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Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 1 year ago

Sarasota Memorial paid tribute to its first black doctor

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The late Dr. John Chenault was remembered for his groundbreaking service to the community on Aug. 15 at Sarasota Memorial Hospital's clinic in Newtown.
by: Shane Donglasan Community Reporter

On Aug. 15, Sarasota Memorial Hospital unveiled a tribute to Dr. John Chenault, the first African-American physician allowed to practice at the hospital. SMH held a dedication ceremony at its internal medicine clinic in Newtown where a portrait of Chenault was presented. The portrait by Ringling College of Art and Design student Yekaterina “Katy” Kaydash will hang across the street from where Chenault’s office was located.

The late Dr. John Chenault, the first African-American physician allowed to practice at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, was honored with a portrait by Ringling student Yekaterina “Katy” Kaydash. Courtesy photo.

“His commitment to working with the underserved, vulnerable populations and bridging the disparities gap is one that we aspire to instill in our physician learners,” said Wilhelmine Wiese-Rometsch, program director of the FSU Internal Medicine Residency Program at SMH.

Chenault began practicing at SMH as an orthopedic surgeon in 1960 and was also the first doctor to establish a private practice in Newtown. Chenault moved to Sarasota in 1957 with his wife, Dorothy. Already an accomplished physician, he served as director of the Tuskegee Institute’s Orthopedic Surgery and Polio Center, an administrator at Florida A&M University Hospital and a member of an American Red Cross advisory board.

He died in 1965.

Newtown native Walter Gilbert, who was a former patient of Chenault’s, said his arrival to Sarasota meant a lot to the black community.

It was during a time when black residents had to travel to Tampa or St. Petersburg because many doctors in Sarasota during the 1960s refused to see black patients.

The dedication ceremony was the result of Gilbert’s efforts to remember Chenault’s memory.

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