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Mon, 01.22.1866

Kansas City Medical Pioneer, Dr. Thomas Unthank

Dr. Thomas Unthank

*The birth of Thomas C. Unthank in 1866 is celebrated on this date. He was a Black Physician.

From Greensboro, North Carolina, he enrolled at Howard University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. in 1894. He graduated in 1898, moved to Kansas City, Missouri and opened Lange Hospital.  In 1903 a devastating flood hit Kansas City. Hundreds of people were injured or sick, and all hospitals were overcrowded with the wounded. Convention Hall, in downtown Kansas City, became a makeshift hospital.

The building was divided into sections, with one area exclusively for non-whites. Dr. Unthank was called upon to care for those victims.  As a result of the flood crisis, Dr. Unthank began a crusade to develop a municipal hospital solely to serve the non-white community. White physicians and city leaders showed little interest in his proposal. Dr. Unthank eventually overcame the indifference and prejudice shown by city officials and the white medical community.

He persuaded the city to allow the old General Hospital to become the "colored division" when white patients were moved to a new, modern facility in 1908.  He co-founded, with Dr. S.H. Thompson, Douglass Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. The building was renamed General Hospital No. 2. This was one of the first public hospitals used exclusively for non-white citizens in the United States. In 1930, a new hospital replaced the older structure. Dr. Unthank spent much of his life helping his community.

Through his efforts, a county home for elderly Black citizens was established and a park and recreational area for Black residents of Kansas City was built. Thomas C. Unthank, M.D., died on November 28, 1932, at the age of sixty-six.

The African American Atlas
Black History & Culture an Illustrated Reference
by Molefi K. Asanta and Mark T. Mattson
Macmillam USA, Simon & Schuster, New York
ISBN 0-02-864984-2

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