Winning Essay by Justin R. From Mississippi Attends Mississippi State

Winning Essay by Justin R. From Mississippi Attends Mississippi State

Overcoming obstacles, especially for African Americans, have been and remain prevalent today. As a young African American male, it appears I already have a strike against me. There are those that don’t expect me to excel in the field of Aerospace Engineering, simply because blacks are considered the minority in this field. I chose this field to make an impact on the future and to prove my doubters wrong. There are several people who come to mind as being African American pioneers who have been an inspiration to me and have had some type of impact on my life.

I have read about the accomplishments of many great African Americans, but one of the greats that stood out the most was Daniel Hale Williams. Daniel Hale Williams was one of the first physicians to perform open-heart surgery in the United States. He also founded a hospital with an interracial staff. He excelled in his field. Dr. Williams successfully completed pericardial surgery on a patient during an era when African Americans were not allowed admission to certain hospitals. He was determined to make a difference in the world, and so am I. He did not settle for mediocrity. He worked hard to educate other African Americans in the medical field and, at the same time, promoted racial equality by opening the first medical facility with an interracial staff. Dr. Williams’s desire to improve surgical procedures, increase specialization, initiate ambulance services, and provide opportunities for other African Americans can be attributed to the success of many African Americans and other minorities that came behind him.

Even though all of this occurred in the 1800’s, his work with open-heart surgery impacted my family’s life. My younger sister was born with an atrial septal defect (hole in the heart) that eventually led to her heart becoming enlarged. She became a candidate for open-heart surgery, but her primary pediatric cardiologist at that time did not want her to have the evasive procedure that would leave her scarred for life. In the past, atrial septal defect(ASD) closures required open-heart surgery and the use of a heart-lung bypass machine. She referred my parents to a specialist who could perform the evasive ASD closure without having the incision in her chest. Had it not been for the surgical foundation laid by Dr. Dan, as he was sometimes called, my sister’s experience might have been worse. That was 11 years ago. Today, she is a smart and very active teenager who enjoys reading and majorette dancing.

Advancements in technology have made open-heart surgeries almost a thing of the past. These advancements have resulted in shorter hospital stays and shorter recovery periods. Thanks to Dr. Daniel Hale Williams for his contribution in laying the groundwork for these advancements that has afforded my sister a normal and healthy life.


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