JDRF Illinois Honors Black History Month


In celebration of Black History Month, JDRF Illinois will be featuring prominent and influential black individuals in healthcare, science, and beyond. Today is for Mary Eliza Mahoney.

Mary Eliza Mahoney is celebrated as the first African American licensed nurse. She was a leader who dedicated her life to seeking greater equality for African American women.

Among Mahoney’s key accomplishments include becoming the first African American in the US to earn a professional nursing license in 1878 and going on to co-found the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) in 1908.

And in 1920, Mahoney was among the first women registered to vote in Boston after the 19th Amendment was ratified. Even after her retirement from nursing, she continued to champion women’s rights and break barriers to inequality in healthcare.

As a health organization, JDRF honors and celebrates the incredible legacy that Mary Eliza Mahoney left and the impact she continues to make in healthcare today.

Today is for Dr. Charles R. Drew

Dr. Charles R. Drew, a pioneering African American medical researcher, is best known for his groundbreaking discoveries in the storage and processing of blood for transfusions and his leadership in organizing America’s first large-scale blood bank. 

After graduating second in his class at McGill UniversityDrew became an instructor at Howard University College of Medicine, where ultimately, he progressed to chief surgical resident at Freedmen’s Hospital. 

 In 1938, he continued his exploration of blood-related matters through a Rockefeller Fellowship and became the first African American to earn this degree from Columbia.

Drew left a substantial legacy, embodied in his blood bank work and his campaign against the exclusion of black physicians from local medical societies and specialty organizations.

We would not be where we are today in medicine without Dr. Charles R. Drew.