David Satcher, MD, PhD

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar 1975-1976

    • May 15, 2005

Position: Director
Center of Excellence on Health Disparities
Director, Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta
Former Surgeon General
U.S. Public Health Service
Department of Health and Human Services

Clinical Scholar: 1975–1976, University of California at Los Angeles Medical School

Research Project: "Needs Assessment for an Inner-City Family Practice Program"

Clinical Specialty: Family Medicine

After his period as a Clinical Scholar, David Satcher became a faculty member of the UCLA School of Medicine and Public Health and the King-Drew Medical Center, where he developed and chaired the Department of Family Medicine. He directed the King-Drew Sickle Cell Research Center for six years. He then served as professor and chairman of Community Medicine and Family Practice at Morehouse School of Medicine. In 1982, he was named president of Meharry Medical College, a post he held until 1993, when he became director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Satcher was sworn in as Surgeon General and Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Human Services, on February 13, 1998. He is the recipient of 18 honorary degrees and numerous distinguished honors.

My tenure in the Clinical Scholars program fortified my career goals, in a sense. What I did was related to what I was doing in Watts [a section of Los Angeles]. I was very concerned about the absence of primary care in Watts. As a Clinical Scholar I conducted a study to assess the attitudes of people in that inner-city community about having a physician of their own, and seeing the same physician and having that physician coordinate their care, and how much they valued that. It was a meticulous study: I involved the education school, several sampling experts, several survey research experts, and did a field test. They turned me into a social scientist. I was always community-oriented—I came from that kind of community, in a sense—but it allowed me to go back there with some tools … and things progressed from there. So the program basically spurred my interest in health services research.

I have taken on some difficult challenges. When I went to Meharry in 1982 as president, a lot of people advised me not to do it. Many people projected that it was going to close. People affiliated with the Clinical Scholars program in many ways became for me a sort of unofficial advisory board. Meharry had a board of trustees, in addition I often turned to people who I had worked with in the Clinical Scholars program. Over the years, it has sort of been a family to me in a lot of different, challenging situations.

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