Family of one of Indianapolis’ first African American physicians, Dr. Harvey Middleton, to attend celebration

Eskenazi Health is honoring a prominent physician in Indianapolis history with a street recognized in his name.

Dr. Harvey Middleton, who was the first African American physician to practice medicine at a major Indianapolis hospital, will be recognized Friday, July 10, at a celebration at the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital. Eskenazi Health has named Dr. Harvey Middleton Way on its main campus in his honor. Family and friends of Dr. Middleton will be in attendance, as well as dignitaries from across Central Indiana.

"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, South Carolina, 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. 

"Dr. Harvey Middleton is an inspiration to everyone for his vision and perseverance," said Matt Gutwein, president and CEO of Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County. "It is important that we celebrate those in our history who have helped to shape our community today. We are proud to salute Dr. Middleton for his numerous and extraordinary contributions."

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, City Hospital invited Dr. Middleton to serve as a full time staff member at the 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 Indiana University 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 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 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 was a man who served as an advocate for diversity and equality," said Dr. Virginia A. Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department. "He believed in providing the highest quality health care to everyone regardless of background or wealth."

"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."

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. 

"Dr. Middleton is highly regarded as a trailblazer and an important person in the history of Eskenazi Health and the city of Indianapolis," said Gregory Porter, vice president of external affairs at Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County. "We are thrilled to be able to honor him and his extraordinary work in this special way."

CONTACT: Todd Harper
Phone: 317.630.7808
Pager: 317.310.5972  
E-mail: Todd.Harper@wishard.edu