Shannon Lecture to present former Secretary of Health and Human Services

Louis W. Sullivan, M.D.
Louis W. Sullivan, M.D.

Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., a former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, will be the featured speaker at noon on Feb. 27 when the School of Medicine celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Dr. Reaner and Mr. Henry Shannon Lecture in Minority Health.

Sullivan, who served as a member of President George H.W. Bush’s Cabinet from 1989 through 1993, is currently chairman of the Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions, a Washington, D.C., based non-profit organization devoted to transforming and diversifying education in the health professions and health delivery systems. His lecture, The State of Diversity 1965-2015, will explore those efforts.

A poster session in the School of Medicine lobby prior to the lecture will display the similar efforts of the school’s faculty and staff with topics ranging from the school’s cultural competency curriculum and its high school pipeline programs, to research focused on health disparities, community engagement and urban serving institutions.

The Sullivan Alliance is an outgrowth of two group reports in the early 2000s that produced more than 60 recommendations to key stakeholders in the U.S. health care system to address the need for a greater diversity among the health care workforce. Leaders of the two efforts established the Sullivan Alliance to encourage formal collaborations among higher education, academic medical centers and health professions schools in developing a diversified workforce.

A handful of regional and state alliances have since been established to developing programs and funding sources to that end. Diversity officers from Missouri’s medical schools met with Sullivan last November at the Association of American Medical Colleges’ national meeting in Chicago to discuss creating a statewide alliance. Rebecca Pauly, M.D., who works with the school’s Office of Diversity and Community Partnership, said Sullivan would meet with many of those leaders again during his trip to Kansas City for the Shannon Lectureship to discuss the next steps in creating a Missouri alliance.

In addition to his work with the alliance, Sullivan is chairman of the board of Atlanta’s National Health Museum and is president emeritus of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, where he served as the founding dean.

During his tenure with the Department of Health and Human Services, Sullivan led numerous initiatives to improve public health in the United States. He drove an effort to increase the National Institutes of Health budget from $8.0 billion in 1989 to $13.1 billion in 1993, established the Office of Research on Minority Health, now the Institute for Research on Minority Health and Health Disparities, within the NIH, and inaugurated a number of programs including those in women’s health research and improving Food and Drug Administration food labeling.

He was also responsible for implementing greater gender and ethnic diversity in senior level positions within the department, including the appointment of the first female director of the NIH.

Sullivan earned his medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine and conducted his internal medicine residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. In 1975, Sullivan became the founding dean and director of the medical education program at what is now the Morehouse School of Medicine, a predominately black medical school. He served as president of the school for more than two decades before retiring and becoming president emeritus in 2001.

Reaner Shannon, Ph.D., who served as the School of Medicine’s first associate dean for minority affairs, and her husband, Henry Shannon, established the Shannon Lectureship in 2006. Former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders presented the first Shannon Lecture. Speakers of local and national interest have presented the lecture each February since in conjunction with Black History Month, focusing on timely topics that impact the underserved and minority communities.