Office of University Communications
Director of Communications
Howard University College of Medicine Celebrates 140th Anniversary as a Leader in Producing Women Surgeons and African-American Physicians
Photo by Ron Ceasar
L-R Edward Cornwell, M.D., Medical School Dean Robert Taylor and President Sidney A. Ribeau
WASHINGTON – Howard University College of Medicine, founded just after the end of the Civil War, celebrated its 140th anniversary in November as one of the nation’s leading institutions for training women surgeons and African-American physicians.
Hundreds of alumni, the school’s teaching staff of physicians and medical professionals, support staff and friends from around the nation gathered at the J.W. Marriott in downtown Washington to celebrate the men and women who helped make it a world-renowned medical school that attracts students from across the globe.
Dr. Sidney Ribeau, the university’s new president, pointed out that the school began with only five instructors and eight students.
“Those numbers speak volumes about where we have come and the men and women who go t us here,” Ribeau told the crowd.
Dr. Robert E. Taylor, dean of the College of Medicine, oversaw the program, and Dr. Edward E. Cornwell III, surgeon-in-chief at Howard University Hospital and chair of the Department of Surgery at the medical school, emceed the affair.
After a wonderful dinner, the audience was entertained by Grammy Award-winning vocalist Regina Belle, who was preceded by jazz pianist and Howard alum Marcus Johnson.
Additionally, the crowd was treated to stories by four preceding deans about how the school has grown over the years.
One of the growth areas is women surgeons.
Since the college produced its first female surgeon, Dr. Constance Richardson, in 1977, it has graduated 50 women from its surgery training program, school officials said, making it one of the nation’s leading institutions in the production of women surgeons.
In comparison, Johns Hopkins College of Medicine, one of the nation’s foremost institutions, has produced 21 women surgeons since it was formed in 1893, school officials said.
Dr. Debra H. Ford, vice-chair of the College of Medicine’s Department of Surgery and director of the General Surgery Residency Program, said Howard’s historical orientation makes it more comfortable for women who want to be surgeons.
“As a diverse institution, we’re more open to accepting female surgeons,” said Ford, herself a graduate of the program.
Meanwhile, Howard has maintained its pace of producing more African-American physicians than any other institution. In 2007, Howard’s medical school’s graduating class of 77 African Americans was twice as many as any other school in the nation, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The next closest school, the University of Maryland, produced 35 African-American doctors.
While the medical school attracts a broad array of nationalities in the U.S. and abroad, for African Americans, it remains the “go to place” for those who want to be a part of the school’s mission of serving those most in need and eliminating health disparities, Taylor said.
The school receives many African-American applicants who have attended majority white high schools and colleges and universities and could attend virtually any medical school in the nation, he noted. But they choose Howard.
“They want to come back to the mission of serving underserved communities,” Taylor said. “Our heritage flows from our mission, and people see that.”
Howard also offers a more hands-on approach, Taylor said, where students actually receive instruction such legendary physicians as Leffall, who has taught two of every three of the school’s graduates since it opened.
“At some of the larger schools, you never see these people.” he said. “You never see the dean. Here, it’s hands on and personal. Once you come to Howard, you’re part of our family.”