FAMILY IN THE NEWS: Oswald Garrison Smith, MD

Link

An article I found in a journal online…
[The section pertaining to Oswald is below. A link to view the complete article is included at the end.]

Opening the Doors of the Great Republic: Sex, Race, and Organized Medicine in Mississippi
Lucius M. “Luke” Lampton, MD, Editor

Oswald Garrison Smith, MD
The First Scientific Member

The first African-American to be admitted/elected into the MSMA, although in this limited “scientific” status, was Oswald Garrison Smith (1915 – 2002) of Clarksdale.  (See this month’s “images in Mississippi Medicine” on page 214.)  He was born September 4, 1915 in Vicksburg, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Perry Monroe Smith.  He attended the public schools of Mound Bayou and attended Bolivar County Training School there.

His parents later moved to Shelby.  He attended Tennessee State College for 3 years and later graduated with an MD from Meharry Medical College on May 28, 1940.  He passed the Tennessee State Medical Board on June 15, 1940, and interned a year at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis (a respected training black hospital), then passed W. Virginia State Boards in 1942.  He served in the 45th Engineer Regiment as an officer in the medical corps, serving in the Burma jungle at Tagap, the 335th Station Hospital in the China/Burma/India theatre of war, a large hospital constituted of black physicians and nurses.

The Sphinx, the official organ of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, recognized the significance of Oswald G. Smith's entry into the MSMA.  This historic African American fraternity publication glowingly noted Smith's achievement in a 1956 article entitled "Medical History Made in the Delta."

The Sphinx, the official organ of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, recognized the significance of Oswald G. Smith’s entry into the MSMA. This historic African American fraternity publication glowingly noted Smith’s achievement in a 1956 article entitled “Medical History Made in the Delta.”

The Sphinx, the official organ of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, recognized the national significance of Smith’s entry into the MSMA.  In this historic African-American fraternity publication, Smith’s achievement was glowingly reported in an article entitled “Medical History Made in the Delta.”  The article reads: “Brilliant young Brother (Dr.) Oswald G. Smith of Clarksdale, Miss., became the first Negro to be admitted to membership in the local chapter of the American Medical Association.  Recognition given Dr. Smith came as the result of his distinctive achievement in the field of medicine and public service ‘beyond the call of this professional duty.'”  (This public service “beyond the call” of duty was not explained further, but apparently Smith achieved a local hero status due to his medical work prior to his admission.)  The article further commented that the local Delta chapter of the fraternity held a public program honoring Dr. Smith for this achievement.  It noted, “The city-wide tribute was carried out at Metropolitan Baptist Church, Clarksdale, and a capacity audience was present.”  At this large public ceremony, attorneys from Memphis came to speak on Smith’s accomplishment, and local officials even presented him with a plaque to “climax the program.”

Smith’s sharp academic intellect is more than evident in his surviving medical writings.  During his period in Clarksdale, he published and article, “oral Anemia Therapy with Roetinic,” in the Journal of the National Medical Association.  Smith even contributed an article to the official publication of our association, The Mississippi Doctor, in March 1959, entitled, “Clinical evaluation of antivert in symptoms associated with Meniere’s syndrome.”  Four years after his historic selection, Smith left Mississippi to continue his post-graduate training at the Bronx VA Hospital in Bronx, NY, finishing in June 1961.  (At the time, he would not have been accepted for post-graduate training at the University Medical Center in Jackson due to its own state enforced segregation policies.)  He would never return to practice in the state, although for years he retained his “scientific” status in the organization.  He moved eventually to Rockville Centre, NY, engaged in the practice of anesthesiology.  He died on October 15th, 2002 at the age of 87 years, with his last place of residence being South Orange, Essex County, New Jersey.

(Original Source: Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association: July 2013)

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