Cone Health Honors Dr. Alvin Blount Jr.Special to the Peacemaker / September 19, 2016
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Cone Health and its medical and dental staff honored Greensboro surgeon, Dr. Alvin Vincent Blount Jr., for his role in integrating health care in America. Blount was recognized during a ceremony at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15. The event takes place at the Greensboro Marriott Downtown.
Blount was one of nine African American physicians and dentists who, along with two patients, sued The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital and Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro. The plaintiffs, led by the late Dr. George Simkins Jr., wanted Black medical professionals to be able to care for Black patients in the facilities. In the landmark 1962 Simkins vs. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital case, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held that “separate but equal” racial segregation in publicly funded hospitals was a violation of equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, thus letting the decision stand. Hospitals across the country were soon opened to African American doctors and their patients. Today, Blount is the only surviving plaintiff of the lawsuit.
“It seemed to me, and to our medical and dental staff, that we needed to take an opportunity to apologize for our role in this chapter of our history and to honor these individuals for challenging us to be our best selves, and for their foresight and courage in changing America,” says Cone Health CEO Terry Akin.
Cone Health is contributing $250,000 toward a scholarship honoring Blount and the other plaintiffs. The Greensboro Medical Society will use the funds to award scholarships to students pursuing careers in health care.
“This was a pivotal event in the annals of health care,” says Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff President James Wyatt, MD. “Even though Dr. Blount will tell you he did this for his patients—and it was, partly—this helped lead to the legitimization of the Black physician in this community and throughout the country.”
Alvin Blount Jr. was born on February 24, 1922, in Wake County, Raleigh, North Carolina. He was the eldest of four children and the only son of parents who worked as domestics. He is a graduate of Washington High School in Raleigh. He enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College in 1939. While there, Blount served as president of the student body and as chairman of the college’s newspaper. He graduated in 1943 with high honors (magna cum laude) earning a B.A. in chemistry. After graduating, Blount began his medical studies at Howard University Medical School (Washington, D.C.) where he studied under the tutelage of Dr. Charles Drew and received his M.D. degree in 1947.
During medical school, Blount served three years on active duty in the U.S. Army. He completed a general surgery residency at Kate Bittings Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Winston-Salem.
In 1952, Blount was mobilized with the 8225th Infantry Division from Fort Bragg as a member of the U.S. Army Medical Corps’ 2nd Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) Unit sent to Korea. Blount, whose team performed ninety surgeries a week, went on to become a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. He served as acting Chief of Surgery for the 8225th MASH Unit in Korea from 1951 until 1952, and was appointed Chief of Surgery for the 47th U.S. Army Combat Surgical Hospital in Southeast Asia. He returned to the United States in 1954. He is the first African American to head a MASH unit in the U.S. military.
In 1957, Blount became the first African American in North Carolina be certified by the American College of Abdominal Surgeons and practiced at Kindred Hospital (formerly L. Richardson Hospital). Blount became the first Black surgeon admitted to the medical staff of Cone Hospital in 1964. He served as Chief of Surgery for L. Richardson Hospital and as Medical Director for the Guilford Health Care Center.
Blount is a member of several organizations including Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Association of Guardsmen. He has been a member of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity since 1970; and, in 1979, he established the Beta Epsilon Boule of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity in Greensboro. Blount, a 33rd degree Mason, is an honorary past Grand Master and Medical Director of the Prince Hall Masons of North Carolina. He has received countless awards including the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest honor that can be granted to a civilian in the state of North Carolina. In 1983, North Carolina A & T State University awarded Blount an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities
Cone Health will live stream the event to its Facebook page beginning at 5:30. (https://www.facebook.com/conehealth/)