Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice Becomes Nation’s First Black Woman To Head A Free-Standing Medical School

July 26, 2013  |  

Medical schools in this country are for the most part run by men. That has changed with the appointment of Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice as the new president of Morehouse School of Medicine. Not only is she the first woman president in the school’s 38-year history, but she is also the first African-American woman to lead a free-standing medical school, reports The Grio.

Rice was previously dean and executive vice president of the Morehouse School House of Medicine (MSM), a role she has held since 2011.  On July 1, 2014 she will be inaugurated as the medical school’s sixth president. She will also keep her duties as dean alongside her new role.

Rice is a Harvard-educated obstetrician and gynecologist who was born in Macon, Georgia. A specialist in infertility and reproductive endocrinologist, her work in women’s health and research has gained her international recognition. One of Rice’s career goals has been to eliminate disparities in women’s health.

“It is critical for women to be healthy because they play a very pivotal role in determining the health and welfare of their family,” Rice told The Grio.

Among her accomplishments is the founding of Meharry’s Center for Women’s Health Research in Nashville, one of the nation’s first research facilities devoted exclusively to studying diseases that disproportionately impact women of color.

According to Rice, she is ready to take MSM to the next level, especially in its main areas of research such as neuroscience, HIV intervention, cardiovascular diseases and cancer prevention. “We focus our research on areas where we see disproportionate inequalities in under-served communities,” she said.

And to address the decrease in black males attending medical school, MSM plans to expand its pipeline programs to K-12 students interested in exploring STEM fields, said Rice.  And as the Affordable Care Act is expected to increase the demand for primary care physicians, Rice wants to continue to “incrementally increase the number of students each year” from an entering class of 70 to 100 by 2016.

Among her other plans for MSM is to diversify. “We’re looking at a physician assistant program as a viable career option for students” who are not interested in becoming physicians but want to be in the medical field.

Rice told The Grio her vision is to offer creative, holistic and culturally appropriate patient care by “educating and training clinicians and scientists who will lead the nation in the elimination of health disparities.”

“It’s not just about medical intervention but social intervention,” she said.

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