Category Archives: Campus

Seeds of Change

Bassam Zahid, MSIII

A few months ago, world-renowned design firm, IDEO, released a new tool to assess the innovative capacity of companies. They compiled years of data from working with some of the biggest companies in the world and determined that great companies embody six core values:

  • Purpose – a clear, inspiring reason for a company’s existence and whether or not leadership and employees align on that vision
  • Looking Out – how often a company’s employees look beyond the walls of their institution to get ideas, insights, and inspiration
  • Experimentation – how amenable a company is to inexpensively and quickly trialing new ideas, using data to assess success or failure
  • Collaboration – how well different departments work together to bring new ideas into fruition
  • Empowerment – how much autonomy does an institution give its employees to create meaningful change
  • Refinement – how effective is the institution in executing its ideas by marrying strategy, design, and product

While different people in different department at Meharry will have varying opinions on how well our school meets these standards, the seeds of change have been planted. Two years ago, I gathered a team of students, faculty, and administrators to establish 2100 Health and Technology, a student group on campus focused on healthcare innovation. Building upon the work of students who came before us, we teamed up with Student Services, the Office of Research, and the Department of Bioinformatics to develop an app – Meharry Mobile; establish a Ted-Talk style speaker series – Start Up Symposium; and conduct various programs like coding workshops and a health app design competition.

One of 2100’s goals has been to create meaningful cultural change at Meharry. We envision Meharrians shifting from mere consumers of information to active innovators. It became vital that we establish a creative space on campus. Our work in our first year had tilled the soil with administration; we knew they trusted us. As medical schools and hospitals across the country have been building innovation centers in the past decade and we asked, why not us?

At the beginning of last semester, we pitched the idea for an innovation center to Dr. Hildreth and received the school’s blessing to establish the Meharry Innovation Center in the Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education. Sponsored by the Office of Research and Student Services, we officially opened in January 2017. Finally, a garden for creative thought! Now we needed healthy doses of sunshine, water, and equipment. Within weeks, we outfitted the center with art supplies for protoyping, decorated the walls with inspiring quotes, and began holding meetings once a week for those interested in healthcare innovation and business. The innovation center represented a major milestone for 2100, as we became the only student group on campus with our own physical space… in the newest building on campus by the way.

Over the past semester, the Meharry Innovation Center has harvested student creativity and put on a variety of programs. We began the semester with art workshops that challenged students to learn anatomy by building 3D models of the vessels in the abdomen and of the spinal tracts in the nervous system. We held events that varied from discussions on artificial intelligence to experimenting with Microsoft HoloLens to discussing design thinking principles in healthcare. Emboldened by innovations in medical education, we have even held improv comedy workshops. And in an effort to establish cross-discipline collaboration, we teamed up with the Matthew Walker Surgery Club to host a morbidity and mortality conference.

The Meharry Innovation Center represents a grand experiment that is a departure from the modus operandi traditionally seen at our school. The school gave 2100 Health and Technology space on campus to test out ideas and programs that we would like to see established on campus. We were given the freedom to fail in a controlled environment – a place to learn from our mistakes rather than be punished for them. If one of our programs was poorly executed or did not draw many participants, we viewed it as an opportunity to prune the bushes and pull the weeds.

I propose that the establishment of the Meharry Innovation Center should be held as a model for the rest of the school as we continue to fertilize our curriculum, clinics, and administration with creative thought and innovative practices. While we still have our shortcomings, the Meharry Medical College took a chance on creating the Innovation Center that incidentally checks off many of the standards established by IDEO. The Center is driven by the clear purpose of delivering healthcare innovation to the underserved. We have been active in learning about medical education innovation from established programs like JeffDesign at Jefferson Medical College, the Design Institute for Health at UT Austin, and the Vanderbilt Medical Innovation Lab. Most importantly, the Innovation Center has served as a hub for collaboration across different departments and given us the freedom to experiment with ideas that can potentially transform Meharry.

Moving forward, our work at the Meharry Innovation Center is far from over. 2100 Health and Technology is looking for new recruits to lead the next wave of innovation at our school. We are hoping to partner with different organizations and departments across campus so that the Meharry Innovation Center can move from the fringes of campus life towards the center. We envision a center that plants firm roots into the ground and extends branches to connect the students, faculty, and administration.

