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Medicine in America underwent a radical transformation in 1910. This was the year the Flexner Report was published, a document that evaluated the country’s medical schools and called for sweeping change to the entire medical education system. The report’s recommendations ultimately led to the closure of about 75% of U.S. medical schools, including five of the then seven Black medical colleges.

For the second episode of “Color Code,” we reflect upon the Flexner Report and examine the ripple effects it had on medical education that are still felt today, especially for Black doctors.

The two Black medical schools that survived the Flexner Report were Howard University in D.C. and Meharry Medical College in Nashville. The remaining five were permanently shuttered. Some estimates suggest that had those schools not closed, they may have helped educate some 30,000-35,000 Black physicians over the past century.

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In the biochemistry lab at Meharry Medical College in Nashville in 1956, two students carry out an experiment under the supervision of Dr. H.D. West (left), the school’s fifth president and first Black president. AP
the Hubbard Training School for Nurses
During the time the Hubbard Training School for Nurses was established, a nurses’ home was built to accommodate the faculty, staff, and student nurses. Graduate registered nurses, one dietician, a matron of the home, and 60 pupils resided here. Hubbard Hospital was established as a division of the Meharry Medical College, opening its doors in 1910. Courtesy Sandra Parham/Meharry Medical College

In this episode, you will hear from Max Jordan Nguemeni Tiako, a resident physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital about his experiences as a Black medical student. Sandra Parham, a librarian from Meharry Medical College, tells us about the early days of the school after the Flexner Report. Todd Savitt, a historian of medicine at East Carolina University, reflects on who Abraham Flexner was; and Terri Laws, who teaches health and human services and African and African American studies at the University of Michigan, shares her insight into the legacy of Flexner’s work.

Meharry Medical School’s Class of 1916 in Nashville. Wikimedia Commons

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A transcript of this episode is available here.

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This podcast was made possible with support from the Commonwealth Fund