African American Pioneers In Gastroenterology

The medical field is a very demanding career for anyone to have; nonetheless there have been countless African-American gastroenterologists that have made significant contributions to society and humanity. Some of these doctors were not only the first in their class, but also achieved firsts in their field. In honor of Black History Month, here are a few notable African-American gastroenterologists and some of their accomplishments:

Leonidas Berry

Leonidas Berry was the first African-American gastroenterologist, and was considered to be the forerunner in endoscopy and gastroscopy. Berry was instrumental in the development of the gastroscope, as he invented the first Gastroscopy scope; the gastroscope is still currently being used today for non-invasive procedures that explore the gastrointestinal tract. Berry was the first black physician at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, the first black internist at Cook County Hospital, and was also one of the first black doctors to be admitted to the American Medical Association. In addition, Berry was also a published author, teacher, and was very dedicated to the community. His public service included work with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, civil rights, and was very involved with the racial problems of public health. In fact, Berry has even helped bring medical care to black communities in Illinois and Alabama that originally did not have any preexisting medical centers!

Sadye Beatryce Curry

The first African-American female gastroenterologist in the United States, Sadye Curry is a founding member and former President of the Leonidas Berry Society for Digestive Disease, a national society of predominately African-American doctors. In addition, Curry was the first African-American woman postgraduate trainee at Duke University Medical Center, and was also the first African-American to train in the gastroenterology fellowship program at Duke University. However, Curry’s list of achievements did not end there, as she went on to receive the Howard University College of Medicine Student Council Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, the Kaiser-Permanente Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, and was also selected for the Woman of the Year Award from the Howard University College of Medicine Student American Medical Women’s Association. Recently, Curry has become the first woman to be elected chair for the Internal Medicine Section of the National Medical Association.

Gary Richter

Richter originally opened his practice in 1983, and for the past 30+ years Richter has achieved a lot during his career; he is still in practice, and has described the connection that he has with his patients to be one of the most rewarding aspects of his work. A former president of the Atlanta Medical Association, Richter currently runs Consultative Gastroenterology in Atlanta, and has become the first African-American president of the Medical Association of Atlanta. In the past, the relationship between the Medical Association of Atlanta and the African-American community has not always been “rosy”, but according to Richter he is changing this. Richter is very passionate about organized medicine, and believes wholeheartedly that one must make their voice heard, and remain active in society. The Medical Association of Atlanta is dedicated to the changing needs of Atlanta’s physicians, and since Richter has served on the board of directors since 1995, he has the ability to help pave the way for other up and coming African American doctors.

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