Orlando’s first Black physician helped pioneer area’s first hospital

Dr. J.B. Callahan instrumental in creating Orlando General Hospital

Dr. J.B. Callahan came to Central Florida in the early 1900s and became Orlando's first Black doctor, according to the Orange County Regional History Center. (Orange County Regional History Center)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Dr. J.B. Callahan was the first Black physician to open a private medical practice in Orlando.

Not only that, but he also helped fund one of the city’s largest, most modern medical facilities to this date: Orlando General Hospital.

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Callahan relocated to Orlando in 1908 after earning his medical degree in North Carolina, according to Orange County historians.

He started his first medical practice, located on the corner of Parramore Avenue and Church Street, at the age of 25.

According to Orlando Health, Orlando General Hospital was founded in 1918 on the heels of World War I, in the midst of the Spanish Flu epidemic that raged across the world.

The need for another medical facility to treat the sick in our area was at a great demand after the closing of St. Luke’s Hospital in 1916.

Callahan organized a committee comprised of members of the Black community to raise money for the new hospital, which would include a ward for Black residents, according to Orange County Regional History Center.

After the hospital opened, Callahan was the first Black physician to perform surgery there. He continued to practiced medicine in Parramore until his death in 1947.

To honor the achievements of Callahan, the City of Orlando dedicated the Callahan Neighborhood and Community Center in his honor.

The spot, which was formerly Orlando’s first school for African Americans, Callahan Elementary/Jones High, was renovated in his honor in 1987.

Today, it holds a variety of programs for the Parramore community such as camps, activities and programs.

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