Susan McKinney Steward, an African-American Physician

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Susan McKinney Steward was the first African-American physician in the state of New York and the third in the entire nation. Not only was she a stunningly intelligent doctor, but was also a passionate musician and an accomplished author. She was able to balance her demanding career but still manage to be a caring wife and mother as well as be very involved in her church. Although she faced much ridicule for entering what was considered to be a “man’s work”, she never stopped proving that she was very qualified and entitled to every accomplishment that she had.

Susan was born in Brooklyn to Sylvanus and Anne Smith on March 18th, 1847. She was the seventh out of ten children and was of European, Shinnecock Indian, and African heritage. Her parents were successful porn merchants and were considered to be elite in their black community. As a child she learned how to plan the organ from Henry and John Zundel and preformed at Bridge Street African Methodist Episcopal Church and Brooklyn's Siloam Presbyterian Church. Susan was not the only success story in her family however because her sister, Sarah J. Garrett was the first African-American female principal in the New York City public school system.

After finishing high school Susan moved to Washington D.C. to teach so she could save money to pay for medical school. It is believed that her inspiration to enter the medical field was when she nursed her sick niece back to health after the cholera struck New York in 1866 that cause over a thousand people to die. Once she has a sufficient amount of money she enrolled at New York Medical College for Women in 1867. Susan was known for always being one to study assiduously and vigorously even though male medical students from the Bellevue Hospital often harassed her. After specializing in homeopathic medicine she graduated three years later as the class valedictorian. Later she completed grad school Long Island College School.

After her graduation in Long...
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