Meharry Medical College, located in Nashville, Tennessee, United States, is a graduate and professional institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church whose mission is to educate health care professionals and scientists. Founded in 1876 as the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College, it was the first medical school in the South for African Americans, though not the first medical school for African Americans in the nation.
Meharry Medical College was chartered separately in 1915. It is currently the largest private historically black institution in the United States solely dedicated to educating health care professionals and scientists.
The college was named for a young Scots-Irish immigrant salt trader named Samuel Meharry, who was traveling through the rough terrain of Kentucky when his wagon suddenly slipped off the road and fell into a swamp. Meharry was helped by a family of freedmen, whose names are unknown. This family of freed slaves gave Meharry food and shelter in the night. The next morning they helped him to recover his wagon. Meharry is reported to have told the former slave family, “I have no money, but when I can I shall do something for your race.
Among the second class of graduates was Lorenzo Dow Key, the son of Hillery Wattsworth Key. Key, together with Braden, was one of the founding members of the Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, North. The church had split into Methodist Episcopal Church North and Methodist Episcopal Church South on the issue of slavery and was not reunited until 1939.
Meharry Medical College was one of the fourteen medical institutions established between the years of 1868 and 1907. Of these fourteen schools, six were located in the state of Tennessee. These schools were founded after the end of the Civil War when a large gap formed between the number of people in need of health care and the number of physicians willing to treat African Americans. During the late 19th century and into the early 20th century, most medical institutions accepted very few, if any, African American students. In order to combat this shortage of health care and the lack of accessibility to medical education, individuals, such as Samuel Meharry, as well as organizations, like 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.
Since its foundation, 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 program, a Master of Science in Public Health Degree, was put into place in 1947. In 1972, a Ph.D. program was implemented, and in 1982 Meharry established an M.D/Ph.D. program. In more recent years Meharry has created a Masters’ of Science in Clinical Investigation degree program (2004).
After George W. Hubbard’s death, a succession of presidents followed until 1950. From 1950-1952 there existed an interim period in which Meharry had no president, but instead had a committee that served as the institutions principal leader. In 1952, Meharry welcomed its first African American president, Dr. Harold D. West. West made a numerous changes using a $20 million fund drive. He added a new wing to the Hubbard Hospital, eliminated both the nursing and dental technology programs, and purchased land adjacent to the campus in order to make room for expansion.
Another notable former president of the school was Dr. John J. Mullowney. Mullowney became president of Meharry on February 1, 1921. He immediately began to implement changes to the school in order to improve Meharry’s overall rating. Admission requirements were heightened and strictly enforced, a superintendent was implemented at the hospital, and faculty number, research facilities, and hospital facilities were all expanded. Two years after Mullowney’s took leadership, Mehary Medical College received and ‘A’ rating.
- Asthma Disparities Center
- Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neurosciences
- Center for Women’s Health Research
- Clinical Research Center
- Export Center for Health Disparities
- Meharry Center for Health Disparities Research in HIV
- Sickle Cell Center
Seven universities are in partnership with Meharry to help recruit and prepare their pre-med students to enroll at Meharry. The seven universities are Alabama A&M University,Albany State University, Fisk University, Grambling State University, Jackson State University, Southern University, and Tennessee State University.