Now the question we must ask is, are you ready to get your hands dirty?


Letter from the Editor

Estevana Isaac, MSIII

My voice often feels muffled. People say I mumble. I come off as shy, hesitant and quiet.

“Speak up.”

“I can’t hear you.”

That was a lot of my feedback growing up. And now I wish I could tell you that adding my opinion comes natural to me. As a training physician, I still think about the consequences of criticism, rejection and conflict in both my work and personal life. To be honest, as a black woman, my opinion has never been as rigorously sought as it has been now. But what muffles it? Is it the system, my superiors, my peers or is it me?

I remember when President Obama first won the election in 2008. I was anxiously sitting in the lounge of my undergraduate dormitory. At the University of Pennsylvania, my peers and I represented a minority and now we suddenly mattered – a black president. For the night, we had a voice. We forgot about the divisions between race and class. We forgot our opinions were not that of the majority.

Eight years later and two successful terms in office, we now have the opportunity to witness another historical stride. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a forerunner in the Democratic Party and the first female candidate to gather this much support in presidential elections. In February 2016, she visited us here at our institution, Meharry Medical College.

I witnessed the diversity of supporters that flooded the ballroom of The Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education. While standing in the crowd with my classmates, I knew my voice mattered. I am a black female voter with the opportunity to witness leaders that generations before me would have never imagined. The American political system has seldom allowed individuals that look like myself to have roles of leadership. As a result, my voice has always felt muffled in such arenas.

Regardless of who wins the 2016 elections, seeing candidates that look like me brings my viewpoints to the forefront. So the next time, I doubt voicing my opinion as a doctor, because of fear of being critiqued by my superior and peers, I must remember that I, too, am a leader. Children that look like me see my role as a physician and picture themselves in my place. And it’s my understanding of those patients with similar experiences that gives me an advantage in the quality of care that I provide. Hence, not applying my diverse background to the health care arena will only exclude my voice and that of my patient from the conversation.

So how can I speak louder than the system, my superiors and my peers? As an American citizen, not voting for the candidate that represents my opinion allows the system to drown out my views. As a physician, not advocating for patients that I empathize with stifles the concerns of my patient. And not speaking up for myself muffles my voice amongst my superiors and peers. But I stop mumbling when I project my voice louder than my own hesitations and vote for a 2016 candidate that empathizes and advocates for me.

First Lady Hildreth Interview

Rechelle Jackson, D2

Last semester, The PULSE, formally introduced the college’s 12th president, Dr. James E.K Hildreth in our fall edition. Dr. Hildreth was named president in July 2015 and since then has been working tirelessly to make his presence known and goals realized.

However, as the old adage states, behind every great man is a great woman and Mrs. Phyllis Hildreth is no exception. The PULSE was able to have a few moments with the new first lady of the institution and learn more about her past, present and future.

Mrs. Hildreth was born in Berkley, California to an Oklahoma father and Missouri mother. During the interview, she frequently spoke of her love of history and how she felt everything happened for a reason and during a certain time. “I believe that our individual stories and community stories are so heavily marked by larger national and historical stories that seem not to be related, but when we pull back and pay attention we see why something happened,” she recollected.

During the Civil Rights movement, her father graduated from Lincoln University, an HBCU in Jefferson City, Missouri.  Concurrently, the Korean War was taking place and opportunities for blacks were very limited. Therefore, young black scientists and doctors ended up on the West Coast where they could thrive.

“I was trained in California schools during a time when Sputnik happened and the Russians got to space first, so everyone felt the need to train more scientists,” she said. She also stated that she was brought up during a time where there were linear roles and individuals had to identify as one particular job. “There wasn’t any deciding my career path, it was fairly organic, the question wasn’t was I going to be a scientist, but more so what kind.”

Although Mrs. Hildreth did major in biology in undergrad and soar through ecology and learning about the macro systems, a part of her did not feel complete because of the lack of interaction with people. “There was no social component, so it did not interest me,” she said.  She admitted to enjoying the bonding and identifying with others during her self-proclaimed “15 minute” stint as a pre-med student.

