Provident Hospital: A Trailblazing Health Care Institution For Black People

When we think of institutions with lasting impacts on Black history, our minds are drawn to historically Black colleges and universities like Howard, or sites like National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.

There are other institutions who have left behind a legacy, as well. Enter the Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois -- the first Black-owned and operated interracial hospital in America.

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, a prominent Black surgeon and trailblazer, founded the location in 1891 to provide training for Black nurses and interns in the south side of the Windy City. During a time where Black patients were denied service at hospitals and Black physicians could not treat their patients, Provident was a place of opportunity for Black people.

Williams captured the nation's attention by performing the world's first successful open heart surgery. He sewed the lining of a human heart after the patient suffered a stab wound -- a feat thought impossible.

Provident also brought its own renown outside of its founder. It was the first private hospital in Illinois to provide internship opportunities for Black physicians and the first to establish a school of nursing to train Black women, according to the International Museum of Surgical Science.

"It was one of the first black hospitals to provide postgraduate courses and residences for black physicians and the first black hospital approved by the American College of Surgeons for full graduate training in surgery," the African American Registry wrote about Provident. Even though it was founded on interracial ideas, the private hospital became a predominantly Black institution by 1915.

Provident Hospital began encountering issues in the early 1900s. Financial problems plagued the institution and it eventually closed in in bankruptcy in September 1987, according to experts.

There has been community interest in reviving the hospital over the years, and it came to fruition in the 1990s. The Cook County Board of Commissioners bought the hospital in 1991, which matched the county's Bureau of Health Services ambition at the time. Officials reportedly wanted to improve medical service to south side Chicago residents.

The Bureau reopened Provident Hospital in August 1993 following some upgrades to the institution. It still teaches health care professionals as well, thanks to an educational relationship with Loyola University's Stritch School of Medicine.

"While no longer considered a Black-run hospital, Provident continues to serve the health needs of the community, including a variety of health outreach efforts," according to IMSS.

You can view an online exhibition of Provident Hospital at the IMSS's website here.

Photo: Getty Images

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