Writer: LeKeisha Edwards
The Thomas J. Blocker Society of Morehouse College celebrated its 2nd Annual Living Legends Gala in Atlanta on September 30th. The prestigious event garnered towards celebrating healthcare excellence, innovation, and inspiration, was hosted by Emmy-nominated actor and Grammy award winner, Malcolm-Jamal Warner.
The black-tie affair honored Dr. Benjamin A. Blackburn II, D.D.S., a renowned Atlanta Restorative Dentist and Prosthodontist, and Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, M.D. an Obstetrician and Gynecologist. In addition to their significant work and contributions to shaping the landscape of healthcare, Dr. Blackburn II, is also a community leader and Trustee Emeritus of Morehouse College; Dr. Montgomery Rice currently serves as President and Dean of Morehouse School of Medicine.
“Being honored as a ‘living legend’ by the Thomas J. Blocker Society at this year’s gala [has] filled me with gratitude and humility” Dr. Montgomery Rice tells Upscale, “The society’s mission aligns with ours at Morehouse School of Medicine as we both work to diversity the health and scientific workforce by creating and amplifying opportunities for future generations of healthcare professionals.”
Composed of health profession alumni of Morehouse College, grads involved in the Society range from physicians, dentists, pharmacists, scientists, and allied health professionals located throughout the country and the globe. The Society’s commitment is to assisting Morehouse College undergraduate students and students of color who are interested in health professions through academic advisement, clinical shadowing, mentoring, summer science enrichment programs, and academic scholarships.
“The […] gala was an extraordinary event where the excellence in health care was celebrated with dinner, dancing, philanthropy, and networking,” Vandy T. Gaffney II, M.D., M.S., Anesthesiologist and President of the Thomas J. Blocker Society Foundation shares with Upscale, “Our attendees had fun and left challenged to continue to be change agents in assisting the next generation of minority health care professionals. As President, it is a privilege to be the steward of such an important group of African American male physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and allied health professionals working to diversify the American health workforce and improve patient outcomes for all whom we serve.”
Some of the notable programs provided by the Society that help to shape the future generation of Morehouse healthcare graduates include the Why We Can’t Wait Homecoming Mentoring and Fundraiser Breakfast, an annual Saturday morning gathering of alumni and students; the TJBS Summer Science Program, a fully alumni-funded and sponsored six-week Summer Science For-Credit Academic Enrichment Program for incoming pre-freshman students interested in healthcare; the TJBS Alumni Lecture Series, a year-long lecture series where visiting alumni speak with students during and after the academic day on campus; Mock Interview Prep Workshop, which allows Morehouse alumni in academic medicine an opportunity to help prepare senior students applying for health professional school with their admission interview; and Health Careers Intensive Clinical Exposure Program, a two week clinical shadowing program where sophomore and junior pre-med students observe a Morehouse alumnus in healthcare for approximately 60-80 hours of intensive clinical experience.
The Capital Campaign of the Thomas J. Blocker Society has a mission of raising, stewarding, and investing funds that will support the purpose of advancing higher education for African American males at Morehouse College into health professions. The first phase of the funding effort to raise $4 million to support the society’s programming, as well as scholarships and support for the Morehouse College Office of Health Professions, has already raised $500,150, with plans in place to reach the goal over the next five years with the support of alumni and stakeholders that join the 300 Campaign– a donor initiative that calls for three hundred donors to donate a minimum amount of $10,000 to aid in reaching the $4 million goal over the next five years.