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System Diversity

3/3/2014 - Jackson, Miss.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning recently held its Diversity celebration by recognizing campus and community leaders for the impact they have made in advancing diversity and encouraging understanding and respect. Robert Smith, M.D., received the Community Service Award for his lifetime of service to the state and nation and his commitment to improving the health care profession, strengthening our communities and improving race relations for all citizens of the state of Mississippi. Dr. Rani Warsi Sullivan, Associate Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering, at Mississippi State University, was named the 2014 Diversity Educator of the Year.

Trustee C. D. Smith, Chair of the Board of Trustees Diversity Committee, recognized Dr. Smith with a resolution, which read, in part, “The Board of Trustees is honored to recognize Dr. Smith and his tremendous contributions made to Mississippi and the nation. Dr. Smith is indeed a champion of the people and a trailblazer within the medical profession who has devoted his life’s work to enhancing the quality of life for all citizens of Mississippi, which will impact our state for generations to come. We are equally pleased to recognize those on our university campuses, like Dr. Sullivan, who demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to encouraging diversity on campus and work extremely hard to help all students succeed.”

Working through its Diversity Committee, chaired by Trustee C.D. Smith, the Board selects one individual as the Diversity Educator of the Year and one individual as the Community Honoree. Other Trustees serving on the committee include Trustee Karen Cummins, Trustee Shane Hooper, Trustee Alan Perry, along with IHL Staff member Pearl Pennington. Ms. Clotee Lewis, IHL staff member, has been the coordinator of the recognition program several years.

Dr. Robert Smith is a native of Terry, Mississippi, and has dedicated much of his life to serving others. Dr. Smith first gained national attention for his leadership in the Medical Committee for Human Rights in the early sixties as founder of that organization, which then became the medical arm of the Civil Rights Movement, with Dr. Smith serving as its first volunteer Southern Medical Field Director. This organization was effective in pressuring health care institutions to end unequal treatment in the medical establishments and activated physicians and medical students from across the country to deal with the problems of those patients who were medically underserved.

Dr. Smith served as part-time Assistant Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Medicine where he participated in the development of the Family Medicine Program, as a Co-Principal investigator with the National Research Program known as the ARIC Study (Arteriosclerotic Risks in Community Studies). ARIC is an epidemiological study of risk factors for heart disease and stroke, a multimillion dollar study involving four sites in the United States. This study contributed to what is now the Jackson Heart Study.

Dr. Smith has held adjunct teaching positions at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, and a Retired Emeritus position in the Department of Community Medicine at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. He has been involved in health services at Tougaloo College where he helped to institutionalize the Pre-Health Program which has become a national prototype.

Dr. Smith earned his Bachelor’s of Arts in Chemistry from Tougaloo College in 1957 and his M.D. from Howard University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Smith completed his clinical training at the West Side Medical Clinic of Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. He is a Charter Diplomat of the American Board of Family Physicians and a Charter Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He presently serves on the Senior Active Staff of Mississippi Baptist Health Systems, St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital and Central Mississippi Medical Center (CMMC). He has held many leadership positions in these hospitals and holds the distinction of being the first African American physician elected to the position of Chief of Staff of a major tertiary level hospital in this city and state and CMMC.

Dr. Smith has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Mississippi Family Health Center, Ltd., now known as Central Mississippi Health Services, Inc., since its founding in 1963. Through its historical philanthropic primary care mission of providing preventive ambulatory and tertiary services to patients regardless of their ability to pay, the health center has been on the cutting edge of creating opportunities for minority physicians and patients and has served as a recruitment and training venue for hundreds of physicians and other allied health personnel from this city, state, and across the nation.

As a testament to his community involvement, a portion of the Jackson Metro Parkway has been renamed after Dr. Smith, a tribute to his hard work as a medical pioneer and his courage risking his life as a Civil Rights activist.