After graduation, working as a laboratory technician for five years did not stop Mrs. Hildreth from her true passion. She instinctively felt the need to help the family and believed that healthy families were the core of healthy communities. “I loved the centrality of maternal child health,” she said.  “Maternal and child health systems are the heart of my universe.”

She recalls her last job being at Johns Hopkins University in the pharmacology department. She remembers one of her husband’s mentors pulling her to the side and asking what it was she truly wanted to do because she could not continue to hide in the lab.

“He did me a great service.  I would have signed up for a career that did not have much black life or culture,” she said.

With the hopes of pursuing a degree at the School of Hygiene and Public Health at Johns Hopkins and the ultimate goal of studying maternal and child health, Mrs. Hildreth applied to the University of Maryland’s law school. In 1984, she became part of the first law school class at the university to matriculate a large number of African-American students.  Incorporating her love of history she said, “With Brown vs. Board of Education they continued to segregate high school and higher education, so this class was a part of completing the desegregation process.”

In the course of her first year of law school, Mrs. Hildreth discovered that she actually liked it. Upon searching for a job during school she was forced to carry around her one-page resume stating that she had majored in biology, worked in a lab for five years and now wanted to be a lawyer. “The only person who said ‘yes’ was the public defender of Baltimore city,” she said. “They put me over the CINA (Child In Need of Assistance) division and I clerked there for the remainder of law school.”

Mrs. Hildreth went on to graduate in 1988—and because of her great work ethic and willingness to work in a narrow, but nevertheless, important area of law, she was offered a position at the public defender’s office.  Immediately after swearing in, she had piles of cases waiting for her.  “We must focus on that which we have passion and do it with exhausting excellence,” she advised when reminiscing.

Our first lady is currently a professor at Lipscomb University teaching conflict management where she was previously a student in the same program. When asked how she felt about having to move back to Nashville after her husband accepted the president’s position, she said that she had never left after he departed Meharry for California. “We were forced to have a long distance marriage for four years,” she stated. “But during that time I was able to empathize with mothers in a way that I had not previously. I was able to see what it was like for other families to have to do this and make it work,” she continued.

When asked how she deals with the pressure of being a professor, first lady and public figure, she said that she may work long and non-traditional hours, but the minute she gets home she has released everything and work is not the focus. Her hobby, knitting, is also a stress reliever that helps to ease the day’s worries.

In addition to assisting in fulfilling her husband’s goals for Meharry, she also hopes that, by her presence and practice, women of her generation begin to institutionalize a way to be easily accessible. “I want to figure out a way to have couch hours and it will be known that at a certain time on a certain day I will be findable,” she said.

Lastly, Mrs. Hildreth wants all Meharry students, whom she affectionately calls her babies, to know and understand that we are not just training to become doctors, dentists and researchers. We must realize that our purpose is bigger than ourselves, she said, and in some cases the things we want to do may not have been invented yet.

“If your goal is a value, then you have great freedom and flexibility to adapt to the different ways in which that value is manifested and addressed,” she continued. “However, if your goal is to a particular process, when that process is no longer needed, neither are you.”

Design Thinking and Revolutionizing Medical Education

Bassam Zahid, MSII

It’s looking like another idyllic spring just north of Charlotte Avenue, as the season turns and the trees start to bloom and the birds begin to chirp. For all intents and purposes, Meharry Medical College has had a successful year and we still have a few months left. This year, our school opened up The Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education for full-time use. Meharry and 2100, the school’s health and technology interest group, also launched the school’s first mobile app, Meharry Mobile, which was born out of student-administration collaboration. And the School of Medicine Class of 2016 has found its match in competitive residencies and specialties. Justifiably, there is a feeling of accomplishment and success in the air.

But as we pat ourselves on the back, we must also be aware that there is a revolution happening at medical schools across the nation. Certain institutions are leading the conversation on what medical education will look like. They are not doing it based on their name or their rank or their level of experience in medical education. Instead, these schools are reinventing medical education simply by being the first to act.


This past year, University of California, Irvine School of Medicine piloted a program where they distributed Google Glass to third- and fourth-year students in the operating room and emergency room departments. They also gave first- and second-year students the opportunity to test out Google Glass in anatomy labs, the medical stimulation center and in the classroom where live patient-physician encounters were broadcast between the medical center and the lecture hall.

At Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, administrators have revamped their curriculum to include a design track in order to equip medical students with training in design thinking to solve health care challenges. It is the beginning of a trend where the traditional STEM fields are being merged with art disciplines to create STEAM (A for art!). Design thinking is a popular philosophy of execution practiced by designers and, in recent decades, has found its way into fields like computer science, higher education and, of course, health care.

And at the most extreme level, the University of Texas at Austin is opening its doors to the first class of Dell Medical School, an educational institute designed in the spirit of fostering innovation, creativity and design thinking principles from the beginning. They are going so far as to hire designers from the internationally known design school, IDEO, to head up their Design Institute for Health. Their mission is to re-imagine medical education.


In March, I attended the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) conference, an annual student administrators gathering, with Tammi Lavender, director of student life at Meharry, to present some of the advances we have made at our school. In between studying and preparing for our presentation, I attended a talk on “Design Thinking in Higher Education” given by the jCENTER at the University of Minnesota, a think tank dedicated to reinventing higher education using design thinking principles.

Design thinking is used by a number of major design and technology companies from IDEO to Google to IBM to the Stanford (d for design). It is a human-centered, solution-focused, and action-oriented philosophy that revolves around solving problems by acknowledging that there are multiple paths to an answer and that we should be open to them all. Ultimately, design thinking does not reside in the realm of theory. It requires actually doing, making, creating in order to learn and grow.

Design thinking is not necessarily point A to point B thinking. It is a non-linear process that requires one to be systematic and imaginative. At times you want to be razor-focused on the task at hand, while at other times you want to let your mind wander. This is called convergent and divergent thinking. Sometimes you will need to rely on experience and other times experimentation will be more useful.

Design thinking starts with the human. At the beginning, it is important to start with empathy. Who is the population and what are they struggling with? For example, in the classroom, how are the students learning and what can we do to enhance their learning? In the clinics, how can we redesign our teaching so that the patients get the best care possible? Next, we want to define the problem. We want to identify a problem that we can fix. After that, we want to generate as many ideas as possible. This is where the convergent and divergent thinking comes into play. This is a no judgment zone.

I mentioned earlier that design thinking is action-oriented. This is where coming up with a prototype and testing it are paramount. The goal of design thinking is to learn by doing. Instead of great ideas and initiatives becoming lost in the bureaucracy of committees and meetings and emails, the onus is that we act as soon as possible. Ultimately, at the end of the testing phase, you reiterate and return back to the start with empathy. You keep trying to improve your product or service until you have a result you are satisfied with.

So, as I sat in this conference room and listened to the researcher from the jCENTER espouse the amazing benefits of design thinking, it dawned on me: Why are we trying to catch up in a medical education system that will likely be obsolete in 10 years? Schools reinventing their curriculums to include design principles or introducing cutting edge technology to their students or participating in AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium (which includes Vanderbilt by the way) will be rewriting how medical education is delivered. Are we really just going to wait for the change to come to us? What if we paved our own way?


In order to revolutionize medical education, we need to start with the classroom experience. Let’s encourage professors to update their lecture slides every year. The knowledge in medicine doubles every four years and our society is already overwhelmed by information overload. Asking students to look at slides that contain the names of obscure drugs is an exercise in futility when time and resources are limited.

Let’s start videotaping lectures, which will not only allow students to revisit a lecture if they need to, but can also be a way to improve the delivery of content by the professors in the classroom. If professional athletes can break down their tendencies with game film why can’t educators? After all, isn’t teaching an art?

Let’s create a live internet audio feed for all lectures. From the physics of sound waves we understand that these longitudinal waves dissipate over distance so that what students hear in the front will be different from those in the back. I won’t hear the name of that obscure drug the professor mentioned because the sound wave has bounced off the heads and laptops of the 10 rows of students in front of me. But what if I could just put on my headphones and listen to crystal clear audio of the professor as she spoke from the front of the room? Wouldn’t that also cut down on distractions while creating a more personal learning environment?

