Delmar Medical Society?

A quick question, as I am hoping someone might have some answers.

Does anyone know about the Delmar Medical Society of the Eastern Shore?

Recently I was re-reading a past newspaper article in the Daily Times of Salisbury about the late Dr. E. A. Purnell of Salisbury.  I had met him only twice, and the image of that brilliant shock of white hair has never left my memory. I had met him first at his doctor office on West Main Street and later at a family reunion where he held court — with that brilliant white hair.

In the Brice Stump article, Dr. Purnell stated, “I was a member of the all-black Delmar Medical Society. It was comprised of black doctors from Cape Charles to Dover.” At the time of the article, there were only two surviving members; he had recalled there used to be 25 members.

Dr. Purnell opened his office on West Main Street in 1944. He had received his medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Tennessee with additional medical courses from Howard University, Harvard University, and the Universite D’Sorbonne in Paris. Stump wrote, “A Salisbury native, Purnell had the distinction of being one of three black doctors who practiced in Salisbury in ‘the early years,’ a time when a black physician on the Eastern Shore was almost heard of.” The two other doctors of that time were Drs. Brown and Sembly.

So if anyone should know anything more about this Delmar Medical Society, I would appreciate hearing from you.

— Linda Duyer

P.S.  A few fun facts courtesy

Before 1865, medial schools were closed to African Americans in the south and to a lesser degree in the north. “Because of the color line in medicine, the first few Negro physicians received their medical degrees abroad. A few older medical schools in the east admitted some Negroes; namely, Harvard, Yale, and Pennsylvania. In the Midwest, Indiana, Northwestern, and Michigan accepted some Negro medical students.” The first African American to graduate from a northern medical school was David J. Peck in 1847 from Rush Medical School in Chicago.

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895), the first African American woman to earn a doctor of science degree was born in Delaware although she was raised by an aunt in Pennsylvania.   You can view an interesting documentary about her on YouTube at       






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