William Edward Allen, Jr.
William Edward Allen, Jr. was born August 14, 1903, in Pensacola, Florida, just eight years after the x-ray was discovered. As a radiologist, researcher, professor, and philanthropist, Dr. Allen was a significant influence in the field of radiology during its development in the 1930s. He focused his skills on shaping radiology as a science and as a profession and on increasing access to education and scientific careers for other African Americans.
Dr. Allen attended Howard University and earned his B.S. degree in 1927 and his M.D. in 1930. By the time he completed his residency at City Hospital No. 2 in St. Louis, he had organized one of the nation's first approved training schools for African American x-ray technicians at St. Mary's Infirmary.
In 1935, one year after the American Board of Radiology examinations were established, he became the first African American certified x-ray technician. By the late 1930s Allen had established one of the first approved residencies in radiology for minorities. He also became a founding member of the National Medical Association's Commission on X-Ray and Radium.
Several months before the United States entered World War II, Allen volunteered for active military service. However, since there was no place in the segregated military for a African American radiologist, he accepted assignment as a battalion surgeon. When a military hospital staffed by African American medical officers was established at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, Allen became its chief of x-ray service, training medical officers. He also established the first and only African American Women's Army Corps School for x-ray technologists. In 1945 he was elected to fellowship in the American College of Radiology.
After the war, Dr. Allen returned to Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis and established yet another school for x-ray technologists, which eventually gained international recognition. In 1949 the National Medical Association (NMA) radiology section was born, and Allen served as its first chairman.
Dr. Allen's career followed the emerging fields of radiology and radiation oncology with his later research focused on nuclear medicine and radiation therapy in prostate tumors and cervical cancer.
Dr. Allen taught for many years at St. Louis University Medical School and gained the rank of emeritus professor at the Washington University School of Medicine. He has developed scholarships for students from Haiti, Nigeria, Liberia, and South Africa to study radiology.
The American College of Radiology presented Dr. Allen with a gold medal in 1974. He has received the highest awards available from institutions such as Homer G. Phillips Hospital, Howard University, the St. Louis Chapter of the NAACP, the American Cancer Society, and the National Medical Association.