One of the most famous Italians in the USA of the last century, Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro

Vincenzo Sellaro, founder of the Order Sons of Italy in America , was born April 24, 1868, in Polizzi Generosa in the province of Palermo...


Vincenzo Sellaro, founder of the Order Sons of Italy in America, was born April 24, 1868, in Polizzi Generosa in the province of Palermo, Sicily. His parents were Giuseppe Sellaro, a shoemaker, and Serafino Polizzotto. As is customary for the first boy in many southern Italian families, he was named after his paternal grandfather.

He received his medical degree in 1895 from the University of Naples and immigrated to the United States in 1897 where he settled in New York City. The following year, he completed post-graduate courses at the Cornell Medical School and obtained a license to practice medicine in New York State.

Vincenzo Sellaro established himself in private practice at 203 Grand Street in the “Little Italy” neighborhood of Manhattan. There he saw many Italian immigrants often placed in life threatening situations in hospitals because of the language barrier between them and their doctors and nurses.
For this reason, he headed an ad hoc committee of physicians who were bilingual in Italian and English to attack the problem. One solution was to create a hospital where Italian was spoken.
With financing raised privately from mutual aid societies in New York City’s large Italian American community, Dr. Sellaro founded the Columbus Italian Hospital. By 1902 the building was complete and he became its chief gynecologist.

He later joined the American Medical Association and conducted research on diabetes and cancer. He also organized a school for midwives under the auspices of the New York City Health Board. This school eventually was merged with others into the famous School at Bellevue.

In September 1903, he married Maria Lignante, from Naples, in a Roman Catholic ceremony. They had three children. Their only son would later describe Dr. Sellaro as a loving father who provided a warm family life. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1904 and sent one-way steamship tickets to his two brothers and two sisters in Italy. His widowed father also came to New York City, but soon returned to Italy.

In 1904, Sellaro conceived the idea of bringing all Italian Americans together in a single brotherhood organization. His project took shape on 7th June 1905 during a meeting held in his own home, attended by the lawyer Antonio Marzullo, the pharmacist Ludovico Ferrari, the sculptor Giuseppe Carlino and the two barbers Pietro Viscardi and Roberto Merlo. Other meetings followed until the Order of Sons of Italy in America (OSIA, today OSDIA) was established and Dr. Sellaro became its National President.

The Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America is today, among the various Italian-American organizations, the one that most represents the more than twenty-six million Italian-American citizens.

The OSDIA has its registered office in Washington DC and has over six hundred thousand members. Since 2019, it has also been present in Italy, where the establishment of the 'Capitolo di Roma', the first territorial unit outside North American territory in one hundred and fifteen years of the history of this organization, was founded.
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Italy USA Magazine: One of the most famous Italians in the USA of the last century, Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro
One of the most famous Italians in the USA of the last century, Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro
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