African-American doctors mark century of progress

Black doctors formed the Medical Society after they were refused admission to the Marion County Medical Society.
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The last century has brought massive changes to the United States, impacting men and women of all ages and races. During Black History Month, we see how change in Indianapolis, transformed the lives and careers of African-American doctors.  

Eyewitness News spoke with two physicians from two generations who are members of a historic Indianapolis organization - the Aesculapian Medical Society for African-American doctors.

The group was led by Dr. Edwin Moten in the early 1900s. Black doctors formed the Medical Society after they were refused admission to the Marion County Medical Society.
"In that time period in Indianapolis history, the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan was very influential," said Dr. Millicent Moye, a family physician and the first woman President of the Aesculapian Medical Society.
"We know where we've been and we don't want anyone to repeat that," she said.
At age 85, Dr. George Rawls lived history and recorded it. This retired surgeon and author wrote a book about black doctors and black patients in Indianapolis, starting in 1870.
"We had, in many areas, unequal opportunities, unequal procedures done on you, unequal treatment," said Dr. Rawls.

The Indiana History Center is bringing some of Indiana's Black Medical History to life. It's recreating this scene from a historic photograph - the Indianapolis office of Dr. Harvey Middleton - in the year 1939.  He was the first Indiana doctor to use the EKG to detect heart problems.
Dr. Moye walked into that historic scene at the Indiana History Center. Dr. Middleton's office is recreated in an exhibit called "You are There." 
"They told me they didn't want me because I was colored," said the actor playing Dr. Middleton.

The actor who plays the role of Dr. Harvey Middleton uses the language once used to describe African-Americans in that day - and he recounts true history.
"Right now, in 1939, there is not a hospital in the city of Indianapolis that has a colored doctor on staff," said the actor.

In the early 1900s, he tells Dr. Moye, black doctors were not permitted to work in Indianapolis hospitals and black patients, could only get treatment, usually by  medical students, at one hospital.  It was called City Hospital then. It's Eskenazi, today .  
"You had Methodist, St. Vincent's at that time and you could not go there.  Someone who was prominent, if they had an emergency, they may let them go to the basement," said Dr. Rawls.

Some white health professionals supported Dr. Middleton's efforts.  He was a pioneer, introducing new technology, with the EKG and volunteering at City Hospital to nudge open the door to new opportunities.
"Not that he didn't have fear, but he didn't let that stop him!" said Dr. Moye.

His persistence changed history.

"1942, Dr. Middleton was permitted to take care of his patients at City Hospital," said Dr. Rawls.

Within 11 years, Dr. Middleton was allowed to work in all Indianapolis hospitals, opening the doors for all black doctors, including Dr. Rawls.  He came to Indianapolis in the late 1950s.

"I wanted to be treated like everyone else, evaluated like everyone else, and that's the way it was," Dr. Rawls.

"It's through the work of Dr. Middleton, and his colleagues, that we're here, that I'm here, that my colleagues are here today," said Dr. Moye.