Life and Times as a Physician According to Former U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary

Dean Karen Antman, MD; Louis Sullivan, MD '58, and Aram Chobanian, MD
Dean Karen Antman, MD; Louis Sullivan, MD ’58, and Aram Chobanian, MD

Louis Sullivan, MD, BUSM Class of 1958, knows what it means to “break ground,” the title of his recently published autobiography. His journey took many twists and turns beginning as an African-American growing up in segregated Georgia, coming north for medical school in predominantly white Boston, becoming chief of hematology on the Medical Campus, serving as founding dean and first president of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, all the way to being named U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services, Dr. Sullivan has been a pioneer.

“Lou Sullivan is an intellectual giant,” said BU President Emeritus and BUSM Dean Emeritus Aram Chobanian, MD, introducing Dr. Sullivan. “He is also a giant at bringing people together to improve and advance health care and the medical profession.” Dr. Sullivan, a member of BUSM’s Dean’s Advisory Board, read passages from his book describing his early years in Blakely, Ga. and his years at the School of Medicine as well as when he was a faculty member leading the section of hematology.

“When I came to medical school my plan was to be a family doctor like my hero Dr. Griffiths in Georgia,” he recalled. “But like most medical students my plans changed from year to year based on my contact with the many outstanding faculty at the School. I thought I wanted to be a surgeon after spending time with Lamar Soutter (BUSM professor of surgery), but then I held a retractor to a liver for three hours during an operation and decided that was not for me.”

He talked of his plan to become chair of the Department of Medicine at BUSM, but was recruited back to Atlanta to help establish a medical school for poor and minority students at Morehouse College his undergraduate alma mater. He shared how he developed a relationship with George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, which resulted in his being asked by President Bush to join his cabinet.

Dr. Sullivan currently serves as chair of the National Health Museum in Atlanta and of the Washington, DC-based Sullivan Alliance to Transform America’s Health professionals.

Following Dr. Sullivan’s talk he signed copies of his book and joined by his wife, Ginger, was greeted by students, faculty, staff and former colleagues and classmates at a reception.