Ever wonder who tended to the injuries of demonstrators brutalized during the civil rights protests of the 1960s? David M. French, a former Howard University professor of pediatric surgery and one of the first African-American board-certified surgeons, coordinated many of those first-aid efforts, as just one piece of a long career that merged medicine and public service. He died March 31 at the age of 86.
After witnessing firsthand the lack of quality health care available to blacks in the South at civil rights protests (he once converted his family van into an ambulance to lead a medical unit overseeing the care of Mississippi activists demonstrating against racism), French became committed to improving the health of underserved people and began to focus on preventative and community medicine.
French founded Boston University's department of community health in 1969. He also established a network of community health centers in Boston before moving to Ivory Coast in the 1970s. There he led an effort to train nurses and improve public health in 20 countries across the continent.
French returned to the United States in the mid-1980s and retired to Barboursville, Va. But his work didn't end then. He went on to serve as medical director of Helen Keller International, a New York-based nonprofit organization that runs public health programs in developing countries. More recently, he served as medical officer for the nonprofit service and development arm of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Read more at the Washington Post.