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Meharry Medical College

Meharry Medical College

Meharry Medical College is a graduate and professional institution that is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and located in Nashville, Tennessee. Founded in 1876 as the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College, it was the first medical school for African Americans in the South, which then held the highest proportion of this ethnicity.

Meharry Medical College was chartered separately in 1915. In the early 21st century, it has become the largest private historically black institution in the United States solely dedicated to educating health care professionals and scientists.[4]

Meharry Medical College includes its School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, a School of Allied Health Professions, School of Graduate Studies and Research, the Harold R. West Basic Sciences Center, and the Metropolitan General Hospital of Nashville-Davidson County. The degrees that Meharry offers include Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.), Master of Health Science (M.H.S.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees. Meharry is the second-largest educator of African-American medical doctors and dentists in the United States.[5] It has the highest percentage of African Americans graduating with Ph.Ds in the biomedical sciences in the country.

Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved is a public health journal owned by and edited at Meharry Medical College.

Meharry Medical College
Former names
Medical Department of Central Tennessee College
TypePrivate, HBCU
AffiliationUnited Methodist Church [1][2]
Endowment$75.2 million[3]
DeanVeronica Mallett
United States

36°10′01″N 86°48′25″W [31]
Websitewww.mmc.edu [32]


The college was named for Samuel Meharry, a young Scots-Irish immigrant who first worked as a salt trader on the Kentucky-Tennessee frontier. After achieving some success, he and four of his brothers later made a major donation to help establish the college.

As a young trader, Meharry had been traveling through the rough terrain of Kentucky when his wagon slipped off the road and slid into a swamp. He was aided by a family of freedmen, whose names are unknown, who gave him food and shelter that night. The next morning they helped him to get his wagon and contents back on the road. Meharry reportedly told the former slave family, "I have no money, but when I can I shall do something for your race."[6]

In 1875, Samuel Meharry, together with four of his brothers, donated a total of $15,000 to assist with establishing a medical department at Central Tennessee College (CTC), a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee.[6] With the contribution of the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church North, George W. Hubbard and Dr. John Braden, a Methodist Episcopal cleric who was serving as president of CTC,[7] opened the Medical College in 1876.

Hubbard served as the founding president of the medical college. Its first class included eleven students. Of these eleven students, one graduated in 1877. The second class, which had its commencement in 1878, had three graduates. In 1886, the Dental Department was founded, followed by a Pharmacy Department founded in 1889.[8][9]

Among the second class of graduates was Lorenzo Dow Key, the son of Hillery Wattsworth Key and his wife. Key, together with Braden, was one of the founding members of the Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, North. Years before the Civil War, the church had split into Methodist Episcopal Church North and Methodist Episcopal Church South on the issue of slavery; it did not reunite until 1939.

In 1900, Central Tennessee College changed its name to Walden University in honor of John Morgan Walden, a bishop of the Methodist Church who had ministered to freedmen. In 1915, the medical department faculty of Walden University received a separate charter as Meharry Medical College.[8] It included the departments of pharmacy and dentistry. The Medical College remained in its original buildings, and Walden University moved to another campus in Nashville.

Meharry Medical College was one of the fourteen medical institutions established between the years of 1868 and 1907. Of these fourteen schools, six were located in the state of Tennessee. These schools were founded after the end of the Civil War, when slaves had been freed and there were as yet few African-American physicians, and many freedmen in need of health care. In the common segregation, most hospitals would not admit African Americans and many white physicians often chose not to serve freedmen. During the late 19th century and into the early 20th century, most medical institutions accepted few, if any, African-American students. To combat this shortage of health care and the lack of accessibility to medical education, individuals, such as Samuel Meharry, and organizations, such as the Medical Association of Colored Physicians, Surgeons, Dentists, and Pharmacists (later renamed the National Medical Association), helped to found medical schools specifically for African Americans.[10]

Since its founding, Meharry Medical College has added several graduate programs in the areas of science, medicine, and public health. In 1938, the School of Graduate Studies and Research was founded. The first master's degree program, a Master of Science in Public Health, was established in 1947. In 1972, a Ph.D. program was implemented. A decade later in 1982, Meharry established an M.D/Ph.D. program. In 2004, Meharry created a Master's of Science in Clinical Investigation program (2004).[11]

On November 9, 2017, Meharry, under president James E.K. Hildreth, signed a memorandum of agreement with Hospital Corporation of America, America's largest for-profit operator of health care facilities. Under the agreement, Meharry's medical students will gain clinical training at HCA's TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center in Nashville.[12]

Meharry students had previously received clinical training at numerous sites, primarily Nashville General Hospital, which had moved on-campus in the 1990s.[13] Withdrawal of the alliance with Meharry is thought to threaten the provision of inpatient care at Nashville General Hospital.[14] A board member resigned over this surprise decision and announcement.[15]


George W. Hubbard served as Meharry Medical College's first president from its founding in 1876 until his death in 1921.

The second president of the school was Dr. John J. Mullowney, who served from 1921 to 1938. He implemented changes in order to improve Meharry’s overall academic rating. Admission requirements were tightened and strictly enforced, a superintendent was installed at the hospital, and number of faculty, research facilities, and hospital facilities were all expanded. Two years after Mullowney took leadership, Meharry Medical College received an ‘A’ rating.[16]

Succeeding Meharry Medical College presidents have been:

  • Edward Lewis Turner (1938–1944),

  • M. Don Clawson (1945–1950),

  • Harold D. West (1952–1966),

  • Lloyd C. Elam (1968–1981),

  • Richard G. Lester (1981-1982),

  • David Satcher (1982–1993),

  • John E. Maupin (1994–2006),

  • Wayne J. Riley (2006–2013),

  • A. Cherrie Epps (2013-2015),

  • James E.K. Hildreth (2015–present)

From 1950-1952 a committee guided the institution instead of a president. In 1952, Meharry welcomed its first African-American president, Dr. Harold D. West. West made numerous changes, made possible by his successful $20 million fund drive. He added a new wing to Hubbard Hospital, eliminated the nursing and the dental technology programs, and purchased land adjacent to the campus for expansion.[16]

In 2005, Meharry was censured by the American Association of University Professors for not observing generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure.[17][18]

Research Centers

  • Asthma Disparities Center

  • Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neurosciences

  • Center for Women's Health Research

  • Clinical Research Center

  • Export Center for Health Disparities

  • Meharry Center for Health Disparities Research in HIV

  • Sickle Cell Center

BS/MD Program

Seven universities are in partnership with Meharry to help recruit and prepare their pre-med students to enroll at Meharry. The seven universities are Alabama A&M University, Albany State University, Fisk University, Grambling State University, Jackson State University, Southern University, and Tennessee State University.[19]

Notable alumni

Dr. Audrey Manley, Deputy Surgeon General of the United States, 1995–1997.

Dr. Audrey Manley, Deputy Surgeon General of the United States, 1995–1997.

Dr. Corey Hébert

Dr. Corey Hébert

NameClass yearNotabilityReference(s)
Dr. John Angelo Lester1895Professor Emeritus of Physiology, Hospital Surgeon for Company G, unattached, (colored) of Tennessee State Guard, Secretary of Meharry Alumni Association, member of Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.
Dr. Corey Hébert1994Celebrity Physician, radio talk show host, Chief Medical Editor for National Broadcasting Company for the Gulf Coast, first Black Chief Resident of Pediatrics at Tulane University, Chief executive officer of Community Health TV[20]
Dr. Alonzo Homer KenniebrewPersonal Physician to Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. Medical Director and physiology teacher of Tuskegee Institute. Founder of New Home Sanitarium, the first African-American owned and operated surgical hospital in America.
Dr. E. Anthony RankinChief of Orthopaedic Surgery at Providence Hospital & Founder of Rankin Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, Second Vice President of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
Dr. Willie Adams, Jr.Mayor of Albany, Georgia
Dr. Billy Ray Ballard, MD, DDSFirst African American Board Certified Oral Pathologist, Previous Chair for the AAMC Group on Student Affairs; Former Vice President for Student Affairs and Associate Dean of Students and Admissions, UTMB Galveston Medical School
Dr. Hastings Kamuzu BandaPresident of the Republic of Malawi
Dr. Edward S. CooperPresident of the American Heart Association
Dr. Reginald CoopwoodCEO of the Regional Medical Center at Memphis
James J. Durham1882Founder of Morris College
Dr. Renita Barge Clark1992Founder of The Cotillion Society of Detroit and The Educational Foundation, President of Jack and Jill of America Detroit Chapter
Dr. Cleveland W. Eneas, Sr.Senator, Government of The Bahamas. Author of The History of The Class of 1941 of Meharry Medical College
Dr. Sandra GadsonFormer President of the National Medical Association
Winston C. HackettFirst African-American physician in Arizona[21][22]
Dr. Robert Walter JohnsonTennis Instructor for Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, Physician and Educator
Dr. Robert Lee, DDS1944South Carolina-born dentist who emigrated to Ghana in 1956 and operated a dental practice there for nearly five decades until his retirement in 2002[23]
Dr. Monroe Alpheus MajorsPhysician and writer and civil rights activist in Texas and Los Angeles, California.
Dr. Eleanor L. Makel1943supervising medical officer, St. Elizabeths Hospital[24]
Dr. Audrey F. ManleyActing Surgeon General of the United States, President Spelman College
Dr. John E. MaupinPresident of Morehouse School of Medicine
Dr. Conrad MurrayPersonal physician of Michael Jackson, convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death on June 25, 2009.[25]
Maj. General Leonard Randolph, Jr.Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Health Plan Administration
Dr. Louis Pendletondentist and civil rights leader in Shreveport, Louisiana
Dr. Charles V. RomanPresident of the National Medical Association. Author of A History of Meharry Medical College
Frank S. Royal1968chair of Meharry Medical college's board; director of public companies; former president of the National Medical Association[26]
Dr. C. O. Simpkins, Sr.dentist and civil rights leader in Shreveport; member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1992 to 1996[27]
Dr. Walter R. Tucker, Jr.Former Mayor of Compton, California
Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr.Former Professor and Chairman of the Department of Surgery, Meharry. Author of "President's Farewell Address" Journal of the National Medical Association 1955
Dr. Reuben WarrenAssociate Director for Minority Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dr. Charles H. WrightFounder of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Lorenzo Raymond Sylvanus Nelson, M.D.Regimental Surgeon, Major, Medical Corps, 366th Infantry Regiment, 5th Army, World War II, grandson of Lorenzo Dow Key, M.D., 1878 and great-grandson of Hillery Wattsworth Key, D.D., Trustee, Walden University.
Jeanne Spurlock, M.D.noted Psychiatrist, Chairman of Department, Meharry Medical College (1968) and Department of Neuropsychiatry, Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago, Illinois; Fellow, American Association of Psychiatry
Dr. Emily F. Pollard, M.D., FACSnoted plastic surgeon, "TOP Doctor" in Philadelphia Magazine, appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show
Dr. Carl C. Bell, M.D.Community Psychiatrist, International Researcher, Academician, Author, President/CEO
Dr. Emma Rochelle Wheeler1905Founder of Walden Hospital and school of nursing, both serving African Americans, in Chattanooga, TN[28]
Dr. James Maxie PonderFirst African American physician in St. Petersburg, Florida[29]


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