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Who was the nation’s first black psychiatrist?

Solomon Carter Fuller Jr. (1872–1953) became the nation’s first black psychiatrist, in 1897. He was also one of the first black physicians to teach on the faculty of a multiracial medical school in the United States, the University of Boston School of Medicine. Fuller was born in Monrovia, Liberia, and received his bachelor’s degree in 1893 from Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. He earned his medical degree from Boston University Medical School in 1897. That same year he was an intern in the pathology laboratory of Westborough State Hospital for the Insane. He was named head of pathology in 1899 and served in that position until 1919. Still with the hospital, he became a faculty member in the pathology department at Boston University’s medical school in 1899, and in 1904 he took a sabbatical for one year of study at the University of Munich in Germany. There he studied psychiatry with influential neuropsychiatrist Emil Kraepelin. In 1919 Fuller taught full-time at the medical school but later retired because of racism. He was denied status as a full professor and, although he was the functioning head of the Department of Neurology, that title was never assigned to him. When the school promoted a white assistant professor to full professor and department head, Fuller had had enough. He retired in 1933 and worked in a succession of part-time posts. He had suffered from diabetes for some time, and beginning in 1942 his eyesight began to fail. Still, he accepted psychiatric patients and gave up all else except a positive attitude on life. In 1909 Fuller married Meta Vaux Warrick, a talented sculptor who had studied with Paul Rodin in Paris.


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