Let’s begin collaborating with students beyond just putting out an impersonal survey. Organize us in random, cross-disciplinary focus groups and then talk to us. Do the same with administrators, faculty, even the grounds crew. In fact, organizations like Pre-Alumni Association, 2100 and class E-boards should probably do the same for their students, faculty and administrators as well. Let’s start from a place of empathy. As health professionals, isn’t that what we are best at?


These are just a few ideas I have, but what else can we imagine if we put together the experiences and brain power of hundreds of professional students, teachers and administrators? I am calling for a shift in our attitudes and our energy so that we work collaboratively instead of antagonistically. Meharry was the only school that gave many of us a chance to fulfill this once-in-a-lifetime dream. So when we advocate for change, we mean it from a good place. Let’s not forget that.

So as we put the cherry on top of yet another productive year, make sure to enjoy the spring galas and the inauguration festivities. Take the time to reflect on how amazing it is that Meharry is still standing and how we survived the Flexner Report. Give thanks to the giants that paved the way for us and raised the bar. Toast President Hildreth and the graduates of 2016 for leading the way. But remember, after the inauguration, after that collective sigh of relief, the honeymoon is over. Now the real work can commence. Let’s innovate medical education to revolutionize health care. In other words, let’s change the world.


Tamera Means, M.D., ‘15

As physicians in training, one of the treatment plans/ phrases we learn to use is “lifestyle changes.” Obviously, if our patients are able to exercise more frequently, eat healthier, decrease their stress levels, and quit smoking, they can dramatically improve their overall health— and not to mention, we would find our workload substantially reduced. However, as student doctors, we rarely practice what we preach. I’m sure all of us can recall at least one incident when we decided to skip our exercise routine, grab some fast food on the way home, or forego time for relaxing. Let’s face it: medical school is hard. With this busy lifestyle it is easy to feel like there is no time to take care of oneself. We often forget that our own mental and physical healths are just as important as our patients’. So instead of completely ignoring our own well-being, here are a few of the top free apps (available on most electron- ic devices) designed to help fit health improvement into even the busiest lifestyles.



Calm is perfect for people interested in lowering stress through meditation. This app provides both guided and silent meditation. For those new to meditation, this app provides an introductory program, which teaches you the basics of meditation and how to incorporate it into your daily lives. It also has meditation sessions as short as 10, 5, or 2 minutes. Come on, who doesn’t have two min- utes?!

Simple Yoga

This app is perfect for those new to yoga because it has a “dumb it down” option! The dumb it down option comes with a personal trainer who demonstrates a yoga pose and provides instructions on how to perform the move. It’s a perfect introduction to yoga without all the awkward- ness of getting lost during a class. For those who already know how to do most yoga poses, the app allows you to turn off the instruction mode so you can just follow along with the instructor.


MyFitness Pal

MyFitness Pal is the king of calorie tracking—like the swiss army knife of healthy apps. It keeps track of your calories, nutrition, water intake, goals, etc. However its ability to sync with other apps is what puts it on this top app list. For instance, it can sync with several exercise apps such as Run Keeper or Pacer Pedometer. This way you can make sure you get credit for the calories you burn off. MyFitness pal is also useful for recording meals be- cause it stores your recipes. So after you make an entry the first time, you won’t have to enter the items again.


Shopwell is a convenient nutritional app to use at the gro- cery store. It basically takes all the food’s information off the nutritional label and grades the product on nutritional value. I like it because I can search a food item or just scan the barcode and Shopwell brings up the product’s nutritional score plus more healthy options. For exam- ple, if I type in Oreos, Shopwell brings up the nutrition score for these and several other cookie alternatives that are healthier than Oreos, but similar in taste.


Workout Trainer by Skimble Workout trainer is an app that provides workouts based on free virtual personal trainers, step by step audio in- structions, and allows you to track and share your work- out progress! I love it because it has a large variety of workouts—from heavy cardio, strength training, yoga to dance. The navigation system is extremely easy and can be filtered by muscle group, difficulty, or time limits.


For those not into workout classes, Pacer is a pedometer that tracks your steps, weight, calories, and blood pres- sure. You can also create plans to help you reach your goals or join one of their pre-made plans. For instance, the app has a great “Weight loss plan” which allows you to put in a target weight and creates a plan to help you get there. You can also join groups who are working towards similar goals. Plus it syncs with MyFitness Pal so track- ing your calories just became a lot easier.

