First African American Woman to Lead AMA Urges Grads to Find Their ‘Authentic Voice’
Atlanta Psychiatrist Dr. Patrice Harris Keynotes Morehouse School of Medicine’s 35th Commencement
ATLANTA – May 18, 2019—Atlanta psychiatrist Dr. Patrice Harris, who is poised to become the first African-American woman to ever lead the American Medical Association, urged members of Morehouse School of Medicine’s Class of 2019 to “stand in your authentic voice” as they go forth to face the uncertainty and challenges awaiting them in their professional lives.
“My first piece of advice comes from the immortal words of Quavo, Takeoff and Offset,” Dr. Harris said, as the crowd for MSM’s 35th Commencement laughed and applauded at her reference to an Atlanta-based hip-hop group. “What phrase has Migos made famous? Walk it like I talk it.”
Dr. Harris, who will be installed as AMA president in June, noted that every generation of physicians and scientists faces its own challenges. For this year’s graduates these include balancing technology with a human touch; coping with rising healthcare costs, complex health system and bureaucracy; and creating health equity for all people and communities – the heart of MSM’s mission.
“And of course, for health professionals of color, for female physicians, the challenges we face often run far deeper,” she said. “You will have to be both excellent clinicians, researchers and public health professionals and unabashed, unapologetic advocates for yourselves and the health of our nation.”
Class of 2019: Talk it! Tell your story. Stand up for what you believe in and stand in your authentic voice.”
Dr. Patrice Harris
Dr. Harris recalled her own path. Being young, inexperienced and certain that everyone around her was smarter; times when she had a different opinion and just knew she had to be wrong; being dismissed or marginalized.
To stand in one’s authentic voice, she said, is a not only a powerful force for one’s own self. It also matters for patients who need allies and advocates for access to affordable care, treatments and medications. And it matters for the communities in which they live.
Dr. Harris reflected on what it means to become the first African American woman to lead the AMA.
“Like me, each of you may one day find yourselves in the role of ‘first’ or ‘only.’ When that happens, there is a huge responsibility to get it right, to make sure we are not the last, so that others can follow in our footsteps.
“Class of 2019: Talk it! Tell your story,” Dr. Harris concluded. “Stand up for what you believe in and stand in your authentic voice.”
Amid the joy, celebration and yes, relief, of finally reaching this momentous occasion, however, looms a daunting reality. Paying for the medical education that diploma represents. The 73 students in the MSM M.D. Class of 2019 accumulated more than $18.5 million in total debt before scholarships.
Over the past several years, MSM has created multiple initiatives to reduce student indebtedness, including a “graduation present” traditionally announced at Commencement. This year, MSM will award scholarships totaling $940,249, an increase of almost $125,000 over last year. Each eligible graduating senior not receiving full MSM funding for tuition and fees will receive no less than $1,500.
“The goal is to ensure that 100 percent of graduating seniors receive some level of scholarship support,” MSM President and Dean Valerie Montgomery Rice, M.D., said. “This year we are achieving these results by awarding scholarships to approximately 119 seniors who have not been awarded scholarships and/or grants to fully fund their tuition and fees during their matriculation at Morehouse School of Medicine.”
MSM’s Class of 2019 includes 73 M.D. recipients and one Ph.D. in biomedical sciences. Another 46 graduates received their master's degree in fields including public health, medical science and clinical research. Of those granted the Doctor of Medicine degree, 96 percent were successfully placed in residency programs.
About Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM)
Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), located in Atlanta, Georgia, was founded in 1975 as a two-year Medical Education Program at Morehouse College with clinical training affiliations with several established medical schools for awarding the M.D. degree. In 1981, MSM became an independently chartered institution and the first medical school established at a Historically Black College and University in the 20th century. MSM is among the nation's leading educators of primary care physicians and was recently recognized as the top institution among U.S. medical schools for our social mission. Our faculty and alumni are noted in their fields for excellence in teaching, research, and public policy, and are known in the community for exceptional, culturally appropriate patient care.
Morehouse School of Medicine is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctorate and master’s degrees.