During my 2nd year as a medical student at Duke University Medical School (DUMC), I took on the task of organizing the annual SNMA MLK, Jr. banquet, sponsored by the Department of Medicine (with avid support by the Chair of Medicine at the time, Dr. Barton Haynes). Those of you who know me, know that once I put my hands on something, the goal is to bring attention to the organization I am working with, and to make any project bigger/better than it was before. So, when I sat down with medical admin extraordinaire, Marsha Newby, to discuss logistics, I informed her that my goal was to bring Dr. David Satcher, the newly appointed United States Surgeon General, to Duke as our keynote speaker.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Satcher the 16th Surgeon General of the United States. He became the second black physician (Clinton appointed Dr. Jocelyn Elders in 1993) and the first black male appointed to the position. He simultaneously held the position of Assistant Secretary for Health, becoming the first Surgeon General to be appointed as a four-star admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
Perhaps his passion for health and ensuring all peoples had access to equitable care came from his own childhood experience with illness. He was born and raised in rural Alabama in an era where white physicians in the south would not see black patients. Two of his 9 siblings actually died very early in their young lives due to illness. In fact, Dr. Satcher himself contracted whooping cough and pneumonia when he was 2 years old, and it was assumed he would die as well. Yet, a dedicated black physician came out to his rural home and spent an entire day taking care of him. David Satcher pulled through and has gone on to serve as doctor to an entire nation.
~One drop of knowledge can ripple through an entire community