Remarks by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey on the 25th Anniversary of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program

Harold Amos alumni have fulfilled the program's original vision, says the RWJF president and CEO: the idea that role models are essential to serve as beacons of possibility.

    • October 2, 2008

I am pleased and excited to share this wonderful occasion with all of you—especially the many people whose hard work, determination and achievements have made the Harold Amos program so successful, and so worthy of celebration after 25 years. Three messages.

This program did not just happen. All of you made it happen.

Congratulations to all of you on this auspicious anniversary. A special congratulations to Ruby Hearn, who envisioned your success before many of you even dreamed of going to med school.

We have much to celebrate tonight.

The people who have been part of Harold Amos are truly a family. Now, after a quarter century, the Harold Amos family has become multi-generational: early graduates have reached back to encourage and support those who came after them into program.

And Harold Amos alumni have fulfilled the program's original vision: the idea that role models are essential to serve as beacons of possibility, so that bright, promising, highly motivated people from underrepresented groups and disadvantaged backgrounds can envision themselves as physicians and scientists doing groundbreaking work.

Your presence in the positions you've attained in science and medicine has given a generation of students the precious, intangible gift that can unlock the future for them: the vision of someone like them, doing exciting, intriguing science—that they couldn't quite imagine for themselves—until they saw you doing it. I know because when I arrived at Harvard Medical School, Harold Amos was there to imagine the possible.

Unfortunately he was the only person of color on the basic science faculty…. That was 1979. If you read the history of this program you'll appreciate that there were only less than 20 new African American faculty being appointed to medical school per year then.

The imperative to diversify the fields of health and health care is as urgent now as it was when this program was launched in 1983. The nation is moving inexorably toward "majority minority" demographics, and the number of underrepresented and disadvantaged groups in health professions remains too small.

This brings me to the second message. Results of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program gives us hope because of the incredible number who go on to be associate professors, professors, members of the IOM, internationally recognized researchers, deans, university presidents, and NIH Institute Directors.

For that, I salute the current program participants, alumni, NAC members and other proud champions of the program gathered here tonight.

To the current participants, I say you have "greatness in your future."

Third, I am so very proud tonight and with that pride comes a promise to stick with the program and you.

As one small measure of pride, I am pleased to share with you the Harold Amos Faculty Development Program story.

Congratulations to you all!