A signature event recognizing the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University’s first black students and a keynote address from a former U.S. surgeon general will commence a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of the state’s public medical school.
Dr. David Satcher, who served as the 16th U.S. Surgeon General from 1998-2002 and is founding director and senior adviser at the Morehouse School of Medicine’s Satcher Health Leadership Institute, will speak about The Journey to Health Equity: The Role of Ethnic Diversity at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, in Room GB 1110 of the J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Education Commons. During Satcher’s tenure as surgeon general, he led efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health care.
The program, Commemorating the Past and Envisioning the Future, will also include recognition of Dr. Frank Rumph and the late Dr. John T. Harper Sr., who both graduated in 1971.
Rumph and Harper, both from rural Georgia, were the first black students to enter MCG after it desegregated in 1967, under the leadership of Dean Walter Rice. Both faced subtle and sometimes blatant racism but, with the support of Rice and many faculty and classmates, persevered and succeeded in medical school and their careers. Rumph agreed to be part of the medical school’s recruitment committee to ensure the ground he and Harper broke remained open. Harper also served on the admissions committee as a student.
“We celebrate the courage and trailblazing spirit of Drs. Rumph and Harper and the commitment of Dean Rice in enabling MCG to take this important step,” said Dr. David C. Hess, interim dean of MCG and chairman of the Department of Neurology. “Many individuals today continue to honor those early days and leaders with a focus on ensuring that future physicians reflect the diverse population they will serve.”
“We want to recognize where we have been as we continue to move forward with a focus on ever-increasing the diversity of our medical school,” added Dr. Joseph Hobbs, chairman and Georgia Academy for Family Physicians Tollison Distinguished University Chair of Family Medicine, who graduated from MCG in 1974 and has chaired the event’s organizing committee.
“We celebrate these pioneers of medicine for their passion and courage,” said Dr. Brooks A. Keel, Augusta University president. “We thank them for their important contribution to our history, and to our future as we continue to champion expanded access to medical education.”
After completing a residency in anatomical and clinical pathology, Rumph went on to serve as director of state public health laboratories, then as first director of the state’s HIV/AIDS program and eventually as the first black director of the East Central Health District, which includes Augusta. Harper, who died last year, was a board certified orthopaedic surgeon and practiced for many years in the Atlanta area before retiring in 2008.