While Meharry Medical College is a historically Black college, the student body reflects the diversity of the nation, with individuals also representing Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American communities.  Through a generous grant from the Bureau of Health Workforce, a component of the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Center of Excellence addresses cultural diversity.


As a grant recipient, Meharry’s Center of Excellence has demonstrated success in meeting the following legislative requirements:


  1. Develop a large, competitive applicant pool.
  2. Establish, strengthen, or expand programs to enhance academic performance of underrepresented minorities (URMs) attending the school.
  3. Improve the capacity to train, recruit, and retain URM faculty.
  4. Carry out activities that improve the information resources, clinical education, curricula, and cultural competence of the graduates as they related to minority health issues.
  5. Facilitate faculty and student research on health issues particularly affecting URM groups, including delivery of care.
  6. Carry out a program that trains students in the provision of health care services to URM individuals at community-based health facilities located away from the main teaching facilities of the school.


The Center’s objectives include development and implementation of three Objective Structured Clinical Examination cases on cultural and language competency related to health beliefs, folk illness, and folk therapy including alternative ethnic pharmacology in the Hispanic and African American cultures. Based on these objectives, the Center develops methodologies, plans, and procedures that improve information resources, clinical education, curricula, and cultural competence of Meharry graduates as they relate to minority health issues.


The Meharry Medical College School of Medicine is proud of its role as a National Center of Excellence in minority health education. While Meharry is a historically Black college, its student body reflects the diversity of the nation, with individuals representing the African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American communities.


To this end, Meharry Medical College also believes that the answers to disease and chronic illnesses may be within and among different racial/ethnic and disadvantaged population groups. Training individuals from different cultures and from disadvantaged backgrounds early in their education promotes health and decreases disparities between/among groups.


Meharry’s integration of ‘cultural competency’ into teaching and training has received unprecedented national attention over the past ten years, but it’s actually been a part of our approach since 1876. Through studying, researching, and experiencing the similarities and differences between and among cultures, Meharry students reflect not only a cultural awareness to the health care needs of others who may be different, but they are equipped with a set of skills in cultural competency that demonstrate a passion and commitment in improving the health status of the individual and the community.


This approach becomes even more relevant as Meharry redirects its medical and dental education programs toward a more integrated focus, in part because of the evident disparities in health status among certain racial and ethnic groups, immigrants, and limited-English proficiency populations.


Through its role as a Center of Excellence, Meharry Medical College continues as a leader in minority health education, ever-expanding the curriculum to prepare future physicians to be more effective with an increasingly diverse patient population.


Veronica T. Mallett

Veronica T. Mallett, M.D., MMM

Principal Investigator
Senior Vice President for Health Affairs
School: Medicine

Phone: 615.327.6204

Billy R. Ballard

Billy R. Ballard, M.D., D.D.S.

Center Director
Senior Vice President for Health Affairs
Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education
Chairman and Professor, Pathology
School: Medicine

Phone: 615.327.6636


Cassandra Ward, Ed.D.

Associate Program Director
Associate Dean for Curriculum Evaluation and Effectiveness
School of Medicine Dean’s Office
School: Medicine

Phone: 615.327.6048


Sharon Turner-Friley, M.S.W.

Coordinator for Bachelor of Science/Doctor of Medicine Program
Assistant Dean for Special Programs
Student Academic Affairs
School: Medicine

Phone: 615.327.5966


Cynthia Yeldell Anderson, M.B.A., M.S.

Web Content Manager
Communications and Digital Marketing Manager
Office of the Dean
School: Medicine

Phone: 615.327.5665


Through linkages with seven Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)—Alabama A&M University, Albany State University, Fisk University, Grambling State University, Jackson State University, Hampton University, Southern University and A&M College, and Tennessee State University,—students majoring in the biological sciences or chemistry who matriculated into these universities are invited to participate in the Summer Enrichment [BS/MD] Program at Meharry Medical College. Students are selected by the Site Coordinator at each university based on the students’ GPA and the Coordinator’s personal knowledge of the students. Students must also be deemed to possess the potential to succeed in the program that results in conditional acceptance into Meharry’s School of Medicine.

Gives first-year Meharry students the opportunity to participate in a collaborative research effort with Meharry faculty, Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance faculty, or a faculty member at another medical school (with prior approval). The student and mentor are encouraged to design research such that an abstract and a manuscript for publication by a peer-reviewed journal will be generated. Each abstract and corresponding poster is displayed and presented at Meharry’s Student Research Day held each spring.


