While Meharry Medical College is a Historically Black College, the student body reflects the diversity of the nation. 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 is charged with meeting the following legislative requirements:

  1. Increase the Competitive Applicant Pool of Underrepresented Minorities for Health Professions School.
  2. Expand Program to Enhance Underrepresented Minority Student Academic Performance.
  3. Improve Recruitment, Training and Retention of Underrepresented Faculty.
  4. Improve Information Resources and Access, Curriculum, Clinical Education and Cultural Competence as it Relates to Minority Health Issues.
  5. Facilitate Faculty and Student Research on Health Issues Affecting Underrepresented Minority Groups.
  6. Engage Students in Practice-Based Training in Community-Based Settings Serving Significant Numbers of Underrepresented Minorities.


Meharry Medical College (MMC) is one of four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that are specifically designated in statute to receive Centers of Excellence (COE) Program awards under Public Health Service Act (PHSA) section 736(c)(2).


Founded in 1876, MMC is the largest private, historically black health science center in the US and a top producer of African American physicians. Currently, only 6.9% of medical school enrollees in the U.S. are African American. The primary mission of Meharry Medical College is elimination of health disparities through deployment of a culturally-competent workforce that can adapt to the population’s changing health care needs and provide the highest quality of health care to all.


The medical school proposes strategies addressing solutions to health disparities by increasing the African American physician workforce. This COE addresses the need to recruit and train African American students interested in medicine, while recruiting and retaining African American faculty, who are academically involved in innovative medical education and teaching.


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.


Sonja Harris-Haywood 2023 sq

Sonja Harris-Haywood, M.D., MS, MA

School: Medicine

Phone: 615.327.6310

Billy R. Ballard

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

Center Program Director
Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education
Professor, Pathology
School: Medicine

Phone: 615.327.6636

Monque F. Bennerman_8151

Monique M. Forskin-Bennerman Duncan, M.D., FACP

Center Associate Program Director
Senior Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs
School: Medicine

Phone: 615.327.6277

Brandon Marshal 01.2024 EDT

Brandon Marshall

Marketing and Communications Director
Office of the Dean
School: Medicine

Phone: 615.327.2987

Mitzy Johnson_8178

Mitzy H. Johnson, Ed.D.

Director of Special Programs
Student Academic Affairs
School: Medicine

Phone: 615.327.5966


The intent of the Meharry SOM’s BS/MD Program is to develop a student with excellent academic credentials, competitive MCAT scores, and the personal, professional, leadership, and psychological attributes to be highly competitive for medical school admission and provide a foundation for training to be a great physician.


Through linkages with ten Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) – Alabama A&M University, Albany State University, Alcorn State University, Fisk University, Grambling State University, Jackson State University, Hampton University, Southern University and A&M College, Tennessee State University, and Virginia Union University – students majoring in biological sciences or chemistry who matriculated into these universities are invited to participate in the BS/MD Summer Enrichment Program at Meharry Medical College (MMC).


Students are selected during the second semester of their first year in undergraduate school by the Site Coordinator at the institution. This six week summer enrichment program, held on the campus of MMC, consists of three sequential levels. Program selection criteria include: 1) African American/Black students; 2) US citizen or permanent resident; 3) an overall and science GPA of 3.25; 4) two letters of recommendation from professors and/or advisors; 5) submitted official transcript with seal; and 6) submitted 1-2 page essay.



Alabama A&M University – Richele Jordan, EdM, MA & Jeanette Jones, PhD

Albany State University – Brandon G. Henry, MSBE Assistant Professor of Biology, Department of Natural Sciences

Alcorn State University – Michael Harper, Director Career Services and Pre-professional Placement

Fisk University – Phyllis Freeman, PhD Associate Professor of Biology/Molecular Biology & Biochemistry

Florida A&M University – Tiffany W. Ardley, PhD Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry Coordinator

Grambling State University – Ms. Katrina C. Harris, MAT Biology Lecturer

Hampton University – Brittany Martin, Program Coordinator-URISE/U01

Jackson State University – Ramzi M. Kafoury, MPH, Sc.D Associate Dean, College of Science Engineering and Technology

Southern University – Dr. Oswald D’Auvergne Chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences and Chemistry

Tennessee State University – Carla Gardner-Jones, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Biological Sciences

Tuskegee University – Steven B. McCrary Director ADA Compliance

Virginia Union University – Shyamal Premaratne, MD, PhD (Hawaii), MS (Trop Med), MAPS Associate Professor in Anatomy and Physiology



These Pre-Health Advisors listed are contacts between the undergraduate students and Meharry Medical College. They are also annually trained with the up-to-date knowledge regarding the MCAT and the preparation of the students to successfully take the placement examination.


The Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®), developed and administered by the AAMC, is a standardized, multiple-choice examination created to help medical school admissions offices assess your problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.


The resources below are additional sources of information to assists in the preparation process. These resources are intended to help the potential medical student began preparing for the exam as they are progressing through their undergraduate courses. Please see the links below for additional study material.


AAMC MCAT information:
Medical School Prep


Khan Academy Test Prep:

First-year Meharry students are provided the opportunity to participate in collaborative research efforts with both Meharry faculty and faculty at other institutions. All research applications require prior approval. The student and mentor are encouraged to design research around basic science, clinical, or health services research focused in childhood obesity, mental health, and opioid abuse research, or on chronic and/or communicable diseases among minority populations; population based/public health issues among URM populations; maternal and child health issues prevalent among URM populations; mental health and behavioral health integration; and access to health care for URM populations. Students’ proposed projects will be evaluated by the Ad Hoc Summer Research Committee, chaired by Research Course Directors. Additionally, each student researcher who conducts research during the summers will be required to present his/her research at the Annual Student Research Day.


Click here for research information >

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, 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.

Meharry’s SOM COE offers a High School/ACT Review Program. This seven-week enrichment program is designed for African American/Black, disadvantaged high school students in Metropolitan Nashville and surrounding areas. The program normally occurs during the fall semester, prepares students to take the ACT, and teaches test-taking strategies. The program is primarily for sophomores and juniors interested in healthcare professions or science careers; however, seniors may participate. Classes are held on Saturdays on the Meharry campus and enrollment is limited to 25 participants. Information is disseminated to counselors at Metropolitan Nashville Davidson County high schools and churches.


Students must meet eligibility requirements for the program. Students must be: a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; complete program application; submit official high school transcript; have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75; agree to take the ACT at the end of the program and forward a copy of their score to the program office. Based on the criteria, the Program Coordinator selects the participants and the prospective students/parents receive an acceptance letter and all requisite paperwork (class schedule, consent and release forms).

This website is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number, D34HP16299-00-10, Center of Excellence Program, award amount $3,177,641 with 0 percent financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit