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Honoring Louisiana's First Black Female Physician

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Dr. Emma Wakefield Paillet painting by Dennis Paul Williams

State Historic Marker Commemoration of Emma Wakefield-Paillet, M.D.

Celebrating Over 120 years Of Black Women Practicing Medicine in Louisiana (1897-2018)

On Nov. 3, 2018, the Iberia African American Historical Society (IAAHS) located in New Iberia, La. unveiled a state historical marker commemorating the accomplishments of Emma Wakefield-Paillet, M.D., the first Black woman to earn a medical degree in Louisiana and to practice medicine in the state.

Dr. Wakefield-Paillet graduated with honors from the Medical Department of New Orleans University in 1897 and received her Louisiana medical license on April 15, 1897. She was born in New Iberia, La., Nov. 21, 1868, to state senator Samuel Wakefield and Mrs. Amelia Valentine Wakefield, both natives of New Iberia.

By 1898 she had opened her medical practice in New Orleans, La. making her the first Black woman to practice medicine in New Orleans. Dr. Wakefield-Paillet moved to San Francisco, Ca. in 1900 where she married Joseph Oscar Paillet of Opelousas, La. The state of California granted her a license to practice medicine in 1901.

The marker in her honor was installed at Bouligny Plaza in the heart of the New Iberia National Register Historic District (128 W. Main St.).

During the unveiling ceremony, officials proclaimed Nov. 3, 2018 as Dr. Emma Wakefield-Paillet Day and Dr. Darrell Bourque (2007 Poet Laureate of Louisiana) read an original poem composed in honor of Dr. Wakefield-Paillet. St. Martinville artist, Dennis Paul Williams created a painting inspired by her legacy and Franklin native and playwright, Ed “Tiger” Verdin also wrote a full play.

The event celebrated the sesquicentennial anniversary of both Dr. Wakefield-Paillet’s birth and the founding of Iberia Parish.

More Information:

For more information, contact Phebe Hayes, Ph.D., Founder & President, Iberia African American Historical Society at (337) 519-3957,, or visit the Iberia African American Historical Society's website and follow them on Facebook

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