Eskenazi Health Honors Legacy of Distinguished Physician
A prominent physician in Indianapolis history is being honored for his contributions to medicine and the Indianapolis community.
Dr. Harvey Middleton (1895-1978), who was the first African American physician to practice medicine at a major Indianapolis hospital, will be honored Friday, July 10, at the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital. Eskenazi Health named Dr. Harvey Middleton Way, a street on its main campus in his honor.
“As a true pioneer, Dr. Harvey Middleton helped pave the way for future physicians in every field of medicine throughout Central Indiana and across the country,” said Dr. Lisa Harris, CEO of Eskenazi Health. “It is particularly fitting that a street running through the heart of our new campus bears his name.”
Born in Denmark, S.C., Dr. Middleton witnessed inferior medical treatment being provided to African Americans. This inspired him to become a doctor. He attended medical school at Boston University and received his medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.
After moving to Indiana in the late 1920s, Dr. Middleton came to Indianapolis seeking a position at City Hospital (now known as Eskenazi Health). At first, allowed only to serve as a volunteer in the outpatient clinic, he set up his own practice as a cardiologist, with a specialty in electrocardiograms and heart irregularities. Available records show that in 1942, Dr. Middleton was admitted to practice as the first African American staff member at City Hospital.
“Dr. Harvey Middleton was a trailblazer for future African American physicians. He opened doors that previously had been closed and had a strong passion and commitment for medicine and innovation,” said Dr. George H. Rawls, clinical professor emeritus of surgery at the IU School of Medicine and author of “The History of Black Physicians in Indianapolis 1870 to 1980.”
Dr. Middleton was also an assistant professor at Indiana University School of Medicine and completed postgraduate courses at Harvard University, University of Michigan, Indiana University and the University of London. He was one of the first physicians in Indiana to use EKG technology to detect heart problems. He published a number of articles in the field of cardiology and continued his practice until his death in 1978.
“It’s through the work of Dr. Middleton, and his colleagues, that African Americans and other minorities have the opportunities we have today, said Dr. Millicent Moye, a family medicine physician and the first woman president of the Aesculapian Medical Society. “We are grateful for their hard work.”
Dr. Middleton was also very active in the community. He was elected to the board of the Metropolitan YMCA in 1952 and served on various committees, including president of the Senate Avenue YMCA. He took a leading role in raising funds for the Fall Creek Parkway YMCA, which opened in 1959. Dr. Middleton has been the subject of an Across Indiana documentary on WFYI, a special on historic Indiana African Americans that aired on WTHR-13 last year and a recent exhibit at the Indiana Historical Society.
“The family is so glad that our father is being remembered. He did so much for all the African American community and for all people,” said Zenobia Middleton Skinner, daughter of Dr. Middleton. “His tenacity allowed for change and we hope that when people look at the sign, they will remember the good that this man performed and be inspired to perform good works, also.”