Black History Month Day 7: The HBCU Medical Schools
Although Howard University College of Medicine and Meharry Medical College are the most well known HBCUs training physicians, there have actually been 15 different medical schools for African Americans, founded between 1868 and 1975.
- Howard University Medical Department, Washington, DC , 1868 –
- Lincoln University medical Department, Oxford, PA, 1870 – 1876
- Straight University Medical Department, New Orleans, LA 1873-1874
- Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN, 1876-
- Leonard Medical School at Shaw University, Raleigh, NC, 1882-1918
- Flint Medical College of New Orleans University (now Dillard), 1889-1911
- Louisville National medical College, Louisville, KY, 1888-1910
- Hannibal Medical College, Memphis, TN, 1889-1893
- Knoxville College Medical Department, Knoxville, TN ,1895-1910
- State University medical Department, Louisville, KY, 1899-1903,
- Chattanooga National Medical College, Chattanooga, TN, 1899-1904
- University of West Tennessee College of Physician and Surgeons, Jackson, TN, 1900-1923
- Medico-Chirurgical and Theological College of Christ’s Institution, Baltimore, MD, 1900-1908
- Charles R. Drew Medical School, Los Angeles, CA, 1966-
- Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, 1975-
Howard University created the first school. The second was a medical department started at Lincoln University in PA in 1870. Unfortunately it only lasted for 4 years before succumbing to lack of funding. The third was the medical department at Straight University in New Orleans, formed in 1873, which later merged into Dillard University. This school only lasted 1 year. Next was Meharry Medical College. Meharry was a department in the now defunct Central Tennessee College. It was started with a $15,000 endowment from Samuel Meharry in 1876. The school expanded and developed a dental branch, a pharmacy extension and later an allied health department. The Leonard Medical School at Shaw University started in 1882 was a relatively successful school, graduating nearly 400 doctors until its closing in 1918. Flint Medical College graduated over 100 doctors between 1889 and 1911. Louisville National Medical College also graduated over 100 doctors. In comparison, the Hannibal Medical College, only graduated 5 students before it was closed 4 years after it opened. The school at the University of West Tennessee was extremely poorly regarded. Although it granted 150 medical diplomas, 46 states, including Tennessee, refused to recognize its graduates. It closed in 1923. Little is known about Medico-Chirurgical and Theological College of Christ’s Institution, other than its existence in Baltimore, MD between 1900 and 1908.
In 1904 the American Medical Association created the Council on Medical Education (CME) whose objective was to restructure American medical education. At its first annual meeting, the CME adopted two standards: one laid down the minimum prior education required for admission to a medical school, the other defined a medical education as consisting of two years training in human anatomy and physiology by two years of clinical work in a teaching hospital. In 1908, the CME asked the Carnegie Foundation to survey American medical education, so as to promote the CME’s reformist agenda and hasten the elimination of medical schools that failed to meet the CME’s standards. In 1910, The Carnegie Foundation commissioned Abraham Flexner to study medical institutions in the US and Canada. The Flexner Report examined schools in terms of entrance requirements, teaching staff, financial background and learning and medical facilities. And most African-American medical schools were found lacking. In his report he stated: “Of the seven medical schools for negroes in the United States, five are at this moment in no position to make any contribution of value.” From that moment on, the Flint, Leonard, Knoxville, Memphis and Louisville Schools were condemned to a quick death. In contrast, Howard and Meharry were able to secure the necessary funding to bring their schools into compliance with the new standards.
As medical schools have integrated and African-American medical students have more choices, Howard and Meharry have narrowed their focus toward students who are interested in community service and practicing in underserved communities, particularly as primary care physicians. For example, a 2010 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine noted that Meharry is the fourth largest producer of primary care physicians in the nation.
Two new medical schools have come into being in the 20th century: The Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles (Watts), CA, founded in 1966 and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA, founded in 1975. These schools, like Howard and Meharry are focused on developing physicians who are interested in practicing in underserved communities.