In recognition of Black History Month, during the four weeks of February, we are sharing weekly spotlights of African American graduates from Northwestern’s medical and dental schools. These alumni made significant contributions to the field of medicine, forging the way for many generations to come.
Information provided by the Galter Health Sciences Library. Library Notes, 2014.
Midian Othello Bousfield, 1909 MD
Midian Othello Bousfield was born in Missouri in August 1885. He completed his medical studies at Northwestern University Medical School in 1909, and concluded his formal medical education in 1910, with an internship at the Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington. In 1912, he went to Kansas City as a visiting physician at the City General Hospital and maintained a private practice. He returned to Chicago in 1914.
From 1915 to 1919, Dr. Bousfield served as a Chicago Public School health officer, school tuberculosis physician and maintained a private practice. In 1919, he became one of the original incorporators of the Liberty Life Insurance Company and served as medical director and vice president. In 1929, the company merged with two other African American insurance companies as the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company.
From 1934 to 1942, he was director of Negro Health with the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Through his experience as a physician and businessman, he became focused on the need to improve health care for the underserved African American population in the South and to improve African American hospitals, create medical education programs for nurses, physicians, public health officers, and obtain funding to aid African Americans in post-doctoral education. He was also influential in establishing an infantile paralysis unit at the Tuskegee Institute and at Provident Hospital in Chicago, during this time.
Dr. Bousfield was president of the National Medical Association from 1934 to 1935. He was also the first African American speaker at the meeting of the American Public Health Association in 1934. He frankly stated in his speech, later published in the association’s journal, that health officials “so complacently review, year after year, the unfavorable vital statistical reports of one-tenth of the population and make no special effort to correct them.” As a result, the association and its membership became more mindful. In 1936, he was elected president of the Chicago Urban League, and in 1939, appointed to the Chicago School Board, the first African American to hold that position.
During World War II, Dr. Bousfield, the first African American colonel in the Army Medical Corps, commanded the first African American army hospital, located at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He stated that the hospital provided African American physicians with unprecedented professional opportunities. In 1945, after a difficult tenure at the hospital, he retired from the military and returned to Chicago.
In 1946, he was instrumental in organizing the Provident Medical Association, an organization of prominent African American physicians in Chicago who supported and funded medical specialists’ education. He died of a heart attack on February 16, 1948, and was survived by his wife Maudelle Tanner Brown, the first African American high school principal in Chicago.
For more information on this and other history blog entries, please contact Galter Health Sciences Library at firstname.lastname@example.org.