In conclusion, for those wishing to practice more of what they preach, there are several free apps to get you jump-started. Although there are multiple apps with many of the same functions and purposes, any free app should appeal immediately to students! It doesn’t hurt to try them out. If they work for you, they might just work for your patients too.

Bringing Computational Thinking to Meharry

Bassam Zahid, MSII

In the history of electronic hardware, there is a generally accepted term called Moore’s Law that notes that the number of transistors in devices tends to double about every two years. This type of exponential growth is the reason why your cell phone has more processing power than the Apollo space missions that NASA sent to the moon! Nowhere is this law more apparent than in the medical industry, where technological advances has put our cell phones on the cusp of being accepted medical devices.

If Meharrians are to ensure successful careers amidst the rapid and incessant evolution of healthcare, the practice of computational thinking should be internalized and implemented. It is this thought process that will allow us to solve problems with innovative solutions and design efficient healthcare systems.  We will be able to understand and respond to the needs of our patients better than ever before and, as a result, deliver exponential growth to Meharry in the 21st century.

The term “computational thinking” was coined by Jeannette M. Wing in 2006, who was then a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University (and now Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Research).  She explained it as a thought process used by computer scientists. In any field using humans, computers or a combination of both, problems can be solved with this methodology. Do you have an idea for the next great start up? Do you want to improve the organizational workflow in your department? Computational thinking can help you organize your ideas and prepare them for execution. If you are a scientist, this should come naturally because of the similarity between computational thinking and the scientific method.

In essence, computational thinking can be boiled down to a four-step process: decomposition, pattern-recognition, abstraction, and algorithmic design. Decomposition refers to breaking down a problem into constituent parts and then continuing the process until one is working to solve the simplest problems. Eventually the many different solutions can be brought together to solve bigger problems. Pattern-recognition is looking for the trends, regularities, and patterns in the parts at different levels of decomposition. Abstraction is the ability to generalize a pattern through a rule, equation, or law. Finally algorithm design is the development of step-by-step instructions to solving this or similar problems.

Let’s hammer this idea home with an example. So let’s say we wanted to start by addressing the decreasing number of patients at Nashville General Hospital. Starting with decomposition, we can start to break down all of the systematic inefficiencies to smaller parts. One that comes to mind is the outdated website, which is a marketing and customer service nightmare. The next question is to ask how do we bring a modern and organized interface in order to attract first-time visitors. We can continue to break this problem down to smaller parts as far as we want to go. How should each department be represented? What information should be available for each physician? Some of the most successful companies in the world will become so engrossed in the process that they will have meetings to discuss seemingly inane details like what colors, fonts, and sizes would best represent the organization to the world. But they are successful because of the attention to detail.

The next step is to start searching for patterns or trends in the different parts of the decomposition. One place we can start is by looking at the different websites of hospitals in the area: Vanderbilt Medical Center, TriStar Centennial, and St. Thomas. What are the similarities and differences between these websites? The underlying goal is to think about what are the best features our competitors have to offer. Which websites make the most effective use of pictures? Are the websites responsive, that is, does it resize to fit the screen of a mobile device? Is a search bar for easy navigation easily accessible? How much information or lack thereof exists under each department listing? One of the hardest parts of a job interview for some people is selling their strong points. The website of Nashville General Hospital is an interview of sorts. Is it doing everything it can to win over the interviewer?

Once we have discerned the overarching patterns, we can start to abstract general rules for our programmers to follow. For example, every page on the website should be responsive. The website should also have easy navigation and an abundance of pictures of smiling patients and medical staff. The most common health concerns of Nashville General patients, like cardiovascular disease and obstetrics, should perhaps be accessible with one click from the home page. Another general rule can be that every department should have a complete list of physician names and pictures. Patients want to see who is going to take care of them. There is already enough mystery in medicine.

The solution can finally be implemented in algorithm design. While computer programmers might develop an actual algorithm in code, nonprogrammers can easily participate in the process by writing step by step instructions of what they expect to see in various iterations of the website. These instructions can be written or drawn so that the programmer understands the expectations clearly. The advantage of this type of process is that it saves time and money. The website development team does not have to be creative. They just need to follow instructions written by the nonprogrammers.

