Louis W. Sullivan, former secretary of Health and Human Services, discussed his new book, ”Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine” (University of Georgia Press, 2014), on Wednesday during an author talk presented by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. A video of the presentation will be available in the coming weeks.
Sullivan spent his childhood in Jim Crow southern Georgia. At the age of 5, he told his mother that he wanted to be a doctor. Schools in Blakely, Georgia, were segregated at the time, so his parents sent him to Savannah and later to Atlanta for his education. After graduating from Morehouse College, he attended medical school at Boston University, where he was the sole African American in his class. According to Sullivan, he was also the first graduate of Morehouse to attend. It was also the year Brown v. Board of Education came out.
“I wondered how I would be received,” Sullivan said. “Would it be with hostility, indifference, or would I be welcomed?”
He was well-received, even serving as class president for two years.
Several years later, the dean at Morehouse asked Sullivan to found a medical school there.
“The rationale for creating a medical school at Morehouse was to increase the number of black physicians,” he explained.
During that time, Sullivan developed a relationship with George H.W. Bush, who appointed him Health and Human Services secretary.
“I was impressed by the dedication of the employees,” he said of his time at the agency.
Desiree Arnaiz of the Library’s Center for the Book contributed to this report.