UM Mansfield Library to Host Exhibit on Contemporary African-American Surgeons

January 22, 2016

MISSOULA  The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library at the University of Montana will host the exhibition “Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons” Wednesday, Jan. 27, through Saturday, Feb. 27. It is free and open to the public during regular library hours. The library also will host related lectures on Thursday, Jan. 28, and Thursday, Feb. 11.

The exhibition celebrates the medical and educational contributions of African-American academic surgeons. It tells the stories of four pioneering African-American surgeons and educators who exemplify excellence in their fields and believe in educating and mentoring younger physicians and surgeons.

Through contemporary and historical images, the exhibition takes the visitor on a journey through the lives and achievements of these surgeons and tells the stories of those who came before them and those who continue the tradition today.

The four pioneers are Alexa Canady, the first African-American woman pediatric neurosurgeon; LaSalle Leffall Jr., cancer surgeon and the first African-American president of the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society; Claude Organ Jr., general surgeon and the first African-American to chair a department of surgery at a predominantly white medical school; and Rosalyn P. Scott, the first African-American woman cardiothoracic surgeon.

“‘Opening Doors’ is not intended to be an encyclopedic look at African-American academic surgeons, but is intended to provide a glimpse into the contributions that African-American academic surgeons have made to medicine and medical education,” said Julie Biando Edwards, Mansfield Library associate professor. “We hope that through this exhibition we can bring these stories to light and inspire others to pursue careers in academic surgery.”

Ellen Baumbler, an interpretive historian at the Montana Historical Society, will present “African-American Montanans in the Healing Arts” from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in the Mansfield Library East Faculty Office Area. The lecture will highlight the legacy of the pioneering Bridgewater family and daughter Octavia’s nursing career.

A virtual lecture, “Entering a ‘White’ Profession: Black Physicians in the New South,” will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, in the Mansfield Library East Faculty Office Area. It will be presented by medical historian Todd Savitt, who teaches at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

The exhibition was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture.

The exhibit will be open during the Mansfield Library’s regular hours, which can be found online at

Contact: Julie Biando Edwards, associate professor, UM Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, 406-243-4505,