The most beautiful aspect of computational thinking is how easily it can be applied to a variety of disciplines. These days, everyone has a million-dollar idea. Computational thinking is just one way to move in productive steps from abstract concept to concrete reality.  You do not have to be a computer programmer to use it. But it will allow you to communicate your ideas effectively to one. And if we start embracing 21st century technological principles here at Meharry, then who knows? Perhaps the next great app or telemedicine service for underserved medicine will be born on a small campus just north of Charlotte Ave. It could even be your idea.

The Pulse Welcomes President James E.K. Hildreth to Meharry

Rechelle Jackson, D2

In July 2015, Meharry welcomed its 12th President as James E.K. Hildreth returned to Meharry’s campus to begin what he hopes to be the last job of his professional career. The Arkansas native has attended prestigious colleges/universities such as: Harvard, Oxford and Johns Hopkins and considers Meharry Medical College to be his 4th historic institution. “If you identify a health professional, there is a good chance that that person is either directly or by some limited degrees of separation connected to Meharry,” he stated.

The Pulse was able to converse with Dr. Hildreth and gain a closer look at who he is outside of the big office. We explored why he chose medicine, why he returned to Meharry, and asked about his future plans for the institution.

Dr. Hildreth admits that he would not have even become a doctor if it was not for his father’s untimely death. Growing up in the 1960s with the harsh effects of racism and segregation looming, the 11 year old Hildreth could not understand why his father with a recent diagnosis of cancer could not receive access to quality healthcare. “The quality of care provided to poor people of color was different,” said Dr. Hildreth while thinking back to the vast amount of healthcare disparities that existed. After witnessing his father’s passing, something sparked in him. He wanted to help people even more. After recognizing that medicine was overwhelmed with unsolved etiologies, he entered the field of medicine with the opportunity to explore stimulating research ideas that in many ways would better the outcome of patients in similar situations as his father.

In 1982 while entering his first year at Johns Hopkins, Hildreth’s daughter Sophia whom he affectionately calls “Peanut” was born. He attributes having her and his wife, who was in law school at the time, as his main driving force in medical school. “Having (my family) to come home to everyday made it motivational for me and gave me an advantage since medical school can be so stressful,” he said.

Because Dr. Hildreth received his PhD before medical school, he had a different vantage point on school and was in the minority not only by race, but age as well.  However, Dr. Hildreth made it clear that he did not forget his roots, stating “I never cut myself off from who I was, it strikes me as very sad when people do that,” he confessed. He experienced medical school around many who did not look like or come from the same places as he did.

Dr. Hildreth ultimately decided to become a physician because he was amazed at the marvelous machine of the human body. He always enjoyed anatomy because he was able to examine the intricacies of the body. He recalls his interest in HIV beginning after seeing one of his first patients, a black woman with HIV. The woman had just had a baby, who was also HIV positive. Dr. Hildreth remembers that there were no drugs available in those times and that they could only treat the symptoms. After watching them suffer and die, he realized then what a huge problem this was for the world. It would be this worldwide epidemic that brought him to Meharry in 2005 as an HIV researcher and professor.

When asked why he chose to return to Meharry as the role of President after originally leaving in 2011, he responded with a simple “I don’t understand why people wouldn’t come back to this place.” He was particularly impressed with the story of Meharry’s humble beginnings and thought back to the famous salt wagon story. “The real players in the story are the former slaves’ names, whom we don’t know, but without them there would be no us,” he reminisced. He expressed that just as those former slaves are sometimes lost in anonymity, it parallels with how Meharry is sometimes viewed. Although Meharry is small, to some unknown and without much recognition, the school has undoubtedly changed the face of medicine.

“We can do things and make an impact that few other institutions can have because of our history,” he said.

Dr. Hildreth prides himself on being visible while on campus and states that he enjoys interacting with the students and faculty. He mentioned that being around students who have a spirit of service and an abundance of energy has made him into a proud “Chief Cheerleader of Meharry,” a self-coined title for himself. “I get to touch the future by training students,” he said. In fact, every Wednesday the President chooses a spot on campus at random to explore and immerse himself in. Students have reported seeing him in their respective labs, classrooms, or just grabbing some coffee at Metz Café.

