Isabella Garnett Community

Physician House Advising Faculty

Dr. Sarah Messmer

Dr. Mahesh Patel

Isabella Garnett, MD (1872-1948)

On August 22, 1872, Isabella Garnett was born into the earliest African-American family to arrive in the Evanston, Illinois area.Her parents were founders of the first black Baptist church organized in Evanston. After taking business courses at a Minneapolis college, Garnett returned to the Chicago area and matriculated at the Nurse Training School of Provident Hospital, the country’s first black-owned hospital. She worked as a school nurse for two years before enrolling in a premedical program at Harvey Medical College. Garnett then enrolled at Chicago’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (known today as UIC’s Medical college) and obtained her medical degree in 1901. The courageous Garnett was one of the earliest African American women physicians in Illinois. Garnett practiced privately until 1914, when she and her husband opened the Evanston Sanitarium on the upper floors of their home.


1914: Founded the Evanston Sanitarium, the first African American medical center north of the Chicago Loop

1939: Became superintendent of the Community Hospital of Evanston, formerly the Butler Memorial Hospital

1948: In the year of her passing, a day of honor was dedicated to Dr. Garnett as part of the National Negro Health Week. The US Public Health Service instituted this week in 1915, in response to data from Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute The creation of National Negro Health Week resulted in the formation of the National Negro Health Movement, which formed to improve the status of Black Americans’ health year-round

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