MU Medical School’s First Black Graduate Speaks at Graduation

Having celebrated his own graduation from the University of Missouri nearly 60 years ago, Robert Smith, MD, the first black alumnus of the MU School of Medicine, returned to campus to deliver the school’s commencement address on May 12. Smith encouraged the 86 members of the school’s Class of 2012 and hundreds of others at commencement to embrace diversity in medicine and care for underserved communities.

Smith is a member of the MU medical school Class of 1953 and serves as an associate professor of surgery at the University of Tennessee and as chief of staff of Methodist South Hospital in Memphis. A Missouri native, Smith graduated as valedictorian from Central High School in Hayti, Mo., and was admitted to the MU School of Medicine in 1951. After earning a degree from MU’s two-year medical program, Smith left MU to complete his medical education at Meharry Medical College in Nashville. He has served on the surgery faculty at Meharry, the University of Arkansas and the University of Tennessee in Memphis, where he remains a practicing surgeon.

More than 40 percent of this year’s MU medical school graduating class will stay in Missouri to complete residency training, and 33 percent will stay on campus to complete residencies. The 2012 graduates will join more than 7,700 MU physician alumni who advance medical care, education and research throughout the world.

Another 42 students completing master’s and doctoral degrees in the MU School of Medicine’s Departments of Biochemistry, Health Management and Informatics, Medical Pharmacology and Physiology, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, and Nutrition and Exercise Physiology participated in MU’s Graduate School commencement ceremony on May 12.