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Louis Sullivan praises emphasis on arts, humanities at CU Anschutz

Former secretary of Health and Human Services also discusses his memoir

Louis Sullivan

By Andy Gilmore | University Communications

The University of Colorado’s Arts and Humanities in Healthcare program received high praise from Louis W. Sullivan, MD, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on his recent visit to CU’s Anschutz Medical Campus on March 27.

Speaking in front of an audience assembled in the Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities, Sullivan said that this was his fourth visit to the campus over the past five years and congratulated the staff, faculty, and students on the “wonderful programs and facilities.”

Sullivan said the Arts and Humanities in Healthcare program and the Arts in Medicine lecture series offered at the Anschutz campus align with his belief in “humanizing the environment to the maximum degree possible.” He explained he is “a strong believer in the role of fine art in the healing art.”

The program arts and humanities program seeks to cultivate human values, celebrate imagination and create healthy communities “through excellence in humanities education and scholarship and arts production and presentation.” 

Growing up in segregated South

While discussing his new memoir, “Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine,” Sullivan explained how he was “shaped by forces in the environment in which he grew up” and engaged the audience with anecdotes from his childhood in the segregated South during the Depression of the 1930’s through to his time working under President George H.W. Bush.

Inspired by the only black physician in his family’s area of Georgia, Sullivan decided at age five that he wanted to be a doctor. The physician “had magical powers and could heal people” recounted Sullivan, “that’s what I wanted to be.”

After graduating from Morehouse College, Sullivan earned his medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine, where he was the only black student in his class.

Confronting AIDS crisis

After informing the audience that his “serendipitous” role in Washington came as a result of a phone call to congratulate President Bush on his election victory in 1989, Sullivan recounted key points while working for the Bush administration. He cited efforts to confront the nation’s AIDS crisis and the “remarkable change in the picture of AIDS since 1989.”

Now retired, Sullivan is still working to improve Americans’ health behavior. He cites poor diets, lack of exercise, smoking and problems with vaccinations as just some of the issues.

If the U.S. is going to bring health costs under control and significantly improve the health of its citizens Sullivan said, “Prevention, improving health behaviour, and increasing diversity in the health profession are all important components.”

“Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine,” is available to purchase from the Anschutz Medical Campus bookstore.




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