Thank you, Dr.
Louis Sullivan, Congresswoman Donna Christian-Christensen,
Congressman Earl Hilliard, Mayor Bernard Kincaid, officers and
members of the Minority Health Profession's Foundation and the
Association of Minority Health Professions Schools, distinguished
dais guest, and ladies and gentlemen.
Firstly, I want to thank Dr. Louis Sullivan for those warm
and overly generous words of introduction.
It is indeed a great honor to have been invited here to speak
on the occasion of this 15th annual symposium of Career
Opportunities in Biomedical Sciences and the AMHPS [Association of
Minority Health Professions Schools]
In fact, I find it both daunting and emotionally challenging
to stand on this podium and address a number of people with whom I
have shared a special and historic relationship with for more than a
quarter of a century.
It is also very special this evening to realize that
approximately 700 minority high school and college students are here
attending this Biomedical Symposium. Many of the leaders of MHPF
[Minority Health Professions Foundation] and AMHPS here tonight must
feel the same sense of pride I have this evening to see the youth of
today who are beneficiaries of our joint legislative efforts over
As I sat down a few days ago, mulling over the legislative
achievements of this organization over the past 25 years, the mass
of legislation enacted through your efforts, exceeds that of any
organization with which I worked over my entire 30-year career in
I invite you for the next few minutes to travel with me down
memory lane, as we look at twenty-five years of the most significant
health legislation affecting minorities and Historically Black
Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) ever passed by the United States
It was 1974 and I had just become the first black member of
Congress to sit on the Labor, Health, Human Services and Education
Subcommittee on Appropriations. This committee funded the National
Institutes of Health and all other federal health programs. I
remember a great lady, Dr. Geraldine Woods, who came to me and
convinced me to help her get funding for the Minority Biomedical
Research Sciences (MBRS) and the Minority Access to Research Careers
(MBRS) programs. This program that encourages talented minority
students to pursue careers in the biomedical sciences was then in
its infancy. Today, millions of dollars and thousands of students
later, it has produced minority scientists and medical personnel all
In 1978, I was asked by Parren Mitchell of Maryland, who was
then chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus to create a
brain-trust in the area of health. Over the next twenty-four years
members of AMPHS institutions helped me draft major health
It was also 1978 when Reverend Andrew Young, while in Congress,
introduced me to a young doctor named Louis Sullivan, then the
president of Morehouse School of Medicine and AMHPS. I say a young
doctor because twenty-five years ago both Lou and I had hair. Andy
Young asked me to help the medical school get funding for its first
permanent building. Working with AMPHS and Dr. Sullivan, we were
able to get $5.0 millions towards construction of that building.
This started a career with Lou Sullivan because, if you know
him, he doesn't quit. He just keeps coming. So, we worked with him
in 1984 for $5.0 million towards construction of the $6.25 million
medical education building; in 1995, $2.0 million towards
construction of a multidisciplinary research center for clinical
research; in 1998, a $5.0 million appropriation for a new $7.5
million research wing; and in the year 2000, $15 million for their
new National Center for Primary Care. Needless to say, during this
entire time, except during the period he served as Secretary of
Health, Dr. Sullivan spent more time in my office than he did at
Morehouse Medical School. We even named a desk in my office, the
One of the AMPHS achievements that I am most proud of was the
legislation establishing the Research Centers in Minority
Institutions program. The concept was presented to me by Dr.
Sullivan, Dr. Walter Bowie, Mr. Anthony Rachal, the late Dr. Charles
a. Walker, and others. But it was Dr. Sullivan and I who sat down
with Chairman William Natcher of Kentucky and convinced him that we
should appropriate money to Historically Black Colleges and
Universities for Research Infrastructure. Today that program yields
approximately $30 million which was authorized and appropriated by
As AMPHS celebrates tonight I would be remiss not to talk
about the Disadvantaged Minority Health Improvement Act of 1990.
This was the first major health legislation affecting minorities
enacted by Congress this past century. Again, AMPHS, led by Dr.
Sullivan, came to me to discuss the necessity for this legislation.
This discussion came on the heels of the 1985 task force report
issued by a prestigious commission appointed by then Secretary of
Health, Education and Welfare, Margaret Heckler. This task force
found that there were 60,000 excess deaths each year in the minority
community. Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts joined me as sponsor
of this 1990 act.
It was through this legislation that we statutorily
authorized the Office of Minority Health at HHS (Health and Human
Services); established an Office of Research on Minority Health at
NIH; and re-authorized the Health Careers Opportunity program which
focuses on recruiting and retaining disadvantaged/minority students
to health careers. Collectively, these programs contribute more than
$100 million annually to improving minority health status.
I was extremely proud this year to witness the efforts of
Congresswoman Donna Christian-Christensen, current chair-person of
the congressional Black Caucus Health Brain-trust and Congressman
Jesse Jackson, Jr., in leading the legislation which passed in the
past Congress elevating the Office of Minority Health at NIH to
Center status. This joint effort between AMPHS, Congressman Earl
Hilliard and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus has
also elevated Dr. John Ruffin to director of this new center and
given him important grant power. Again, Dr. Sullivan was the leader
and a strong organizer of votes on both sides of the aisle for this
As we look at your history tonight, I am reminded of the
special efforts AMPHS and I exerted on behalf of three black
institutions who were at one time in deep financial difficulty. In
1989 we sponsored and passed the Financial Distress Grant program to
benefit Meharry Medical College, Tuskegee University School of
Veterinary Medicine and Xavier College of Pharmacy. Later AMPHS and
the Congressional Black Caucus worked together to secure enactment
of the Excellence in Minority Health Education and Care Act. This
legislation authorized the first Minority Centers of Excellence
program which replaced the Financial Distress Grant program and now
all of the professional schools of AMPHS participate in the Centers
of Excellence program. This is another $30 million program.
Lastly, one of the more serious problems confronting minority
institutions brought to my attention by AMPHS was the dire need for
funding for HBCUs for faculty, staff and educational initiatives.
Title III of the Higher Education Act (Strengthening Developing
Institutions) was the route that we chose to help these institutions
through the U.S. Department of Education. Despite some difficulties
we had to overcome, we were able to obtain an original appropriation
of $3 million which is now $45.0 million.
Hopefully, this walk down memory lane with me this evening
has provided an even deeper appreciation for the historic and
significant legislative accomplishments of AMPHS. No other group has
had the impact on minority health you have pioneered.
You have been steadfast in your mission to improve the health
status of African Americans and other minorities; to improve the
representation of African Americans and other minorities in the
health professions; and to strengthen our institutions and programs
throughout the nation, which in turn, will improve the role of
minorities in the provision of health care.
I salute you on a job well done.
The speech was delivered by Mr. Stokes
on Wednesday, April 11, 2001 at the Sheraton-Birmingham Hotel in
Birmingham, Alabama, during the "Opening Session" which was held
between 7:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.