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Historic Firsts in Nursing, Medicine, and Dentistry at Emory

This LibGuide highlights historic firsts for the following Emory schools: The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory School of Medicine, and the defunct Emory School of Dentistry

Introduction

"People who end up as "first" don't actually set out to be first. They set out to do something they love."  

-Unknown

This LibGuide highlights the historic firsts for the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory School of Medicine, and the now defunct Emory School of Dentistry. These pioneers paved the road for those coming after them whether it is as the first Black nursing students or the first woman faculty member at the School of Medicine, their passion and dedication to their work changed institutions.

The below information indicates collections where information can be located about them whether in Historical Collections at the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library or other Emory-resources such as the Rose Library or Emory University Archives. Note: any important caveats are italicized for convenience and to temper expectations. 

Information on this LibGuide is ever-evolving as new information or individuals are identified for inclusion. 

Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing

Verdelle Bellamy and Allie Saxon 

Often referenced together, Verdelle Bellamy and Allie Saxon were the first Black students, both women, to attend the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing in 1963, thereby integrating the nursing school. 

Bellamy obtained her Masters in Nursing from Emory. She went on to become active in veteran health care. She became the first Black administrator at the Atlanta VA Medical Center (VAMC). In 1974, Bellamy became the first Black person to receive a gubernatorial appointment to the Georgia Board of Nursing by then-governor Jimmy Carter. Source: 2015 Emory Magazine feature titled “Tribute: Verdelle Bellamy 63MN: Nursing pioneer helped integrate Emory” 

Saxon obtained her Masters in Nursing from Emory. She went on to become a faculty member at Winston-Salem State College in North Carolina. Afterward, she returned to Atlanta where she worked in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Historical Collections resources: 

Note: No photograph can be found in Historical Collections of Bellamy and Saxon. 

Other Emory-related resources:  

  • Emory University Archives - Emory Wheel (Emory’s Student Newspaper) 

 

Keith Taylor 

In another historic first for 1963, Keith Taylor was the first admitted male student in the school’s history. Hailing from Fayetteville, Arkansas, Taylor, along with his wife Rose-Marie Taylor, received their Masters in Nursing.  

Historical Collections resources: 

Note: Other than a newspaper clipping photo, no photograph can be found in Historical Collections of Taylor. 

Other Emory-related resources: 

 

Bob Isom 

Entering the 1972 School of Nursing class, Bob Isom holds the distinction as the first Black (male) nursing student. Isom entered the program with several years of military experience in the United States Air Force as a medical technologist. After graduation, Isom went to the University of California-San Francisco where he earned his nurse practitioner degree then a master's degree in public health at University of California-Berkeley. He served as director of the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program of Contra Costa County's public health department for 27 years.  Source: 2001 Emory Medicine Magazine feature titled "Racially Motivated." 

Historical Collections resources:

Emory School of Medicine

Asa Yancey 

Dr. Asa Yancey became the first Black faculty member at Emory’s School of Medicine in 1964. He later became the medical director at Grady Memorial Hospital from 1972 to 1989. 

Historical Collection resources: 

  • Biographical Files, 1918-2018 - Biographical files contain a wide variety of material from newspaper clippings, publications by the individual, reprints etc. File size varies from individual to individual. 

Note: No photograph can be found in Historical Collections of Yancey. 

Other Emory-related resources: 

 

Hamilton Holmes 

Dr. Hamilton Holmes was the first Black student to graduate from Emory's School of Medicine in 1963. He later became an orthopedic surgeon and eventually medical director of Grady Memorial Hospital. The School of Medicine hosts an annual lecture series named after him. 

Historical Collections resources: 

  • Biographical Files, 1918-2018 - Biographical files contain a wide variety of material from newspaper clippings, publications by the individual, reprints etc. File size varies from individual to individual. 

Other Emory-related resources:

 

Evangeline Papageorge 

Evangeline Papageorge was the first woman appointed to the full-time medical faculty. She would later become the school's first female administrator when she was appointed dean of students in 1956. 

Historical Collections resource: 

  • Biographical Files, 1918-2018 – Biographical files contain a wide variety of material from newspaper clippings, publications by the individual, reprints etc. File size varies from individual to individual. 

Other Emory-related resources: 

 

Elizabeth Gambrell 

Dr. Elizabeth Gambrell was the first woman admitted to Emory’s School of Medicine in 1943. 

Historical Collections resources: 

  • Biographical Files, 1918-2018 – Biographical files contain a wide variety of material from newspaper clippings, publications by the individual, reprints etc. File size varies from individual to individual. 

Emory School of Dentistry (defunct)

The Emory School of Dentistry was established in September 1944. It was the result of a merger between Emory University and the Atlanta-Southern Dental College. The Atlanta-Southern Dental College had previously been the result of a merger between Atlanta Dental College and Southern Dental College. 

Helen Dennard and Veda Sherrard 

Presumably the first two women admitted to the new dentistry school.  

Historical Collections resource: 

 

Manuel R. de Juan 

First Puerto Rican student in the School of Dentistry.

Emory-related resources: