Meharry Medical College
Former names
Medical Department of Central Tennessee College
MottoWorship of God through Service to Mankind
TypePrivate historically black medical school
Established1876; 148 years ago (1876)
Religious affiliation
United Methodist Church[1][2]
Academic affiliation
Endowment$156.7 million (2020)[3]
PresidentJames E. K. Hildreth
Students956 (Fall 2021)
Location, ,
United States

36°10′01″N 86°48′25″W / 36.167°N 86.807°W / 36.167; -86.807

Meharry Medical College is a private historically black medical school affiliated with the United Methodist Church and located in Nashville, Tennessee. Founded in 1876 as the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College, it was the first medical school for African Americans in the South. While the majority of African Americans lived in the South, they were excluded from many public and private racially segregated institutions of higher education, particularly after the end of Reconstruction.

Meharry Medical College was chartered separately in 1915. In the early 21st century, it has become the largest private historically black institution in the United States solely dedicated to educating health care professionals and scientists.[4][5] The school has never been segregated.[6]

Meharry Medical College includes its School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, a School of Allied Health Professions, School of Graduate Studies and Research, the Harold R. West Basic Sciences Center, and the Metropolitan General Hospital of Nashville-Davidson County. The degrees that Meharry offers include Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.), Master of Health Science (M.H.S.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees. Meharry is the second-largest educator of African-American medical doctors and dentists in the United States.[7] It has the highest percentage of African Americans graduating with Ph.Ds in the biomedical sciences in the country.[8]

Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved is a public health journal owned by and edited at Meharry Medical College. Around 76% of graduates of the school work as doctors treating people in underserved communities.[5] School training emphasizes recognizing health disparities in different populations.[8]


Central Tennessee College (CTC), with Meharry Medical College inset in top right corner, 1895.

Meharry Medical College was one of six medical institutions established between the years of 1876 and 1900 in the state of Tennessee.[9] These schools were founded after the end of the Civil War when slaves had been freed. Because of their former restrictions, there were as yet few African-American physicians, and many freedmen in need of health care.[10] Because of segregation, most hospitals would not admit African Americans, and many white physicians often chose not to serve freedmen. During the late 19th century and into the early 20th century, most medical institutions accepted few, if any, African-American students. To combat this shortage of health care and the lack of accessibility to medical education, individuals, such as Samuel Meharry, and organizations, such as the Medical Association of Colored Physicians, Surgeons, Dentists, and Pharmacists (later renamed the National Medical Association), helped to found medical schools specifically for African Americans.[11]

The college was named for Samuel Meharry, a young Irish American immigrant who first worked as a salt trader on the Kentucky-Tennessee frontier.[5] After achieving some success, he and four of his brothers later made a major donation to help establish the college.[12] As a young trader, Meharry had been aided by a family of freedmen, whose names are unknown.[13] Meharry reportedly told the formerly enslaved family, "I have no money, but when I can I shall do something for your race."[14]

Students at Central Tennessee College (CTC) approached the college president about setting up a medical school in 1875.[13] The president, John Braden, approached Samuel Meharry to discuss the proposal.[13] In 1875, Meharry, together with four of his brothers, donated a total of $15,000 to assist with establishing a medical department at (CTC), a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee.[14] With the contribution of the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church North, George W. Hubbard and Braden,[15] they opened the Medical College at CTC in 1876 with a starting class of nine students.[16] The classes took place in the basement of the Clark Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church.[17] The first regular year of classes began in October 1876 and had eleven students in that group.[16] The medical program was initially two years long, but they added an additional year in 1879 and a fourth year to the course of study in 1893.[17]

Hubbard, a physician, served as the founding president of the medical college.[16] The first student graduated in 1877.[5] The second class, which had its commencement in 1878, had three graduates.[18]

In 1886, the Dental Department was founded, followed by a Pharmacy Department founded in 1889.[19][20] The Dental and Pharmaceutical Building was dedicated on October 20, 1889.[21] By 1896, half of all "regularly educated physicians then practicing in the South" had graduated from Meharry.[22]

A nurse-training school was also developed during the 1900–1901 school year and the first class had eight students.[21] A training hospital, Mercy Hospital, was built during the 1901–1902 school year.[21] This hospital was replaced in 1916 and named the George W. Hubbard Hospital.[23] Meharry Auditorium, with a 1,000 person capacity, was built in 1904.[21]

In 1900, CTC changed its name to Walden University.[21] In 1915, the medical department faculty of Walden University received a separate charter to operate independently as Meharry Medical College.[19] The college continued to be privately funded.[12] The Medical College remained in its original buildings, and Walden University moved to another campus in Nashville in 1922.[24]

In 1910, Meharry absorbed medical students from Flint Medical College when that school was closed.[25] Meharry also graduated a large number of women physicians for the time period, with 39 women having graduated by 1920.[26] In 1923, Meharry was recognized as a "grade-A institution" by the American Medical Association (AMA).[12]

