American President of the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society;
  • Claude H. Organ, Jr., general surgeon, and the first African American to chair a department of surgery at a predominantly white medical school;
  • Rosalyn P. Scott, the first African American woman cardiothoracic surgeon.

The exhibition also features other academic surgeons from around the country that follow in the tradition of sharing their knowledge and passing the torch to younger surgeons. These include Levi Watkins, Jr. of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who performed the first implantation of an automatic defibrillator in a human in 1980 and Carla M. Pugh of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine who holds a patent for a method of simulation used to design the pelvic exam simulator, a teaching tool for medical students.

Opening Doors is not intended to be an encyclopedic look at African American academic surgeons, but is intended to provide only a glimpse into the contributions that African American academic surgeons have made to medicine and medical education. We hope that through this exhibition we can bring these stories to light and inspire others to pursue careers in academic surgery.

This exhibition was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

Curated by Margaret A. Hutto and Jill L. Newmark