Xavier University To Establish Medical School, Aims To Diversify Medical Field

Xavier University, the New Orleans Catholic HBCU, and Ochsner Health signed a formal agreement on April 29 to bring a medical school to the university. The Xavier Ochsner College of Medicine will join the Howard University College of Medicine, the Morehouse School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, and the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science as the country’s only historically Black medical schools. 

As The Associated Press reports, those medical schools will soon be joined by Morgan State University, which is currently attempting to establish its own medical school. There is no opening date for Xavier’s medical school; it can take up to three years to obtain accreditation from the Liason Committee on Medical Education. From there, the school can begin recruiting students to fill an initial class of up to 50 students. 

The medical school fits into the City of New Orleans’ larger plan to create BioDistrict New Orleans, which it is establishing to foster economic development and create jobs in biological science. The new medical school also fits into Xavier’s academic pedigree; it has long been a university that prepares students to attend medical schools nationwide.

Xavier President Reynold Verrett released a statement to the AP indicating that the new college will help address health disparities in medicine. “With the establishment of the Xavier Ochsner College of Medicine, Ochsner and Xavier aim to address long-standing health disparities and foster stronger, healthier communities in pursuit of the mission to promote a more just and humane society gifted to Xavier nearly 100 years ago by our foundress, St. Katharine Drexel and her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.”

Dr. Leonardo Seoane, the executive vice-president and chief academic officer of Ochsner Health, as well as the first appointed dean of the new college of medicine, told Diverse Education, “This building will be a beacon of hope for Black and Brown young kids throughout the region, where they can see physicians who look like them,” said Dr. Seoane, before describing the school’s intended effect on students. “If they can do it, I can do it, too. This can be me.”

Verrett reflected on the damage the medical community has done to Black people through a lack of trust, telling Diverse Education, “If you want to think about the thesis that trust and lack thereof is the underlying factor in health inequities and disparities, COVID was an unplanned experiment where trust in the medical system became a barrier to quality care.” Verrett continued, “A lot of work had to be done to overcome [that distrust], to get people over those barriers, and we saw excessive deaths because of lack of trust. So [the COVID] experiment taught us something: when we speak about medical school, it became a factor in trust.”

Dr. Derek Robinson, a Xavier alum, a founding member of Xavier’s board of directors for the medical school, and the divisional senior vice-president and chief medical officer at Chicago’s Health Care Service Center, told the outlet he believes the medical school is a vital part of efforts to increase inclusion in the medical field. “I think it’s really exciting.

“Xavier has been realizing its mission for nearly a century; its individuals from all walks of life are helping to make the world more just and more human,” Robinson said. “This work will inspire bold efforts to expand inclusiveness in terms of access to careers and healthcare in the U.S. It’s not an obligation that Xavier carries alone; it’s the collect efforts of universities and local health partners across the country to make a difference.”

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