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Louis Wade Sullivan
17th United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
In office
March 1, 1989 – January 20, 1993
President George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Otis Bowen
Succeeded by Donna Shalala
Personal details
Born (1933-11-03) November 3, 1933 (age 90)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Eva Ginger Sullivan
Education Morehouse College (BS)
Boston University (MD)

Louis Wade Sullivan (born November 3, 1933) is an active health policy leader, minority health advocate, author, physician, and educator. He served as the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services during President George H. W. Bush's Administration and was Founding Dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine.


He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, although his parents moved to rural Blakely, Georgia, shortly after he was born. His father was a mortician and his mother a teacher. His parents sent him, and his brother Walter, to live with friends in Atlanta during the school year where there were better public schools. By age 5, with inspiration from his family physician and encouragement from teachers and parents, Sullivan had decided he would pursue a career in healthcare.

In 1950, Sullivan graduated from Atlanta's Booker T. Washington high school as Class Salutatorian. He then enrolled at Morehouse College and graduated magna cum laude in 1954, before earning his medical degree, cum laude, from Boston University School of Medicine in 1958. His postgraduate training included internship and residency in internal medicine at New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center (1958–60), a clinical fellowship in pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital (1960–61), and a research fellowship in hematology at the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory of Harvard Medical School, Boston City Hospital (1961–63).

He is certified in internal medicine and hematology, holds a mastership from the American College of Physicians and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha academic honor societies.

Sullivan was an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School from 1963–64, and an assistant professor of medicine at Seton Hall College of Medicine from 1964–66. In 1966, he became co-director of hematology at Boston University Medical Center and, a year later, founded the Boston University Hematology Service at Boston City Hospital. Sullivan remained at Boston University until 1975, holding positions as assistant professor of medicine, associate professor of medicine, and professor of medicine. In his teaching, he specialized in "sickle-cell anemia and blood disorders related to vitamin deficiencies".

He married E. Ginger Williamson, an attorney, on September 30, 1955. They have three children.

Sullivan is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

In 1992, he received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. In 2000, he received an honorary degree in Doctor of Letters from Oglethorpe University.

Morehouse School of Medicine

Sullivan became the founding dean and director of the Medical Education Program at Morehouse College in 1975. The program became The School of Medicine at Morehouse College in 1978, admitting its first 24 students to a two-year program in the basic medical sciences. In 1981, the school received provisional accreditation of its four-year curriculum leading to the M.D. degree, became independent from Morehouse College and was renamed Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), with Sullivan as dean and president. In 1983, MSM became a member of the Atlanta University Center (AUC). MSM was fully accredited as a four-year medical school in April 1985 and awarded its first 16 M.D. degrees in May of that year.

With the exception of his tenure as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from 1989 to 1993, Sullivan was president of Morehouse School of Medicine for more than two decades. On July 1, 2002, he retired and was appointed president emeritus.

The Sullivan Commission

Established in 2003, the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce [was] an outgrowth of a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to Duke University School of Medicine. Named for former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., the Commission [was] composed of 16 health, business, higher education and legal experts and other leaders. Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole and former U.S. Congressman and Congressional Health Subcommittee Chairman Paul Rogers [served] as Honorary Co-Chairs.

The Sullivan Commission [made] policy recommendations to bring about systemic change that [addressed] the scarcity of minorities in the health professions. The work of the Commission [came] at a time when enrollment of racial and ethnic minorities in nursing, medicine, and dentistry has stagnated despite America's growing diversity. While African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians, as a group, constitute nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population, these three groups account for less than 9 percent of nurses, 6 percent of physicians, and only 5 percent of dentists.

The Sullivan Commission gathered testimonies from health, education, religion and business leaders; community and civil rights advocates; health care practitioners; and students. Drawing upon the expertise and experience of the Commissioners, and the witnesses who provided valuable testimony, the Commission's report, Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions, [provided] the nation with a blueprint for achieving diversity in the health professions.

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