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Dr. J. Robert Gladden forged a great path for other Black orthopedic surgeons after becoming the first board-certified African-American surgeon on Jan. 22, 1949.

Gladden was born Oct. 29, 1911 in Charlotte, N.C. He first entered college at Long Island University, and earned a medical degree from Meharry Medical College. Studying his field at Howard University, he became the first orthopedic resident at the institution.

The American Board of Orthopeadic Surgery certified Gladden in 1949, and in 1951, he became the first African-American to be elected a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Adding to these achievements, Dr. Gladden was the first non-white physician to perform surgery in King George’s Hospital in Bermuda.

Gladden worked most of his life as the chief of orthopedic surgery at Howard University, and was an influential figure in his field by way of lectures and journal entries. In 1982, Dr Claudia L. Thomas became the first African-American to be certified as an orthopedic surgeon. Gladden remained at the Howard post until 1964. He passed in 1969 at the age of 58.

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