It was on one of those Wednesdays that he was disheartened upon entering a classroom to find that only about 18 students out of the 105 enrollees present in class. As a result, he deemed it necessary to implement mandatory class attendance. Dr. Hildreth says that he did not do this to punish students, but to help them become better healthcare professionals.  “When people encounter Meharry trained students there should be no question that the student is competent and confident in all those things they were trained to do.” He urges students to be engaged and receive the best education that is offered to them.

However, Dr.Hildreth realizes that there is much work to be done not only with the students, but with faculty and staff alike.  “We can’t wait for others to solve the problems we have for us, we have to solve them ourselves, there are downfalls in the system, but there is hope.”

Throughout all of his achievements, awards and accolades, Dr. Hildreth remains humble and relatable. He attributes that to his relationship with God. “My humility is an amazing form of arrogance,” he began. “I understand that my destiny is in the hands of God so why should I worry about trying to impress others when God is the one controlling my destiny? I can be much more effective for people to see what I am doing rather than hear the words I say.”

Dr. Hildreth is overall very excited about the future of Meharry and says he is ready for the transformation. In 2026 Meharry will be celebrating its 150th birthday and he is confident that the school will meet all of its future goals, while still holding on to its core values.  Dr. Hildreth knows that he is exactly where he is supposed to be and looks forward to serving the Meharry family.

“One of the greatest blessings I received was my ability to be comfortable in my own skin,” he said. “I’ve never wanted to be anything other than who and what I am. Perhaps my whole life has been preparing me for this moment.” 

Scholarship to Medical College Celebrates African-American Pioneer in Radiology

Baltimore , Maryland, United States, 04/02/2015 /SubmitPressRelease123/

Luther Bert Adair, Sr, M.D. was born to Ella Mae Adair in Brooklyn, New York on February 25, 1944. Raised in a foster home, he spent his childhood and youth in Nyack, New York where he accepted Christ at an early age and became active and youth activities at Berea Seventh-day Adventist Church.

After receiving his high school diploma, he enrolled at State University of New York at Fredonia and, later, transferred to Howard University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology. He was accepted into Howard University School of Medicine in 1967, where he served as class president his junior and senior years. Dr. Adair also distinguished himself in the field of public health. He received the annual student award in community health practice from Howard University and a public health fellowship from the American Medical Association to study in Zagreb, Yugoslavia.

Dr. Adair would go on to serve as Chief Resident in radiology at Howard University under the mentorship of Dr. Harry Press, Chair of Radiology. He was an active member of the American Medical Association, the Southern Medical Association, the American College of Radiology, the Section on Radiology of the National Medical Association, and the Radiological Society of  North America. He became a Diplomat of the National Board of Examiners, earned board certification in radiology from the American Board of Radiology, and was licensed to practice in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Tennessee. In 1976, Dr. Adair entered a fellowship in neuroradiology at The Massachussetts General Hospital, a training hospital of Harvard Medical School, where he published several articles.

In 1979, at the age of 35, Dr. Adair accepted the position of Chairman of the Department of Radiology at Meharry Medical College. In addition to his administrative duties, he reorganized the Meharry Medical Practice Group, invested in the first CT Scanner at Meharry Hubbard Hospital, and founded Nashville Radiology Partners. He remained a mentor to students and Professor and Chair of the Department of Radiology until his health failed in 1988.

Interested in church and community, Dr. Adair was a member of Hillcrest Seventh-day Adventist Church. He served dutifully as an elder and a member of several committees. In 1988, under Dr. Adair’s leadership as Chair of the F.H. Jenkins Elementary School board, a new school was constructed and the curriculum expanded. Before Dr. Adair became ill, he was active in other civic groups, such as the NAACP and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He was a lifetime member of both organizations.
On Monday, April 4, 2005, Dr. Adair departed this life.  On Friday, April 3, 2015, the Adair and Moore families gathered to celebrate his life’s achievements and also announced a scholarship to Meharry Medical College in his name.