The 2014 Diversity Educator of the Year is Dr. Rani Warsi Sullivan, who serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Mississippi State University. With over a decade of experience in her current position, she is well-versed in research focused on international cultures and global awareness. This is demonstrated through her efforts to internationalize the curriculum and enrich the campus environment by advancing diversity on campus and within the campus community.

Dr. Sullivan is a true advocate of community involvement and has served throughout the state and region as a scholar on international cultures organizing panels and seminars that use creative means to show understanding and tolerance for all people and all faiths. She organized and spoke at “God in the Major Religions,” a campus panel discussion that featured participants from Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. Dr. Sullivan has also participated in several additional seminars and panel discussions encouraging interfaith dialogues. She gives engineering seminars and demonstrations to incoming freshmen in the Bagley College of Engineering’s Bridge Program for Minority Freshmen and provides mentorship and information to the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering and Society of Women Engineers.

In recommending her for the award, Dr. Mark E. Keenum, President of Mississippi State University, wrote, “Dr. Sullivan is a champion for diversity at Mississippi State, in our community, and in the State of Mississippi. She exemplifies and encourages in others the value of embracing diversity in thought, cultural background, experience and identity. I believe that Dr. Sullivan demonstrates the spirit of diversity and commitment to inclusion that the 2014 Diversity Educator of the Year Award seeks to recognize.

Dr. Sullivan holds a doctorate degree in General Engineering, with a concentration Aerospace Engineering, from Mississippi State University; master’s in Engineering Mechanics from Mississippi State University; and Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Mississippi State University, graduating Cum Laude.

The Board honored faculty from each of Mississippi’s public universities for advancing diversity at their institutions. These honorees include:

Trustee C.D. Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity Committee and Robert Smith, M.D., Physician, Civil Rights Activist, Researcher, Educator and Public Policy Advocate Dr. Smith received the Board of Trustees Community Service Award.

Left to right: Dr. Norris Allen Edney, Acting President, Trustee C.D. Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity Committee and honoree, Mr. Darryl V. Grennell, Instructor of Biological Sciences, Alcorn State University

Left to right: C.D. Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity Committee, honoree, Dr. Temika Simmons, Assistant Professor of Psychology–College of Education and Human Sciences, and William "Bill" LaForge, President, Delta State University

Left to right: C.D. Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity Committee, honoree Dr. Loretta A. Moore, Interim Vice President for Research & Federal Relations, Professor of Computer Science, and Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers, President, Jackson State University

Left to right: C.D. Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity Committee, honoree Dr. Rani Warsi Sullivan, Associate Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering, “2104 Diversity Educator of the Year,” and Dr. Mark E. Keenum, President, Mississippi State University

Left to right: C.D. Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity Committee, honoree, Dr. Paula Threadgill, Associate Director of the MSU Extension Service, and Dr. Gregory Bohach, Vice President Agriculture, Forestry, and Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine

Left to right: C.D. Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity Committee, honoree, Dr. Kimberly Dorsey, Associate Professor of Management, and Dr. Jim Borsig, President, Mississippi University for Women

Left to right: C.D. Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity Committee, honoree, Dr. Alphonso Sanders, Chair of the Department of Fine Arts, and Dr. William Bynum, President, Mississippi Valley State University

C.D. Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity Committee and Dr. Daniel W. Jones, M.D., Chancellor, The University of Mississippi Honoree (not appearing in photo) Ms. Valeria Beasley-Ross, Assistant Dean of Students for Multicultural Affairs and Volunteer Services

Left to right: C.D. Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity Committee, Dr. Jasmine Taylor, and Dr. James Keeton, M.D., Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, Dean of the School of Medicine, The University of Mississippi Medical Center Honoree: Dr. Bettina M. Beech, P.H., M.P.H. Associate Vice Chancellor for Population Health

C.D. Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees Diversity Committee, Dr. Adina Green, Assistant Director of Student Support Services in charge of the Trio Program, and Dr. Rodney Bennett, President, The University of Southern Mississippi

View photos of honorees, with identification of individuals in photos.


The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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