Great Strides: Celebrating Women in Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center

Confronting Stereotypes

May Edward Chinn, MD, (1896 – 1980), Class of 1926, was the first African-American woman to graduate from University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College. After graduation, Dr. Chinn was the first African-American woman to hold an internship at Harlem Hospital and ride with the ambulance crew on emergency calls. However, she faced much prejudice and adversity in the medical profession, since African-American physicians could not gain hospital privileges in New York during this time. Dr. Chinn opened her own family practice in Harlem, and continued her studies independently to provide the best care for her patients. It wasn’t until 1940 that Dr. Chinn was finally granted admitting privileges at Harlem Hospital.

Dr. Chinn spent much of her career at the Strang Cancer Clinic, an affiliate of Memorial Hospital and New York Infirmary, where she helped promote use of the Pap smear test for cervical cancer detection. She was a tireless advocate for access to early cancer screening in low-income communities.