New Iberia trailblazer honored as first African American woman to receive medical degree in La.

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Dr. Emma Wakefield-Paillet was the first African American woman to receive a medical degree in the state of Louisiana as well as the first to establish a medical practice. She’s also a native of New Iberia.  
    
Tomorrow, a sign will be unveiled in downtown New Iberia to honor Dr. Paillet. She graduated medical school with honors in 1879. When she first entered medical school, she was one of three women of African descent who entered medical school at New Orleans university.  
  
“She was the only female that took the medical board exam in a room of 67 other applicant and she did an outstanding job. She distinguished herself by her performance on the test,” says Phebe Hayes, the director of the Iberia African-American Historical Society. She says their goal is to educate the community about it’s African American history.  

“It doesn’t matter to us that she is of African descent, but this is a story for all of New Iberia, especially for women. It’s important to tell their story for the children and their parents. The community needs to know about the contributions that African Americans have made to the history of Iberia.” 

The event honoring Dr. Paillet will start tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Bouligny Plaza downtown New Iberia.  
 

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