Celebrating firsts: A look at those who broke barriers at U-M, Michigan Medicine

February 17, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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U-M and Michigan Medicine have a long-standing history of milestones and “firsts.” This Black History Month, the organization is celebrating these milestones — and all who have blazed a trail of excellence in patient care, education and research.

Dating back more than 160 years, here’s a closer look at a who’s who of some of the most notable diversity-related milestones within the institution:

1853: Samuel Codes Watson, medical student, is the first known African-American student admitted to the university.

1870: Madelon Louisa Stockwell is the first woman admitted to the university; she graduated in 1872 (literature).

1871: Amanda Sanford becomes the first woman alumna of U-M by graduating from the medical school (her grades were the highest of the 90 students). Sarah Killgore of Crawfordsville, Indiana, graduated with a law degree on the same day.

1872: Dr. William Henry Fitzbutler became the first African-American to graduate from the medical school (homeopathy).

1876: Mary Henrietta Graham (literature) is the first known African-American woman admitted to the university.

1877: José Celso Barbosa, the first Puerto Rican student, enrolls at U-M in the Department of Medicine and Surgery.

1878: Grace Roberts becomes the first African-American to receive an M.D. from Michigan.

1879: The first sorority, the Eta chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, is established at U-M.

1885: June Rose Colby is the first woman to receive a Ph.D.

1885: Sophia Bethena Jones is the first woman to graduate from the medical school.

1890: The Women’s League is established for women students, alumni and faculty; the Michigan League building is dedicated in 1929.

1892: First Chinese students are admitted to U-M.

1896: Eliza Mosher is appointed first Dean of Women, and becomes first woman faculty member.

1902: Barbour Gymnasium, a facility specifically for women, is completed. That same year, the Association for Mutual Aid of Colored Students is established.

1915: The university’s first two all-women residence halls, Martha Cook and Helen Newberry, open.

1936: The International Center is created with J. Raleigh Nelson named its first director.

1954: Latunde Odeku, the first African-American neurosurgeon trained in the U.S. and Africa’s first neurosurgeon, begins his neurosurgical residency at U-M. He completes it in 1960.

1963: Coed dormitories are approved beginning with the Fall term, and a single director of residence halls is appointed to administer both men’s and women’s housing.

1964: The Center for Continuing Education of Women is founded (now called the Center for the Education of Women).

1968: The first male undergraduate nursing students graduate, four years after the first male completed the nursing graduate program.

1968: Barbara Newell is appointed the acting vice president of Student Affairs. She is the first woman to serve as an executive officer of the university.

1970: The Center for Afro-American and Africa Studies is launched.

1972: Henry Johnson is appointed as VP for Student Services, the first African-American administrator.

1973: Intercollegiate varsity athletic programs for U-M women are established with the introduction of six varsity sports.

1990: University faculty members from psychiatry and the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education conduct seminal research on diversity in higher education. This work is still ongoing 31 years later.

1993: The board of regents outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation.

2002: Dr. Mary Sue Coleman becomes the first female president of the university.

2003: Dr. Valerie Castle is named chair of the Department of Pediatrics, the first female medical school department chair.

2005: Dr. Karin Muraszko is named chair of the Department of Surgery, the first female Department of Neurosurgery chair in the nation.

2009: Dr. Ora Pescovitz becomes first female executive vice president for medical affairs.

2009: Dr. John Carethers named chair of Internal Medicine, the first African-American Medical School department chair.

Click here for even more milestones. And do you notice anyone missing? The Office for Health Equity and Inclusion would like to keep this list as updated as possible. If you have anyone to add, please email medicinedei@umich.edu.

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