Since its founding, Meharry Medical College has added several graduate programs in the areas of science, medicine, and public health. In 1938, the School of Graduate Studies and Research was founded. The first master's degree program, a Master of Science in Public Health, was established in 1947. In the 1950s, the nursing school and dental technology school were ended.[5] The department of Psychiatry was established in 1961 by school president, Lloyd Charles Elam, a psychiatrist.[27] During the 1960s, Meharry began to focus on fighting health disparities.[17] In 1968, Meharry created the Matthew Walker Health Center to provide health services to the community.[28] Also in 1968, the school added a Ph.D. degree in basic sciences.[19]

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, 83 percent of all African American physicians had been trained at Meharry Medical College and Howard University School of Medicine.[29] In 1970, more than 60 percent of black medical students worked as residents at these two colleges.[30] In 1972, Meharry started receiving federal distress grants which were given to medical schools with deficits in operating costs and problems with accreditation.[31] By 1976, the school campus took up space on 65 acres.[32]

In 1981, the accrediting body of the AMA put Meharry on probation because there were not enough patients in the Hubbard Hospital for students and the student to teacher ratio was too high.[31] In 1983, president Ronald Reagan allowed the school to work with patients in the nearby veterans' hospitals and the Blanchfield Army Community Hospital and the college regained full accreditation.[31] By 1986, around 46 percent of all black faculty members in medical schools had graduated from Meharry.[33]

In 1972, a Ph.D. program was implemented. A decade later in 1982, Meharry established an M.D/Ph.D. program. In 2004, Meharry created a Master's of Science in Clinical Investigation program (2004).[34]

The Hubbard Hospital, belonging to Meharry Medical College, closed in 1994 and was renovated as the new site for the Metropolitan Nashville General Hospital, opening November 1997.[35] The year 1994 was also a start for more renovations of campus buildings initiated by campus president, John E. Maupin Jr.[36] The school was also suffering from a $49 million deficit and morale at the school was low.[36] The Nashville General Hospital's lease money, however, helped bring money into the school and eventually, by June 1995, the finances of the school were stabilized.[36] In 1999, the college partnered with Vanderbilt University Medical Center.[36]

In 2005, Meharry was censured by the American Association of University Professors for not observing generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure.[37][38]

On November 9, 2017, Meharry, under president James E.K. Hildreth, signed a memorandum of agreement with Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), America's largest for-profit operator of health care facilities. Under the agreement, Meharry's medical students will gain clinical training at HCA's TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center in Nashville.[39] Meharry students had previously received clinical training at numerous sites, primarily Nashville General Hospital, which had moved on-campus in the 1990s.[40] Withdrawal of the alliance with Meharry is thought to threaten the provision of inpatient care at Nashville General Hospital.[41] A board member resigned over this surprise decision and announcement.[42]

In April 2019, then-dean and senior vice president of health affairs Dr. Veronica Mallett secured a partnership with Detroit Medical Center to increase the number of Meharry students able to complete their studies at that hospital.[43] Meharry students had been accepted at Sinai-Grace Hospital alongside Michigan State and Wayne State university students since July 2018.[44]

In September 2020, philanthropist Michael Bloomberg donated $34 million to help lower student debt at the institution. Bloomberg's gift is the largest in Meharry's history.[45]

In 2021, Meharry launched Meharry Medical College Ventures to aid in reducing health disparities through forming partnerships with medical facilities across the US. Mallett was the inaugural president and CEO,[46][47] serving until 2023. She has been succeeded by Reginald Holt.[48]

In March 2022, MacKenzie Scott donated $20 million to Meharry. Scott's gift is one of the largest in Meharry's history.[49]


George W. Hubbard served as Meharry Medical College's first president from its founding in 1876 until his retirement in 1921.[50]

The second president of the school was John J. Mullowney, who served from 1921 to 1938.[51] He implemented changes in order to improve Meharry's overall academic rating. Admission requirements were tightened and strictly enforced, a superintendent was installed at the hospital, and the number of faculty, research facilities, and hospital facilities were all expanded. Two years after Mullowney took leadership, Meharry Medical College received an ‘A’ rating.[19]

Succeeding Meharry Medical College presidents have been:

From 1950 to 1952 a committee guided the institution instead of a president. In 1952, Meharry welcomed its first African-American president, Dr. Harold D. West.[19] West made numerous changes, made possible by his successful $20 million fund drive. He added a new wing to Hubbard Hospital, eliminated the nursing and the dental technology programs, and purchased land adjacent to the campus for expansion.[19]


Meharry Medical College spent $96 million on research during fiscal years between 2013 and 2017.[8] The school has a Graduate Studies and Research department.[5]

Research centers include:

