Making The Greatest Impact
Dr. James Hildreth must be quite a man. I haven’t met him personally, but our writer came back from Nashville with a very positive opinion. After reading B. Denise Hawkins’ “Confronting an Epidemic,” you’re struck by the fact that Hildreth, a prominent HIV/AIDS researcher who headed up the Center for AIDS Research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, left one of the world’s top medical research institutions to come to historically Black Meharry Medical College. It’s a place where he believes he can have the greatest impact in the long term.
Hildreth is honest about the differences between the two institutions in terms of resources and infrastructure, but he says going to Meharry is a dream come true. His willingness to leave a good thing behind and start over is impressive, but I was more impressed by the fact that a number of his Hopkins colleagues asked if they could join him. One of his colleagues remarks on Hildreth’s outstanding research and good personality — two qualities, he says, one likes to have in a boss.
In some ways, Hildreth resembles the superstar science researchers, the humanities/social science scholar intellectuals and the administrative masterminds that brought historically Black institutions to national prominence in the first half of the 20th century. Individuals such as the late Howard University law school dean Charles Hamilton Houston, biologist Ernest Everett Just, Fisk University sociologist and president Charles S. Johnson, Tuskegee scientist George Washington Carver, medical researcher and blood specialist Charles Drew and political scientist-diplomat Ralph Bunche achieved not only excellence on behalf of their institutions, but left their mark on the world stage. Hildreth’s promising HIV/AIDS research appears destined to yield defining 21st century medical breakthroughs.
In “Unlikely Candidates,” reporter Ann Farmer documents how community colleges are going outside academe to mine a dynamic strata of senior-level talent. Community colleges are finding that some nontraditional avenues can offer a plethora of talent in fields such as information technology, project management and executive leadership. Search committees say recruiting from the private sector can be difficult, since most of the desirable candidates are not willing to take a cut in pay to come to a community college.
And in our ongoing coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, senior writer Ronald Roach reports on how environmental justice advocates and scholars have renewed their focus to make sure environmental standards are met during the rebuilding process. As one example, scholar-advocate Dr. Beverly Wright, director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University, has honed her organization’s investigative skills by working with community groups in what is known as “Cancer Alley.” An 80-mile route between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., “Cancer Alley” is where poor Black communities have for decades endured a disproportionate amount of exposure to environmental contamination. Wright, and her colleagues like Dr. Robert D. Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, are trying to ensure that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina does not spawn dozens of “Cancer Alleys” throughout the Gulf Coast.
Hilary Hurd Anyaso
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