The doctors in his book include James McCune Smith, who graduated from the University of Glasgow School of Medicine in Scotland, becoming the first known African-American to receive a medical degree, in 1837. Ten years later, David James Peck became the first African-American known to receive a medical degree from a school in the U.S.: Rush Medical School in Chicago.
The most prominent of the group was Dr. Alexander Augusta, Slawson said.--
Born in Norfolk, Va., Augusta could not attend medical school in the U.S., so he went to Ontario, Slawson said.
"In April of 1863, he was commissioned as a major in the Union Army, becoming the first African-American to get that position," Slawson said, "and at the end of his tenure, was lieutenant colonel -- the first African-American to have that rank."
Slawson is a lecturer, author and respected docent of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, said Adele Air, the museum's education director.
His research on African-American doctors is just one of the many areas of Slawson's Civil War expertise, Air said.
Slawson graduated from the University of Iowa School of Medicine in 1962, interned in Youngstown, Ohio, and was drafted into the Army in the summer of 1963. He spent eight years on active duty in the Army, where he completed a residency in radiology at what was then Walter Reed Army Medical Center, as well as a fellowship in radiation oncology.
Slawson left the Army in 1971 and joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in radiation oncology. He retired in the summer of 1998 but stayed in Maryland and still works part time at the university.
"I have always been interested in history and the history of medicine," he said, "and when the National Museum of Civil War Medicine moved back to its present facility after the renovations, Mavis and I visited and both decided to volunteer there starting in 2001."