Reported by Liku Zelleke
Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana, graduates the highest number of Black medical students in the United States, according to reports.
All thanks is due to the former President Norman Francis, who after becoming the first Black law student at Loyola University in 1952, went on to Xavier University (which had a small science program and only began matriculating its first medical students in 1925), where he worked on raising the number of Black doctors leaving its doors.
At the time, the university had about 1,300 Black students. Right now, Xavier’s student population is in the vicinity of 3,000 and the private tuition fees are at an affordable $19,800 per year. Yet, it holds an impressive record – even better than the likes of Harvard and Yale – when it comes to graduating Black medical students.
Apart from medicine, Xavier also graduates the highest number of Black students when it comes to bachelors in biology and physics. It ranks third for doctorates in science and engineering as well as being in the top four in graduating pharmacy students.
Right from the beginning, Francis knew that the low number of Black doctors wasn’t tantamount to their having been intellectually challenged, but that that they had in fact been shorted in their earlier education prior to arriving at Xavier. He decided that the focus should turn to bridging that gap before the students started college.
Francis, talking to reporters, said, “We decided we could do something about it. And what we did, what our faculty did, was just plain common sense.”
Pierre Johnson, a student at Xavier, was inspired, when at 10-years his pregnant mother visited an obstetrician – a Black doctor. This made him realize that he too could one day join the medical profession.
“He knew she was a good woman who had a problem. And he gave me, at least, something to say: ‘I can do that.'” Johnson said. And do it, he did.
Johnson graduated top of his class after coming from a low-performing high school on the south side of Chicago. He kept his dreams alive and worked towards finding pre-med opportunities and decided Xavier University was the right place for him.
Francis said, “I used to say there was no relationship between being poor and being bright. I watched all of my life young people who were poor and very bright. But research shows if you are black and born poor, you are going to live in a poor neighborhood, going to go to a poor school, and by and large, you are going to stay that way. To come out of that system, you would have to rise much higher than other youngsters who had every resource.”
Johnson is now a practicing doctor in Decatur, Illinois.