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Clarence Sumner Janifer Sr., M.D. 1915 (1886 –1950)

Clarence Sumner Janifer Sr., M.D. ’1915

First African American member of the Medical Society of New Jersey, and distinguished physician and public health advocate for the underprivileged African American community of the City of Newark.

Class of 1915, School of Medicine

Hometown: Newark, New Jersey
Born: March 13, 1886
Died: November 14, 1950

Clarence Sumner Janifer Sr., M.D. 1915, was a groundbreaking African American physician who was the first African American member of the Medical Society of New Jersey in 1916.  Graduating from the New York Homeopathic Medical College and Flower Hospital (the College’s name at the time) in 1915 amidst the backdrop of World War I, he volunteered for service in the Medical Reserve Corps in 1917.

As one of the first troops to arrive in France following the declaration of war, Dr. Janifer became an expert in amputations, and in December 1918, received the Croix de Guerre for providing first-hand relief to the wounded.

Upon returning from the war, he worked for the Newark Health Department, serving in  extremely economically disadvantaged, segregated neighborhood s where he was charged with running a Well Baby Clinic for African Americans.

Driven by his dream to combat the high mortality rate of African American children, Dr. Janifer (who went on to earn two masters degrees in public health), was frequently published in the the Journal of the National Medical Association on topics corresponding to his experiences in the Well Baby Clinic. His intent was to educate African American mothers and caregivers on the importance of child hygiene and nutrition.

In 1946, he became the second African American physician invited to join the Newark City Hospital as a member of the pediatrics department. In 1948, Dr. Janifer was one of the 42 distinguished citizens honored in the Hall of Fame of the New Jersey Herald Times.