by Mikel Kwaku Osei Holt
It’s hard to step into someone’s shoes who has tread a path accentuated with gleaming contributions to their profession and the community it serves.
Dr. John R. Raymond, Sr. has seemingly achieved that goal in short order, not only covering the footprints of his predecessor, T. Michael Bolger, retired president of the Medical College of Wisconsin, but also redirecting the path to create several new inroads to the low-income community.
Bolger was well known in civic and educational circles. Some know him as a humanitarian. Others will note his advocacy of affirmative action efforts at the medical college, both for faculty and staff.
Still others note his activism in local educational arenas. It was originally on that battlefield that I met T. Michael, who was one of the founders of the Academy of Science and a colleague on the PAVE board.
T. Michael’s civic and philanthropic resume drew hundreds to his retirement celebration last summer, which also provided an opportunity to engage in an assessment of his successor, Dr. Raymond.
News of Dr. Raymond’s decision to leave a cushy job as vice president at the Medical University of South Carolina to step into Bolger’s shoes reverberated not only in the halls of the Medical College, but in local central city clinics and the board rooms of civic organizations.
I first heard of his selection not from a news release, but through the accolades of several noted MCW staff, including a Black physician, whose enthusiasm was hardly contained.
Highly respected physician and social activist Dr. Ernestine Willis, a noted faculty member and well known children’s health advocate, cut short our usual hug session following services at Christ the King Church several months ago to press me to schedule an interview with Dr. Raymond, several weeks before he was officially installed at the MCW.
Even though she is a close friend and supporter of T. Michael, there was no hiding her excitement at Dr. Raymond’s selection and she was quick to predict I would be impressed, as she was, both by his official resume, and his agenda for the MCW.
Dr. Willis is one of only 50,000 Black American physicians. Representing less than 6% of the nation’s physician corps, it is nonetheless a highly vocal and influential body that serves at the vanguard of social and medical reform, prioritizing primary advocacy for the health care needs of the underserved community.
Black physicians and the various organizations representing them also are at the vanguard of campaigns to recruit Black medical students and integrate hospital and medical school staffs.
But their primary concern is eliminating the health disparities that plague Black America, from disproportionate infant mortality to cancer rates.
As such, Black physicians have a vested interest in the MCW, both as it relates to increasing the number of Black medical students as well as the MCWs unique role in supplying physicians to area hospitals and clinics that serve the low income community.
Black MCW physicians and the Cream City Medical society have been actively engaging with the state’s only privately run medical college in recent years, and to the college’s credit, the results have been mutually beneficial.
Dr. Willis has been a central figure in those scenarios, and has expressed an interest in insuring that the foundation Bolger laid would be built upon. She let me know in no uncertain terms that Dr. Raymond is the perfect engineer to navigate the college’s future.
And to be honest, I too was impressed even before I had the opportunity to meet with him one-on-one after hearing two speeches he’s made at MCW since his arrival.
The first was at his installation. The latter was a few weeks later when he met with minority faculty and staff. At both events, Dr. Raymond laid out his philosophy on a number of subjects, none more impressive from my perspective than his commitment to build upon Bolger’s civic and civil rights foundation.
In each presentation Dr. Raymond talked about the importance of enhancing ‘diversity,’ not just in attracting minorities to the campus, but also in business opportunities.
Weeks later, during my interview with the Medical College’s new president, we discussed what diversity means to Dr. Raymond, as well as several other issues of great importance to the Black and minority community ranging from the new national health care initiative to the importance of increasing the country’s Black physicians corps.
We talked about research at the campus that focuses on hypertension, organ donation and alternating the medical team provision of service positions to bring costs down and allow the low income greater opportunity to avail themselves of meaningful health care.
You will no doubt be surprised and enlightened by his responses to my probing questions, which will be featured in next week’s MCJ.
It’s important that we start the new year off on a positive note. My one on one with Dr. Raymond next weeks fits that bill.
August 19, 2012 //
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