Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice.

July 1 will go down as a momentous day for Black women and as a particularly bad day for glass ceilings. On that day the U.S. Navy promoted its first woman, and first African-American woman, to the rank of four-star admiral, and Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice became the first woman, and first African-American woman, to lead Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) as its president.

MSM was originally founded under the umbrella of Morehouse College in 1975, but later became an independent institution, according to Ronna Nu’man, director of marketing and communications, external for the Morehouse School of Medicine.

In exclusive comments to the AFRO, Nu’man said that as a renowned obstetrician/gynecologist and fertility specialist, as well as the institution’s first woman president, Montgomery Rice brings a new and fresh perspective to the institution. “Her vision (for the school) is a continuation of our current mission, and that mission is to help underserved communities,” said Nu’man.

Montgomery Rice, who graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1987, was named executive vice president and dean of MSM in 2011. She now succeeds Dr. John Maupin Jr., in the role of president. “I am honored that the Board of Trustees of Morehouse School of Medicine has entrusted in me the presidency of this treasured institution,” said Montgomery Rice in a press release issued by MSM. “Our mission today is as relevant as it was when Morehouse School of Medicine was founded nearly 40 years ago. My job is to align that mission within the context of an extraordinarily changing health care system and to grow a sustainable, community-focused academic health center.”

Prior to joining MSM, Montgomery Rice had served as dean and senior vice president of health affairs at Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tenn. At Meharry, Montgomery Rice was the founding director of the Center for Women’s Health Research, one of the first research centers in the United States to focus on diseases which disproportionately affect women of color.

According to Nu’man, Montgomery Rice will now turn her focus to preparing the next generation of physicians to treat underserved populations. “Dr. Rice’s goal is ultimately to be involved [with] the next generation of medical professionals to help those that are in need, with whatever those needs are,” said Nu’man.