Type to search

Meet the First Female African American Transplant Surgeon in the U.S.    

Dr. Velma Scantlebury-White with members of the medical community./Photo courtesy of the Delaware Historical Society

Retired ChristianaCare surgeon Dr. Velma Scantlebury White is the first African American woman to earn the Delaware History Makers award.

Since 2007, the Delaware Historical Society has honored prominent Delawareans who make a difference in the First State through its annual Delaware History Makers gala. This year, however, was a little different as the 2020 gala was postponed due to COVID-19 until October 7, 2021, when the organization honored Dr. Velma Scantlebury White.  

With more than 1,000 kidney transplants under her belt, Dr. Velma Scantlebury White is the nation’s first female transplant surgeon of African American descent.  

“Dr. Velma Scantlebury White is a visionary, talented and brilliant educator and surgeon who is the first person of color ever to receive this award,” says Executive Director of the Delaware Historical Society, David Young. “She was a pioneer in donor organ transplant surgery and is the first woman organ transplant surgeon in the United States.”  


Dr. Velma Scantlebury-White/Photo courtesy of the Delaware Historical Society

Dr. Scantlebury White earned her medical degree from Columbia University and completed her residency at Harlem Hospital Center in New York before coming to Delaware. She recently retired from ChristianaCare’s Kidney Transplant program but is still a medical advisor for several organizations and healthcare professionals, including the Lieutenant Governor Dr. Bethany Hall-Long, who was a student of hers and who attended the event in her honor.

Dr. Scantlebury White also wrote a book, called Beyond Every Wall, in which she details the challenges she faced growing up in Barbados, becoming a transplant doctor and living in Brooklyn.

Her Caribbean-American heritage was celebrated at length during the Delaware History Makers event through a Caribbean-themed party with food and music that led to guests dancing in the streets. The event was streamed across the world so that Dr. Scantlebury White’s family could celebrate this amazing achievement with her from Barbados. There were also numerous networks and communities across Delaware that came out to support her, including civic leaders, healthcare leaders, African American sororities and public officials.  


Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long and Dr. Velma Scantlebury-White/Photo courtesy of the Delaware Historical Society

Since 1864, the Delaware Historical Society has collected, preserved and educated people about the First State’s history, including those that are currently making it. It has two campuses, one in Old New Castle and one in Wilmington. The Wilmington location includes the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage that houses historic documents relating to slavery.  


Dr. Leland Ware, Dr. Melva Ware, Dr. Velma Scantlebury-White, Dr. Cydney Teal/Photo courtesy of the Delaware Historical Society

“We have research libraries dating back to 1929, with three million artifacts, books, photographs, historic documents, papers of numerous famous Delawareans, six mayors of Wilmington, multiple documents related to enslavement, plantation slavery, the struggle for freedom and abolition records as well as legislator documents,” says Young.   

Visit the Delaware Historical Society’s website for more information on the honoree, other events and more.  

Related: This Scholarship Program Helps Delaware Golf Caddies