A Conversation with Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, President of Morehouse School of Medicine
By: Char’Nese Turner
As we approach the close of the college commencement season, XXTRA Special and Free had the pleasure of chatting with Morehouse School of Medicine President, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice. She shared with us her mission as the first female president of the school and her approach for recruitment and attaining students.
XXTRA: How have you added diverse ideas, innovation and programs to your institution? Was it a difficult transition?
DVMR: I got to bring all of who I am to this role. I brought different ideas that aligned with our experiences; it’s what we call cognitive diversity. I brought all types of people together to figure out how to solve and address challenges the school may be facing. We face challenges not problems.
XXTRA: You use the term “cognitive diversity” when speaking to the process for attaining students. What does that mean and how is it applied?
DVMR: Cognitive Diversity is not limited to ethnicity, race or gender. It’s all about experiences. When expanding our class size from 56 students, I welcomed diverse voices to the table. I brought in people who helped found the school, alums, people resistant to change and prospective teachers in order to get ideas on how to move the school forward. Our class expansion is tangible evidence. We’ve had 100 students enroll in the last five years.
XXTRA: The Morehouse School of Medicine was founded to address the disparities of health care professionals in Georgia and improve the lives of citizens. How does this mission pertain to women of color specifically?
DVMR: A lot of our research is focused on Black women. We study breast cancer and lung cancer. It’s not just about access, but genetic, environment and social quality of care for these women. We want intervention that leads to equity. For example, Black women need digital mammograms because we have denser breast tissue and a higher chance of diagnosis being missed. We raise awareness of those differences and partner with others to implement strategies to take action. At Morehouse School of Medicine, we view you as more than a patient – as a whole individual, and from we identify the best solutions.
XXTRA: In terms of proposed budget and research opportunities, how has President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget influenced your funding/research quests?
DVMR: We follow the federal process. Our large dollars come from the state; from federal we focus on NIH (National Institutes of Health) dollars and that hasn’t been challenged because we have great advocates. We are impacted by Title III Title VII dollars because they fund our pipeline program, recruitment and faculty development. Title III supports infrastructure of new programs and technology, which in turn supports our students.