BS/MD Program

Ten universities are in partnership with Meharry to better recruit and prepare their best pre-med students for the academic rigor of Meharry. The ten universities are Alabama A&M University, Albany State University, Alcorn State University, Fisk University, Grambling State University, Hampton University, Jackson State University, Southern University, Tennessee State University, and Virginia Union University.[52]

Notable alumni

Dr. Audrey Manley, Deputy Surgeon General of the United States, 1995–1997.
Dr. Corey Hébert
Dr. Lloyd Tevis Miller
Name Class year Notability
Lucinda Bragg Adams 1907 Prior to her medical degree, a noted composer, writer, and editor.[53]
Willie Adams Jr. 1969 First black mayor of Albany, Georgia.[54]
Daniel Sharpe Malekebu 1917 First Malawian to receive a medical degree; Christian missionary and anti-colonial activist
Hastings Kamuzu Banda 1937 President of the Republic of Malawi.[55]
Carl C. Bell 1971 Professor of psychiatry.[56]
Emmett Ethridge Butler 1934 Physician and community leader in Gainesville, Georgia, and President, Georgia State Medical Association
Clive O. Callender Transplant surgeon, chairman of Department, Howard University College of Medicine and founder Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP).[57]
Donna P. Davis 1975 First African-American woman doctor to enter the United States Navy.[58]
Renita Barge Clark 1992 Founder of the Cotillion Society of Detroit Educational Foundation.[59]
Tameka A. Clemons 2003 Biochemist and professor at Meharry.[60]
Edward S. Cooper 1949 First African American president of the American Heart Association (AHA).[61]
Lillian Singleton Dove 1917 Early Chicago physician and surgeon.[62]
Jacob J. Durham 1882 Founder of Morris College.[63]
Winston C. Hackett First African American physician in Arizona.[64]
John Henry Hale 1905 Prominent surgeon who is credited for 30,000 operations, was a member of Meharry faculty for 29 years.[65]
Robert Hayling 1960 Leader of the civil rights movement in St. Augustine, Florida that led to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964
Corey Hébert 1994 Celebrity physician, radio talk show host, chief medical editor for National Broadcasting Company for the Gulf Coast, first Black chief resident of pediatrics at Tulane University, chief executive officer of Community Health TV.[66]
Robert Walter Johnson Tennis Instructor for Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, Physician and Educator.[67]
Alonzo Homer Kenniebrew 1897 Founder of New Home Sanitarium, the first African-American-owned and -operated surgical hospital in America.[68]
John S. Jackson First African American surgeon, city commissioner, and mayor of Lakeland, Florida.
Robert Lee 1944 South Carolina-born dentist who emigrated to Ghana in 1956 and operated a dental practice there for nearly five decades until his retirement in 2002.[69]
John Angelo Lester 1895 Professor emeritus of physiology, hospital surgeon for Company G, unattached, (colored) of Tennessee State Guard, secretary of Meharry Alumni Association, member of Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.
Monroe Alpheus Majors 1886 Physician and writer and civil rights activist in Texas and Los Angeles, California.[70]
Eleanor L. Makel 1943 Supervising medical officer, St. Elizabeths Hospital.[71]
Audrey F. Manley 1959 Surgeon General of the United States, President Spelman College.[72]
John E. Maupin Jr. Ninth president of Meharry Medical College in 1994.[73]
Lloyd Tevis Miller 1893 Medical director of the Afro-American Sons and Daughters Hospital in Yazoo City, Mississippi (1928-1950)[74]
Conrad Murray Personal physician of Michael Jackson, convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's death on June 25, 2009.[75]
Louis Pendleton Dentist and civil rights leader in Shreveport, Louisiana.[76]
James Maxie Ponder First African American physician in St. Petersburg, Florida.[77]
Theresa Greene Reed 1949 First African-American woman epidemiologist.[78]
Charles Victor Roman 1899 Founder and head of the Department of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology at Meharry Medical College.[79]
Frank S. Royal 1968 Chair of Meharry Medical college's board; director of public companies; former president of the National Medical Association.[80]
William B. Sawyer Founder of Miami's first hospital for African Americans
C. O. Simpkins Sr. Dentist and civil rights leader in Shreveport; member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1992 to 1996.[81]
Walter R. Tucker Jr. Former mayor of Compton, California.[82]
Matthew Walker Sr. 1934 Former professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery, Meharry.[83]
Georgia E. L. Patton Washington 1893 First African American woman licensed to practice medicine in Tennessee.[84]
Emma Rochelle Wheeler 1905 Founder of Walden Hospital and school of nursing, both serving African Americans, in Chattanooga.[85]
Charles H. Wright 1943 Founder of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.[86]
Joyce Yerwood 1933 Physician and social justice advocate. First female African American physician in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Founded the Yerwood Center, an African American community center in Stamford, Connecticut.[87]
James Robert Gladden 1939 First African American to be board certified by The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), in 1949. He also became the first African American to be elected a Fellow of The American College of Surgeons, in 1951.


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Additional references