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Sullivan_head_shot--MSM_logo_background jpegLouis W. Sullivan, M.D., is chairman of the board of the National Health Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, whose goal is to improve the health of Americans by enhancing health literacy and advancing healthy behaviors. He also is chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions — a national non-profit organization with a community-focused agenda to diversify and transform health professions’ education and health delivery systems.

He served as chair of the President’s Commission on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from 2002-2009, and was co-chair of the President’s Commission on HIV and AIDS from 2001-2006. With the exception of his tenure as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from 1989 to 1993, Dr. Sullivan was president of Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) — the first predominantly black medical school established in the 20th Century — for more than two decades. On July 1, 2002, he retired and was appointed president emeritus.

Dr. 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 re-named Morehouse School of Medicine, with Dr. Sullivan as dean and president.

MSM was fully accredited as a four-year medical school in April 1985. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (June, 2010) Morehouse School of Medicine was ranked number one in social mission of all U.S. medical schools. Its graduates include former U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and former Meharry Medical College President Wayne Riley.

Dr. Sullivan left MSM in 1989 to accept an appointment by President George H.W. Bush to serve as secretary of HHS. In this cabinet position, Dr. Sullivan managed the federal agency responsible for the major health, welfare, food and drug safety, medical research and income security programs serving the American people.

A native of Atlanta, Dr. Sullivan graduated magna cum laude from Morehouse College in 1954, and earned 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.

Dr. Sullivan is the recipient of more than 70 honorary degrees, including an honorary doctor of medicine degree from the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

He is the author of The Morehouse Mystique: Becoming a Doctor at the Nation’s Newest African American Medical School (with Marybeth Gasman, 2012, Johns Hopkins University Press) and his autobiography Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine* (with David Chanoff, 2014, University of Georgia Press).


He is married to E. Ginger Sullivan, an attorney. The Sullivan’s have three grown children: Paul, a radiologist; Shanta, an actress and Halsted, a Harvard Law graduate and writer/producer for network television. Halsted was also a writer and co-producer of the popular NBC TV comedy, The Office.

Dr. and Mrs. Sullivan have two grandchildren, Paul Jr. and Brent Sullivan.

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Get Well Wednesday: Dr. Louis Sullivan  was originally published on