Morehouse School of Medicine receives anonymous $1 million gift to endow chair on sexuality and religion

By Maria Saporta

Most institutions try to stay away from two of the most emotionally charged issues in today’s society — sexuality and religion.

But the Morehouse School of Medicine’s Satcher Health Leadership Institute and its Center of Excellence for Sexual Health is embracing both topics with the hopes that open and respectful dialogue of both topics will lead to better public health in underserved communities.

Satcher, along with Morehouse School of Medicine President John Maupin, hosted a Commemorative Ceremony Thursday afternoon to celebrate the establishment of the Marta S. Weeks and David E. Richards Endowed Chair in Sexuality and Religion.

The endowed chair was made possible by the merger between the national Center for Sexuality and Responsibility and the Morehouse School of Medicine. The Center donated $750,000 to help establish the endowed chair, but it also challenged MSM to raise another $1.25 million.

Satcher and Maupin announced that they had received an anonymous $1 million gift to complete the $2 million fundraising needed to endow the chair. Such an endowed chair is unique in the United States.

Now the Satcher Health Leadership Institute will begin searching for a scholar to fill the chair, which will develop innovative health and pastoral services. The chair also will teach, conduct research and provide public leadership to issues that bridge the sensitive topics of sexuality, religion and medicine.

“Today is another example of the Morehouse School of Medicine leading the nation on communities and issues,” Maupin said. “Every time we celebrate these kind of events, we are making people understand that there’s a place for a small, primary care medical college serving underserved communities.”

Satcher is no stranger to these sensitive topics. As director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 1993 and 1998, Satcher helped focus attention on the public health issues of HIV/AIDS.

Then Satcher was named the 18th Surgeon General of the United States in 1998, a position that he held through 2001. During his leadership, he oversaw the publication of “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior” — a report published in 2001 that created waves in Washington, D.C. and the country at large.

“That report pointed out a need for dialogue on this topic,” Satcher said at the event Thursday. “By announcing this endowed chair in religion and sexuality, we really are moving to another level.”

The endowed chair will focus its efforts on:

* Teaching sexuality and sexual health topics to current theological and medical students;

* Training the next generation of religious and healthcare leaders to meet the sexual health challenges of both disciplines;

* Bringing together leaders of constituency organizations that have diverse viewpoints for consultations and consensus-building;

* Research directed toward documenting and suggesting ways to overcome disparities in sexual health with a special focus on underserved communities.

“We are in the business of raising eyebrows,” Satcher said. “But our main business is raising awareness.”

For more information on Morehouse School of Medicine and the institution’s latest endowed chair in sexuality and religion, visit www.msm.edu.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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