Former Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan to Deliver College of Medicine Commencement Speech

Louis W. Sullivan, MD
Louis W. Sullivan, MD, is founding president of the Morehouse School of Medicine and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Louis W. Sullivan, MD, founding president of the Morehouse School of Medicine and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will address the Drexel University College of Medicine class of 2016 during commencement May 20.

The ceremony will be held at the Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad Street, where approximately 434 degrees will be presented, including 257 MD degrees, along with 28 PhDs and 149 master’s degrees from the college’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies.

Throughout Sullivan’s life, the physician and health policy leader has championed better care and increased access to medical careers for poor people and African Americans. He is now the chairman of the National Health Museum in Atlanta, the goal of which is to enhance health literacy and advance healthy behaviors. He also chairs the Washington, D.C.-based Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions — a national nonprofit organization that aims to diversify and transform health professions education and health delivery systems.

After graduating from Morehouse College in 1954 and earning his medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine, he began his teaching career at Harvard Medical School. He then went on to found the medical education program at Morehouse in 1975. With Sullivan as its dean and first president, Morehouse School of Medicine became independent from the college in 1981. It was the first predominantly black medical school established in the 20th century.

Sullivan’s two decades of leadership at the school were interrupted only from 1989 to 1993, when President George H. W. Bush appointed him U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services.

As a member of the president’s cabinet, Sullivan was responsible for the major health, welfare, food and drug safety, medical research and income security programs serving the American people. His efforts to improve the health and health behavior of Americans included establishing the office that became the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities; inaugurating the Women’s Health Research Program at NIH; introducing an improved Food and Drug Administration food label; and launching a $100 million minority male health and injury prevention initiative.

Sullivan also served as chair of the President’s Commission on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and was co-chair of the President’s Commission on HIV and AIDS. He is the founding president of the Association of Minority Health Professions Schools, and in 1985, he was one of the founders of Medical Education for South African Blacks. The organization has raised scholarship funds in the United States and South Africa for more than 10,000 black health professions students.

In recognition of his commitment to health equity, which has been a beacon to the nation for more than half a century, the College of Medicine is proud to confer upon Sullivan an honorary degree.