Solomon Carter Fuller
First Black Psychiatrist in U.S.
Solomon Carter Fuller, born in 1872 in Monrovia, Liberia, was the nation's first African American psychiatrist and a neurologist. He played a key role in the development of psychiatry in the 1900s and is well known for his research on dementia.
Dr. Fuller is credited with helping make the United States the leader in psychiatry that it is today. In addition, as a professor at Boston University School of Medicine for more than 30 years, he helped train the next generation of psychiatrists.
Dr. Fuller's grandfather had been a slave in Virginia who purchased his freedom and moved his family to Liberia. At the age of 17, Dr. Fuller left Liberia to attend Livingstone College in North Carolina where he graduated in 1893. He then studied medicine at Long Island College Hospital, and later transferred to Boston University School of Medicine where he received his M.D. in 1897.
Upon graduation, Fuller accepted a position as intern and official helper in the pathology lab at Westborough State Hospital in Massachusetts where he worked as pathologist for 22 years. At the same time that he was beginning his career in medicine, Dr. Fuller also became a member of the medical faculty at Boston University School of Medicine and taught for 34 years eventually becoming emeritus professor of neurology.
Dr. Fuller took an interest in mental health and took advanced courses at the Carnegie Laboratory in New York. He then went to Europe in 1904, studying under Emil Kraepelin and Alois Alzheimer, professors at the University of Munich's psychiatric clinic.
Once back in the United States, Fuller continued his work at Westborough and BUSM. Fuller became known for his work on Alzheimer's disease and on the organic causes of disorders such as schizophrenia and manic-depressive psychosis.
Fuller helped develop the neuropsychiatric unit at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama, personally training the doctors who went on to head the department. Fuller's knowledge of the venereal disease, syphilis later helped these doctors diagnose syphilis in Black World War II veterans who had been misdiagnosed with behavioral disorders.
Today, in recognition of Dr. Fuller's achievements, the mental health facility at Boston University is now officially known as the Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center. And in 1972, the American Psychiatric Association and the Black Psychiatrists of America established the Solomon Carter Fuller Institute.