Spotlighting Black Americans' medical research milestones from smallpox to COVID-19

February is Black History Month and we'll be honoring some of our nation's most important, and often forgotten about, figures in Black history.

Our first story goes back to before the United States was a country in Boston when a slave paved the way for treating deadly diseases for centuries to come.

Long before COVID-19, SARS, and the flu - there was smallpox and in the early 1700s, it was running rampant in Massachusetts.

Enter Onesimus. The African slave is responsible for helping to turn the tide on the virus.

He told the man who purchased him about a practice in Africa where infectious material from a smallpox blister was put into a healthy person through a cut.

It caused mild symptoms of the virus and helped the person build immunity.

Other countries were already using this method but it was Onesimus who introduced this early form of inoculation to the colonies. 

It took another few hundred years before the World Health Organization said the virus had been eradicated. 

Now, in 2020, an African-American scientist is at the forefront of creating the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Kizzy Corbett provided key research leading to creation of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

It was Dr. Kizzy Corbett's research that led to the discovery of a way to tackle the novel coronavirus.

At 34-years-old, she's making her mark on the world and, like Onesimus, potentially saving thousands of lives.