Morehouse School of Medicine President Dr. John E. Maupin announced his retirement Friday and tapped Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice as his successor as part of the school’s restructured leadership model.
Montgomery Rice will be MSM’s seventh permanent president and the first black woman to lead an independent medical school in the United States.
“I would never take away from the significance of that,” Montgomery Rice, 51, said, “but it also says we have a long way to go in this country.”
Maupin, 66, will officially step down July 1, 2014, but Montgomery Rice — the school’s current vice president and dean — will spend the next year working closely with him raising money, building political capital and expanding programs.
After she takes over, MSM will launch the largest capital campaign in school history, to pad its $80 million endowment.
The transition is part of a 2010 plan approved by the school’s board of trustees to create a new leadership structure at the 38-year-old school by elevating the role of dean to chief executive officer while retaining chief academic officer responsibilities.
“We both have the same vision,” said Maupin, who also worked with Montgomery Rice at Meharry Medical College in Nashville. “The most important part is that this is a thoughtful and well-planned transition.”
Montgomery Rice said for the time being, MSM’s mission will remain the same — addressing Georgia’s physician shortage and placing them in underserved communities. MSM will have an entering class of 70 MD students this fall, moving it closer to a goal of 100 by 2016.
At the same time, Montgomery Rice wants to widen MSM’s brand by digging deeper into communities, while expanding research in areas that disproportionately impact minorities and the poor, such as diabetes, obesity and various forms of cancer.
“This is an awesome opportunity,” said Montgomery Rice, a Harvard Medical School-trained obstetrician and gynecologist. “I feel fortunate that the board had the vision to recognize the importance of a smooth and seamless transition that takes into consideration the value of the previous president.”
At 8:30 a.m. Friday, just 90 minutes after the announcement, Montgomery Rice’s office was buzzing. Congratulatory calls were coming in, and a long list of media interviews was piling up.
Her office was filled with flowers and balloons because Thursday was the second anniversary of her arrival at MSM from Meharry, where she was the founder and director of the Center for Women’s Health Research.
A Macon native, Montgomery Rice is quick to point out that she is a product of a state education, having attended public schools before going to Georgia Tech.
She didn’t grow up wanting to be a doctor, but when engineering jobs started being offered, she decided she didn’t want to be an engineer. She applied to medical school and got accepted at Harvard.
“I thought leaving Georgia would be an eye-opening experience for me,” Montgomery Rice said. “There was a great diversity in thought at Harvard, and I came back knowing I wanted to do academic research.”
She completed her training in obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University Medical School and reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Hutzel Hospital in Detroit.
In 2006, just months before he would leave Meharry for Morehouse, Maupin hired Montgomery Rice as dean of the school of medicine and senior vice president of health affairs.
“I saw that she had great vision, was great at galvanizing support behind an idea, and had great depth,” Maupin said. “She stood up as a leader among her peers.”
When he hired her in 2011 to be MSM’s dean and vice president, Maupin said it was with the intention of her one day becoming president — making history along the way.
For his part, Maupin said he will spend his retirement serving on corporate boards, spending time with his six grandchildren and great-grandson and traveling.
It was no coincidence that he was already on a golf course when he said it.