Morehouse School of Medicine to Launch Health Equity Institute

The historically Black medical school's new David Satcher Global Health Equity Institute aims to address health disparities in lower-resourced communities.
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Published on January 17, 2024
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  • The David Satcher Global Health Equity Institute will aim to improve healthcare in lower-resourced environments.
  • Historically Black medical schools enroll 15% of all Black male medical students. More than 60% of all U.S. physicians are white.
  • Inaugural Institute Director Barney Graham said diversity in medical schools is at risk.

Atlanta's Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), a historically Black medical school (HBMS), is addressing health inequity through the newly established David Satcher Global Health Equity Institute.

The institute aims to address health equity worldwide, diversify the scientific and public health workforce, and address health disparities often found in the Black population. MSM started at Morehouse College, one of the nation's historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), but became a separate institution in 1981.

"As a medical school, our first priority is to train physicians, researchers, and other healthcare professionals. However, as an historically Black medical school, we have a larger mission," said MSM President and CEO Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, in a statement announcing the institute. "African Americans and people of color continue to face challenging health disparities when compared to whites. For example, Blacks suffer higher incidences of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers."

MSM received $2 million from the philanthropic Croel Family Foundation to develop the David Satcher Global Health Equity Institute (DSGHEI), named after the former MSM president who served as U.S. surgeon general under former President Bill Clinton.

According to school officials, the institute will advance science in low-resource settings and foster solutions for regional issues before they expand further.

The institute seeks to diversify the medical space: 63.9% of all U.S. physicians are white, according to MSM, citing a 2022 Association of American Medical Colleges study.

According to a report published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, historically Black medical schools are essential to the Black male medical student population, collectively enrolling 15% of all Black male medical students nationwide.

"We believe in the mission of the Satcher Global Health Equity Institute and their role in the creation and advancement of health equity to achieve health justice," Jon Croel, president of the Croel Family Foundation and a Morehouse College alum, said in a statement. "If we broaden diversity in the healthcare, scientific, and public health workforces and provide access to health solutions for under-resourced global populations, we can drastically improve quality of life and access to research, wellness, and scientific capital."

According to MSM, HBMS class and program sizes have grown since the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the diversity in medical schools is at risk since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions, said inaugural DSGHEI Director Barney Graham, MD, Ph.D.

Graham joined MSM in May 2022 after two decades with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases researching vaccines for COVID-19, RSV, HIV, and other viruses.

Graham said in the statement that achieving medical equity worldwide and nationwide requires more diverse perspectives and experiences by physicians, public health officials, and people who make decisions about biomedical intervention research and investment.

"We have so many problems to solve in primary health care, pandemic preparedness, maternal health, mental health, application of new technologies, and a myriad of other areas to which MSM can uniquely contribute," Graham said. "Our students are our greatest asset and most of the investment will be in them. That part will start immediately."

MSM is one of four historically Black medical schools alongside:

  • Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
  • Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Charles Drew Medical School in Los Angeles

Last year, HBCU Morgan State University in Maryland announced the Maryland College of Osteopathic Medicine. Set to open in 2025, it's the first HBMS to open in 50 years and will be the first osteopathic institution at a historically Black college.