Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons is an exhibition celebrating the contributions of African American academic surgeons to medicine and medical education. It tells the stories of four pioneering African American surgeons and educators who exemplify excellence in their fields and believe in continuing the journey of excellence through the education and mentoring younger physicians and surgeons.


Through contemporary and historical images, the exhibition takes the visitor on a journey through the lives and achievements of these academic surgeons, and provides a glimpse into the stories of those that came before them and those that continue the tradition today.


The four pioneers are Alexa I. Canady, the first African American woman pediatric neurosurgeon; LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., cancer surgeon, and the first African American President of the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society; Claude H. Organ, Jr., general surgeon, and the first African American to chair a department of surgery at a predominantly white medical school; and Rosalyn P. Scott, the first African American woman cardiothoracic surgeon.


The exhibition also features other academic surgeons from around the country that follow in the tradition of sharing their knowledge and passing the torch to younger surgeons. These include Levi Watkins, Jr. of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who performed the first implantation of an automatic defibrillator in a human in 1980 and Carla M. Pugh of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine who holds a patent for a method of simulation used to design the pelvic exam simulator, a teaching tool for medical students.


Opening Doors is not intended to be an encyclopedic look at African American academic surgeons, but is intended to provide only a glimpse into the contributions that African American academic surgeons have made to medicine and medical education. We hope that through this exhibition we can bring these stories to light and inspire others to pursue careers in academic surgery.

A collaborative effort between the National Library of Medicine and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore.

The National Library of Medicine is the largest medical library in the world and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum is the largest African American museum on the east coast.