For the last month, an exhibit from the National Library of Medicine highlighting the work of contemporary African American academic surgeons has occupied part of the library on the WSU Spokane campus. Today, the presence in Spokane of one of those surgeons added a new dimension to the exhibit.
Dr. Mallory Williams is the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine’s first visiting professor. He is a professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Trauma and Critical Care at the Howard University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. He was a combat surgeon who served during the war in Iraq.
Dr. Williams opened his day meeting with students at Rogers and North Central High Schools. He spoke to students in Rogers’ Project Lead the Way program for students taking biomedical classes (see the photo above). Then he visited NC’s Randall James Institute of Science and Technology, a facility for high school scientists who can take advanced courses in areas such as biomedicine and genomics. They have access to state-of-the-art research equipment and an environment that encourages scientific inquiry.
During the noon hour, Dr. Williams gave a lecture on the WSU Spokane campus about diversity in medical education. In a conversation afterward with a handful of nursing students, he said the 1964 Civil Rights Act may have inspired social progress for people of color in the U.S., but it didn’t open up medical education to African Americans. In 1978, he said, 542 African American males were enrolled in American medical schools; in 2014, the number was 515.
He said diversity in medical education shouldn’t be limited to ethnicity, sexual orientation and other “stuff we immediately notice.” He said diversity should also include broader issues, such as an aging population living in homes that are no longer equipped to suit their needs.