Hildrus Augustus Poindexter, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., D.Sc.

Dr. Hildrus Augustus, "Gus" Poindexter was born on May 10, 1901 in Memphis, Tennessee and died on April 21, 1987 in Clinton, Maryland.

Hildrus Poindexter became the first African American to receive both an M.D., which he earned at Harvard University in 1929 and a Ph.D., which he earned in bacteriology at Columbia University in 1932. He had earned his bachelor's degree at historically Black Lincoln University in 1924 before moving on to pre-medical studies at Dartmouth College and then to Harvard. Dr. Poindexter became the head of the Medical College at Howard University in 1934. Even after completing his Ph.D., Poindexter earned a master's degree in public health from Columbia in 1937. He was also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

During World War II, Major Hildrus Poindexter, USA, was awarded the Bronze Star for reducing the Malaria rate in the Solomon Islands by 86.4 per cent in three months. He had done important work in the diagnosis and treatment of schistosomiasis, a disease which had taken a heavy toll of American soldiers, caused by a tiny worm entering the bloodstream.

In 1948, Senior Surgeon Poindexter was appointed director of the Mission to Liberia, whose goal was to help the Liberian government in sanitation planning and the control of infectious diseases. In the 1940s and 1950s Poindexter’s name became virtually synonymous with study of malaria and other tropical diseases. This work made him one of the most influential (and most overlooked) scientists of all time. He became the first African-American member of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and subsequently served as Vice President of the Washington, D.C. chapter and as a Trustee of the national body. He traveled, worked, and conducted research in many countries including 30 African nations.

To commemorate the proud national and international public health legacy left behind by Dr. Hildrus Poindexter, The Hildrus A. Poindexter Award is given by the Black Caucus for Public Health to the highest honored public health professionals.

Hildrus Poindexter, sixth of eleven children, was 12 years old when he first discovered he had cancer even though he wasn't really sure what the disease was. His parents were very pour but Hildrus finally paid a physician to take tests on him to find out what the disease was. After many years, his disease which was bothering his right leg was cured.

Hildrus had many serious relationships during his life and it has been said that he fathered three children but never had anything to do with them. In his autobiography, "My World of Reality - in 1973" he writes of his struggles as the son of tenant farmers, how he worked in a coal mine to finance his education and of white female patients who refused to be examined by him during grand rounds.

Dr. Hildrus A. Poindexter was a bacteriologist who studied the epidemiology of tropical diseases and became an internationally known authority.


Black Caucus for Public Health Link
Link To Hildrus's
Medical History

Journal Nat'l Med Assoc
Journal Nat'l Med Assoc

Dartmouth Med School - 1925
Dartmouth Medical School - 1925

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