Segregated Medicine: Establishing St. Louis's Homer G. Phillips Hospital (1914-1937)

Ezelle Sanford, III

University of Pennsylvania

Monday, March 23, 2020 - 3:30pm

University of Pennsylvania
Claudia Cohen Hall, Room 337
249 S 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Opening in 1937, St. Louis’s Homer G. Phillips Hospital emerged as the largest segregated African American hospital and one of the largest general hospitals in the United States.  The municipal teaching hospital was a prominent provider of public health care to African Americans in St. Louis and in the Midwest.  Moreover, the prestigious teaching hospital was known as a training ground for African American nurses, allied health professionals, and medical specialists who were barred from other opportunities. Yet the case of “Homer G.” as it has come to be affectionately known by Black St. Louisans is instructive as it represented much more than public hospital care.  The hospital, and the historical context in which it was born and operated, speaks to a history of inclusion and exclusion in the history of medicine. This talk builds upon Ezelle Sanford’s dissertation research as he begins to formulate a book project, Segregated Medicine: The Homer G. Phillips Hospital Story (1937-1979)which employs a ground-level perspective to track a much larger history of segregated health care in St. Louis and in the United States over the course of the twentieth century. He argues that the social values and physical demands of the Jim Crow era shaped and reshaped the modern US health care system. This talk outlines the exigent circumstances that established segregated public health care, supported by the unlikely political alliance between white municipal leaders and African American elites, and its intertwined promises and perils in the medical arena.