Group Health Cooperative hires its first African American physician in March 1969.

  • By HistoryLink Staff
  • Posted 8/14/2005
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7424
In March 1969, Group Health Cooperative hires its first African American physician, Dr. James Garrison.

Garrison was an obstetrician with the U.S. Army at Fort Riley, Kansas, and responded to a Group Health employment ad. The chief of the medical staff, Dr. Arthur Schultz, called him on the telephone and told him, "You seem well qualified." Garrison responded, "I'd better tell you something. I'm black." To this Schultz responded, "I don't care if you're purple as long as you can do the job" (Crowley, 129).

Dr. Garrison was flown to Seattle and interviewed by his future colleagues at a dinner at the Swedish Club. One of the questions he was asked was what he would do in this hypothetical situation. A patient calls Group Health in the middle of the night to report that she has gone into labor. He is dispatched to the home, only to be refused admittance because he is black. Dr. Garrison responded: "I'd call another doctor and go back to bed."

This satisfied the interview committee. Dr. Garrison was hired. Within the next 20 years he rose to become chief of obstetrics and chief of staff of the Central Region, serving greater Seattle.


Sources: Walt Crowley, To Serve the Greatest Number: A History of Group Health Cooperative of Seattle (Seattle: GHC/University of Washington Press, 1995), 128-129.

Related Topics:   Black Americans | Group Health | Health

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