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Published on September 15, 2016

Cone Health Apologizes for Discriminatory Past

Cone Health apologizes to remaining plaintiff of lawsuit that opened doors of U.S. hospitals to African-Americans

Cone Health has apologized to the last living plaintiff and others involved in a lawsuit that desegregated hospitals nationwide. The establishment of a scholarship fund came during a Sept. 15 ceremony before the start of the annual medical and dental staff meeting. 

Cone Health honored Dr. Alvin Blount. Blount was one of nine African-American physicians and dentists who, along with two patients, sued The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital and Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro. The plaintiffs, led by Dr. George Simkins Jr., wanted black medical professionals to be able to care for black patients in the facilities. In the landmark 1962 Simkins vs. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital case, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held that “separate but equal” racial segregation in publicly funded hospitals was a violation of equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, thus letting the decision stand. Hospitals across the country were soon opened to African-American doctors and their patients.

Alvin Blount and Terry Akin

Cone Health CEO Terry Akin shakes the hand of Dr. Alvin Blount

Today, Blount is the only surviving plaintiff. “It seemed to me, and to our medical and dental staff, that we needed to take an opportunity to apologize for our role in this chapter of our history and to honor these individuals for challenging us to be our best selves and for their foresight and courage in changing America,” says Cone Health CEO Terry Akin.

Cone Health is contributing $250,000 toward a scholarship honoring Blount and the other plaintiffs. The Greensboro Medical Society will use the funds to award scholarships to students pursuing careers in health care.

“This was a pivotal event in the annals of health care,” says Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff President James Wyatt, MD. “Even though Dr. Blount will tell you he did this for his patients—and it was, partly—this helped lead to the legitimization of the black physician in this community and throughout the country.”

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