James Derham is identified as one among the ten most famous male nurses in the history of mankind (National Institute of Health). He is indeed termed as the first African-American to practice formal medicine in America despite the fact that he owned no M. D. degree.
Derham was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by a slavery couple (Kirschman). Being a slave, he was owned by many medical practitioners, one of whom was Dr. Robert Love, who identified Derham unique potential and encouraged him to practice medicine. With permission for his master, Dr. Robert Love, Derham successfully worked as a nurse, managing to by his freedom from slavery in 1783 (Kirschman). Being a freeman, he went on to open a medical practice. It is estimated that at the age of 26, Derham was earning over $3,000 annually from his medical practice (National Institute of Health).
This has been closely attributed to large patient pool he enjoy owing to his ability to speak various languages. He was fluent in speaking English, French, and Spanish languages. It is claimed that Derham once met with the father of American medicine, Dr. Benjamin Rush, with whose encouragement he moved to continue his medical practice in Philadelphia (Kirschman). In Philadelphia, Derham emerged as a medical expert mainly dealing with the treatment of throat and climate caused diseases.
He is given great honor for his historical contribution on the relationship between climate and diseases affecting mankind (National Institute of Health). However, James Derham disappeared in 1802 and no available information about his fate. He his believed not to have had married by the time he disappeared (Kirschman). Due to his honor, the state of New Orleans established the James Derham middle school in 1960. Derham was and still is a hero of the American history.
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