Black History Symposium Celebrates Fuller, Addresses Current Climate

Faculty, staff and students, along with others from the BUMC community, joined invited alumni for the second annual Black History Symposium on Wednesday, Oct. 4. The three-part event, held in Hiebert Lounge, was hosted and sponsored by the BUSM Alumni Association.

Neurology fellow Chantale Branson, MD, ’12, began the event with a historical perspective on Solomon Carter Fuller, MD. The Liberian-born pathologist, neurologist, neuropathologist and psychiatrist migrated to the US in 1889 and began attending BUSM in 1894. By 1899, he was teaching pathology at BUSM, becoming one of the first black physicians to be appointed to the faculty at an American medical college. In the early 1900s he was the assistant to Alois Alzheimer. He worked in his lab during the discovery of Alzheimer’s disease and translated much of his work from German to English. In spite of years of steady work at the level of department chair, Dr. Fuller wasn’t appointed full professor until he retired.

David Henderson, MD, assistant dean for diversity and multicultural affairs and chair of psychiatry, spoke about the late Chester Pierce, MD, the psychiatrist who coined the term “microaggressions.” Pierce, Henderson’s mentor, published nearly 180 books, articles and reviews surrounding areas of racism and social injustice in sports and media. “He was always 20 years ahead of people in his thinking … and just one sentence from him would change my life,” said Henderson.

COM-black history symposium panelists

Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry Kermit Crawford, PhD, after setting the stage by briefly outlining important aspects of racial microaggressions, led an alumni panel discussion on “Microaggressions: Hidden Messages that Hurt.” Panelists included:

  • Dallas Reed,MD, ’10 | Attending Physician, Obstetrician/Gynecologist, Medical Geneticist, Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
  • Cheryl Scott, MD, ’82 | BUSM Dean’s Advisory Board; Preventive Medicine, Oakland, Calif.
  • Jason Sherer, MD, ’16 | Resident, Internal Medicine, BMC

Panelists talked about their personal encounters with microaggressions, recalling instances from high school to everyday interactions in the professional setting. The open, honest dialogue allowed panelists to discuss their experiences as physicians of color. Dr. Crawford then opened the floor to engage attendees in a lively interactive discussion.

The event idea was conceived by Kate Phaneuf, MD, ’88, as an opportunity to increase the recruitment of underrepresented students and faculty. “We are grateful for the Alumni who support these efforts and engage in important conversations like this,” said Associate Dean for Alumni Affairs Jean Ramsey, MD, ’90, MPH ’08.

See more of the event on Facebook.