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Morehouse Medical College names first Black female president

23rd July 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Kelly Parker
Contributing Writer

In town to participate in a panel of African-American wo­men en­titled, “Putting Our­selves First” during Essence Fest was Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice who has just recently been named as the first female president of Morehouse School of Medicine.

She was joined by Mikki Taylor, Niecy Nash, Tonya Lewis Lee, Lisa Nichols and Dr. Denese Shervington, and together they talked about the importance of being our best selves before being everything to everyone else in our lives.

“I don’t believe that we can be there for our each other and for our families and communities if we don’t take better care of ourselves,” Montgomery Rice told The Louisiana Weekly.



“I can use my use this leadership role as a platform to further bring this message home; to say to women-’If you want to be the mother, friend, wife that you say that want to be, you’ve got to take care of yourself first, because what you’re presenting may not be your whole self, if you haven’t put ‘you’ first’.”

Says Montgomery Rice a comprehensive health regimen; which has proven to add years to our lives must be a priority.

“I want women to think of the whole body and not just about (its parts). We have to reprogram the way we think about food and eating habits,” she says. “Energy must come into a body for energy to burn fat; so, living an active lifestyle is important. We need to learn how to read labels and prepare healthy meals. As much as we might think it is out of our control, it is a choice. It’s our decision.”

Dr. Montgomery who has served in numerous headship pos­itions at some of the most prestigious academic and health institutions in the country, re­ceived an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Georgia Institute of Technology, a medical degree from Harvard Me­dical School, and completed her training in obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University Medical School and reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Hutzel Hospital in Detroit, MI.

She is a renowned infertility expert and nationally recognized clinical scientist who has authored more than 50 medical research articles.

“During her tenure as dean, Dr. Montgomery Rice demonstrated her commitment to the mission and vision of the medical school,” said Art R. Collins, chairman of the board of trustees’ committee on transition and founding partner of the Collins Johnson Group. “In our selection of Dr. Montgomery Rice as dean, the trustees looked at a long-term strategy. We believed the dean could ascend to leading the medical school and her current role would provide the necessary consistency to continue advancing the mission.”

“I consider it an honor that our board is entrusting me with the responsibility of continuing to build on the legacy of this pre-eminent institution,” Dr. Mont­gomery Rice said. “The vision is crystal clear. My role is to continue to further the mission while also positioning the school to remain relevant and at the forefront of an ever-changing medical education environment.”

The Macon, GA native also urges African-American women to take advantage of the preventative options not made available to elder women in our families.

“The resources that our mothers and aunts had were very limited by many social injustices,” she says. “One of my roles as a women’s advocate is to talk about policies that limit those injustices; to let people know that it’s not just about the access, but the understanding of the need for resources. If I give everybody an insurance card right now, that doesn’t mean everyone will get a mammogram. There may not be enough units in your area to provide the service for everyone.” As a leader, I have to work on behalf of women to the government to stress the importance of these resources being available to all women; for this will result in a decrease in breast cancer diagnoses.”

“The one thing I’m excited about is the time in which we’re living; with the affordable care act, we now have an opportunity to go the doctor without having to worry about a co-pay,” Mont­gomery Rice added. “We have the opportunity to have preventative screenings for mammograms, colonoscopies, pap sme­ars; more family panning re­sources. All of those things will decrease stress, and also allow women to not be afraid to ask questions about what’s happening to their bodies; because they can engage in an intervention that can make a difference.”

With a background in OB/­GYN, the rates of African-Am­eri­can women is of great concern of Montgomery Rice. According to the CDC, in 2010, the rate of chlamydia among Black women was over seven times the rate among white women. In the same year, the rate of P&S syphilis among black women was 21 times the rate among white women. Mont­gomery Rice also stated to The Louisiana Weekly, (as of 2007), the prevalence of HIV for black women was 18 times the rate for white women.

“Prevention is the key to fighting this battle, and arming our communities with quality healthcare providers is the first step,” she told The Louisiana Weekly. “These stats clearly de­fine a need for Morehouse School of Me­dicine mission to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities; increase the diversity of the health professional and scientific workforce; and ad­dress primary health care needs through programs in education, research, and service, with emphasis on people of color and the underserved urban and rural populations in Georgia and the nation. Under my tenure, we will continue to strengthen our clinical and research programs, which include government, private and global partnerships to provide the quality healthcare necessary to sustain the growth of our communities.”

Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), located in Atlanta, Ga., 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. Dr. Montgomery Rice will retain the position of dean when she becomes president next year; effective July, 2014. As dean, she will continue amongst the ranks of the 16 percent of women serving as dean leading academic medical institutions.

This article originally published in the July 22, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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