To paraphrase famed literature professor Joseph Campbell: A hero must put others’ interests ahead of their own to attain a goal bigger than themselves. Daniel Hale Williams is one individual who exemplifies the most important virtues of unselfish service and unwavering dedication to the common good. Pioneering surgeon Williams was the first to do open heart surgery, making him a pioneering surgeon. Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania’s Sarah Price Williams and Daniel Williams gave birth to him on January 18th, 1856. In Baltimore as an apprentice shoemaker at the age of 10, Williams fled to Rockford, Illinois, to be with his family. Once in Janesville, he began a new life as an artist, where he became interested in medicine after seeing the work of a neighbourhood doctor. In 1880, he enrolled in the Chicago Medical College of Northwestern University, where he graduated in 1883 with a degree in medicine. Williams began a medical practice in Chicago soon after graduation. In the late 1800s and early 1890s, African-Americans were barred from entering hospitals (Lee, Walker and Nwiloh, 2018). Thus, to solve this conflict, he established the first interracial hospital in America: Provident Hospital, where black doctors were trained and employed. Williams conducted open cardiac surgery in 1893. As a resolution, he gained notoriety and executed several previously unattempted procedures with great success. Until his death on August 4th, 1931, he continued to labour and publish in medical publications. As a scientist and inventor, Williams dedicated his life to making the world a better place. A doctor’s dedication to medicine gained him the respect of his peers despite racial preconceptions and expectations that were placed on him. Self-denial and an unwavering desire to positively impact the world characterise his approach. As soon as Williams graduated from medical school, he decided to devote the rest of his career to helping people. That is the only occupation, or hobby one will ever find him doing. For this purpose, he invested his resources, including money and time, into his career, with no expectation of financial reward. Williams is an example of real heroism since he has consistently done good deeds without recompense. Due to discrimination against African Americans in the healthcare industry, doctors of colour were particularly hard to come by in those days. In this key event, efforts Williams took to battle this preconceived bias show his dedication to medicine: “Even though black doctors could not get entrance to hospitals or receive hospital appointments, and as action, Williams started working on the establishment of an interracial hospital” (Lee, 2016). While it was scarce for African Americans to work in the medical field, Williams bucked the odds by becoming a surgeon to help other aspiring African American doctors gain employment at a hospital. Not only did he provide African Americans with an opportunity to work in medicine, but he also allowed those who had previously been unable to obtain medical attention to do so.
The heroism of Williams may be seen in his desire both to help people pursue their dreams and save lives. It took all of Williams’ willpower to overcome the assumptions and expectations that others had for him and go for what he loved. Many doors and possibilities were opened for others due to Williams’ long-term dedication to his medical career. He opened the door for other African American doctors to get their foot in the door (Koretzky, 2017). With his ability to think beyond the box, William opened doors and established new standards in medicine. Throughout his career, Williams carried out a series of groundbreaking procedures. The far-reaching ramifications of each procedure highlight his selfless use of his creative ability. Heroism is based on the idea that each person can make the world a better place by giving selflessly of oneself. They have a strong desire to pursue their passions and a strong desire to help others to the best of their ability. When Daniel Hale Williams faced difficulties, he did everything to help the community, even if he did not get anything in return. Heroes are defined by their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way for the greater good and by their unwavering commitment to the pursuit of their dreams. Because my family is full of physicians and scientists, I aspire to follow in their footsteps and become a doctor or scientist in the future. Our family’s moral compass is based on the principle that helping others is more important than self-gain. This philosophy motivates me to put in long hours at the office in the hopes of having the same influence as Daniel Hale Williams (Royster, 2017). A man devoted to making a difference in the world, Daniel Hale Williams has dedicated his whole life to doing so. Throughout his life, Williams worked tirelessly to impact the world around him positively. He is a hero because of his ability to employ inventiveness to help others and his desire to overcome hurdles and bring about positive change.
Koretzky, M.O. 2017. ‘A change of heart’: Racial politics, scientific metaphor and coverage of 1968 interracial heart transplants in the African American Press. Social History of Medicine, 30(2), pp. 408-428.
Lee, A.B. 2016. Pioneers of cardiac surgery who just missed being first. Nigerian Journal of Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery, 1(1), pp. 2.
Lee, A.B., Walker, M. and Nwiloh, J. 2018. History of pioneer black surgeons in American medicine–part 1. Nigerian Journal of Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery, 3(1), pp. 2.
Royster, R.A. 2017. The doll project as a liberatory art intervention for conscious raising and trauma relief in a chicago marked by violence. National Louis University, pp.1-26.