Gemma Greene –Blackdoctor.org
Xavier University, a small catholic school in heart of New Orleans, created a pre-med program on campus that has consistently produced more black medical school students than any other college in the U.S. How the school achieved this despite the its small size and the setbacks historically black colleges & universities have faced in recent years is the subject of a new story in New York Times Magazine.
One main reason is the school’s recently retired former president, Norman Francis. While only a couple of year’s into his job, a report came across his desk. It was an alarming accounting of the nation’s medical students, and it found that the already tiny number of black students attending medical school was dropping.
It was the 1970s, at the tail end of the civil rights movement. Francis, a black man in his early 40s back then, the son of a hotel bellhop, had pushed past racist gatekeepers when he became the first black student to be admitted to Loyola University’s law school in 1952.
Francis believed he was in a unique position to address the absence of black doctors. At the time, Xavier served a nearly all-black student body of just over 1,300. And most of Xavier’s science department was housed in an old donated Army building with no air-conditioning a loud heater (think “always too hot” or “always too cold”). But the science program had always been strong, and it began producing its first medical-school students not long after the university was founded in 1925.
Today, Xavier’s campus boasts around 3,000 students and consistently produces more black students who apply to and then graduate from medical school than any other institution in the country. More than big state schools like Michigan or Florida. More than elite ivy league schools like Harvard and Yale. Xavier is also first in the nation in graduating black students with bachelor’s degrees in biology and physics. It is among the top four institutions graduating black pharmacists. It is third in the nation in black graduates who go on to earn doctorates in science and engineering.
Xavier has accomplished all his without high cost, high-tech facilities. As a matter of fact, its entire science program is still housed in a single complex.
It has accomplished this while charging tuition that is seen by most as a great deal: at $19,800 a year. It is considerably less than that of many private colleges and flagship public universities.
It has accomplished this without filling its classrooms with the nation’s elite black students. Most of Xavier’s students are the first in their families to attend college, and more than half come from lower-income homes.
Another reason Xavier is successful is that students and faculty alike share in each other’s success. Faculty members collaborate on course subjects and create workbooks for students that simplify complex textbook material. Regular quizzes and drills not only assess student progress but also whether professors need to rethink their approach. In some cases, they do and have come back with something better and has greater retention for students.
So it’s not just the students learning, it’s the teachers learning better ways to teach.
You can call it the secret sauce, main ingredient or right prescription–whatever it is, Xavier has it.
Bravo Xavier University. Bravo!