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Martin Luther King Jr. birthday observance to focus on Black American health

1/9/2014, 12:15 p.m.
Dr. Louis W. Sullivan

Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Louis W. Sullivan will speak on the state of Black American health at an event honoring the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Wednesday, Jan. 22. He will address Tuskegee University at 11 a.m. CST in the University Chapel for the institution’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Observance. Sullivan is also the founding dean and former president of Morehouse College’s School of Medicine in Atlanta.

Currently, Sullivan is chairman of the board of the National Health Museum in Atlanta, whose goal is to improve the health of Americans by enhancing health literacy and advancing healthy behaviors. He also is chairman of the Sullivan Alliance to Transform America’s Health Professions, based in Washington, D.C. He served as chair of the President’s Commission on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from 2002-2009 and was co-chair of the President’s Commission on HIV and AIDS from 2001-2006.

With the exception of his tenure as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 1989 to 1993, Sullivan was president of Morehouse School of Medicine for more than two decades. He became the founding dean and director of the Morehouse College Medical Education Program in 1975. The program became the Morehouse School of Medicine in 1978, admitting its first 24 students to a two-year program in the basic medical sciences. It was fully accredited as a four-year medical school in April 1985 and awarded its first 16 medical degrees in May of that year. Its graduates include U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. Sullivan is also the founding president of the Association of Minority Health Professions Schools.

Sullivan left Morehouse in 1989 to accept the appointment by President George H.W. Bush to serve as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. In this Cabinet position, Sullivan managed the federal agency responsible for the major health, welfare, food and drug safety, medical research and income security programs serving the American people.

His efforts to improve the health and health behavior of Americans included leading the effort to increase the National Institutes of Health’s budget from $8 billion in 1989 to $13.1 billion in 1993 and the inauguration of a $100 million male minority health and injury prevention initiative. In January 1993, he returned to Morehouse School of Medicine and resumed the office of president. On July 1, 2002, he retired and was appointed president emeritus.  

A native of Atlanta, Sullivan graduated magna cum laude from Morehouse College in 1954 and earned his medical degree, cum laude, from Boston University School of Medicine in 1958. His postgraduate training included an internship and residency in internal medicine at New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center (1958-1960), a clinical fellowship in pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital (1960-1961) and a research fellowship in hematology at Harvard Medical School’s Thorndike Memorial Laboratory at Boston City Hospital (1961-1963).

He is certified in internal medicine and hematology, holds a mastership from the American College of Physicians and is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha academic honor societies. Sullivan currently serves on the corporate boards of the following companies: Henry Schein, United Therapeutics, Emergent BioSolutions and BioSante Pharmaceuticals.