When Dr. Jackson made a house call to visit a toddler with whooping cough in segregated Anniston, Ala. the prognosis was not good.
Jackson--the only black physician in town and the last hope for the boy's parents--treated the child but said he did not expect the boy to live out the week.
Over 50 years later, things are looking up for David Satcher, who, having conquered his childhood illness, took the oath to become the country's 16th surgeon general and the assistant secretary of health in February, 1998.
Dr. Jackson was Satcher's initial inspiration to enter the world of medicine.
"My mother told me that story just about everyday," Satcher says. "By the time I was six, I said I wanted to be a doctor."
And Satcher followed his childhood dreams. After graduating from More-house College in Atlanta, Ga., he went on to receive both his doctoral and his medical degrees from Case Western Reserve University.
Initially, Satcher says he wanted to return to his hometown and open a family practice there, but during college, he says he realized that there were "Anniston, Alabamas" all over the country.
Satcher's began his career by training physicians at Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif. From there, he returned to the East Coast to teach at Morehouse, and then became the president of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.
In 1993, Satcher's work in medicine became more national in scope as he accepted an appointment from President Clinton to become the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga. He held this position until 1998, when he assumed the post of surgeon general.
The Nation's Top Doc
Over the past year-and-a-half, Satcher has focused on three main areas of national and international health concern.
The first, to eliminate disparities in healthcare among racial and ethnic groups, has been one of Satcher's career-long goals. He says it stems from the inadequate health care he received as a child. Today, life expectancies, mortality rates, infant death rates and morbidity rates are highest among America's ethnic minorities.
Satcher aims to eliminate disparity in the morbidity rates across racial and ethnic lines by the year 2010.
According to Claire V. Broom, M.D., a former colleague of his at the CDC, Satcher has been effective in making minority healthcare a national concern.
"He has done an outstanding job trying to make the whole country understand the importance of bridging health gaps for minorities," Broome says.
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