Faculty Members


  • Ron Baker, M.D., Assistant Professor, Surgery
  • Zhenbang Chen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Cancer Biology
  • Salil K Das, Ph.D., Professor, Biochemistry and Cancer Biology
  • Lemuel Dent, M.D., Department of Surgery
  • Sakina Eltom, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Cancer Biology
  • Carol Freund-Taylor, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Professional & Medical Education
  • Pandu Gangula, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Physiology
  • Thomas Limbird, M.D., Professor, Surgery
  • Sukhbir Mohka, Ph.D., Professor, Neuroscience & Pharmacology
  • Tultul Nayyar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Neuroscience & Pharmacology
  • Henry Okafor, M.D., Associate Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Aramandia Ramesh, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Cancer Biology
  • Maureen Sanderson, MPH, RD, Ph.D., Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • LaMonica Stewart, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Cancer Biology
  • Susanne Tropez-Sims, M.D., M.P.H., Joy McCain Professor, Pediatrics
  • Flora A. M. Ukoli, M.D., M.P.H., Professor, Surgery
  • Manuel S. Valenzuela, Ph.D., Professor, Biochemistry and Cancer Biology
  • Fernando Villalta, Ph.D., Professor & Chair, Microbiology & Immunology
  • Hong Yang, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Physiology

Each summer, students between the first and second year of medical school are introduced to the provision of health care services at community-based facilities, including private physicians’ offices and community health clinics with a significant number of African-American and other under represented minority patients. Students are expected to achieve success in implementing the CVDEMS at various sites. The program also introduces students to Healthy People 2020 as well as health disparity projects. Students will submit a paper outlining their experiences in the program.

There are eight components of the formal faculty development program:

  1. Mentoring Activities: Pairs senior African-American faculty with junior African-American faculty.
  2. Small-group Sessions: Provides informal interaction and discussion between junior faculty members, faculty fellows, and others.
  3. Research Experience: Requires participation in on-going, mentored clinical research project; more than 265 projects are available through the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance.
  4. Interdisciplinary Clinical Research Conference: Provides a bi-weekly forum for Meharry clinical investigators to present on-going work to colleagues, discuss research methodology and implementation, and share new research ideas and funding opportunities.
  5. Clinical Research Seminars Series: Presents two research projects each month to clinical and basic science faculty from the School of Medicine and School of Dentistry.
  6. Grant Writing Seminars: Provides junior faculty and faculty fellows in-depth instruction on assembling biomedical research grants. Participants learn about the types of grants, effective preparation of R01 and career development grants, statistical issues in grant preparation, and reviewing grants.
  7. Medical Writing for Clinical Investigators: Instructs clinical investigators on the medical writing skills required when publishing scientific articles in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
  8. African-American Faculty Development Conference: Promotes personal and professional development on a national scale, primarily for African-American faculty from all HBCU Center of Excellence grantees; however, HCOP and other Centers of Excellence are invited and encouraged to attend.

The conference serves the following objectives:

  • Assists participants in identifying their professional development goals
  • Explores the requirements for appointment, promotion, and tenure, with regard to advancement
  • Examines the influence of personal styles on individual effectiveness, team development, group performance, and the management of professionals
  • Identifies and develops personal and professional skills that are pivotal to academic advancement
  • Assists participants in identifying and coping with challenges facing URM faculty
  • Provides an overview of the grant application processes of the NIH and various foundations
  • Identifies the characteristics of award-winning proposals
  • Promotes opportunities for networking among African-American faculty in other medical schools

Because Meharry believes in cultivating passion for health care professions as early as possible, the Center of Excellence’s Pre-health Advisor Program trains and develops advisors to nurture and encourage premedical students. Equipped with relevant, current information, the advisors help premedical students develop a strategic approach to their time and courses of study. Additionally, advisors receive assistance with writing letters of recommendation, organizing a premedical committee to conduct mock interviews for their students, and writing a committee letter.

The Medical Enrichment and SAT Preparation Program is a six-week summer enrichment program for African-American students who have completed the 10th grade. Participants are selected by committee and must demonstrate an interest in a career in medicine or biological sciences. In addition to experience in ongoing research and clinical exposure, students undergo an intense preparatory course for the SAT, with the goal of qualifying/competitive scores for Meharry’s BS/MD program at two partnership institutions, Fisk University and Tennessee State University. Students also receive training and instruction on academic and library skills, computer literacy, African-American health problems, cultural competency, college field trips, and a College Fair.