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Diversity History

The Medical University of SC was founded in 1824, in Charleston, South Carolina. The University consists of six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy. 

The “Era of Diversity” at MUSC began with the enrollment of the first African American students in 1965. Eleven years after the first African American students enrolled (1976) the University established the first Office of Minority Affairs. Dr. James Martin, the first African American awarded a Ph. D. by the University of South Carolina was appointed Director of the office.

From 1976 to 1995 the Office of Minority Affairs changed in scope and direction as did the social and political disposition of the nation, state, city and University with respect to access, equity and opportunity. The Office of Minority Affairs was directed by committed leaders in the health profession and advocates for social equity and justice that included:

  • James W. Martin, Ph.D. 1976
  • Earl B. Higgins, Ed.D. 1987 – 1992
  • Jeannette Deas, Ph. D. 1993 – 1995
  • Thaddeus J. Bell, M.D. 1995 – 2004
  • Sabra Slaughter, PhD (interim) 2004-2006
  • Willette S. Burnham, PhD 2006-2015

In Spring/Summer 2006 (and under the leadership of Dr. Valerie West, Associate Provost for Student Services) the former Office of Minority Affairs began a new era (“the fifth decade of diversity”) and three offices merged- Student Activities, International Student Services and the Office of Minority Affairs. The Department of Student Programs and Student Diversity was born. Willette S. Burnham was hired as the Executive Director of Student Programs and Student Diversity: attentive to serving the varied needs of our students and committed to academic success and educational distinction.

In 2013-14, MUSC embarked on yet another milestone towards excellence and inclusion.  At the completion of its inaugural strategic planning process for diversity and inclusion, Dr. Willette S. Burnham-Williams was hired as the University’s first Chief Diversity Officer (Summer 2015). Dr. Burnham-Williams is co-chair of the implementation of the Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan with colleague Mr. Anton Gunn who is MUSC Health’s first Chief Diversity Officer and Executive Director of Community Health Innovation.

A full history for MUSC can be found through the MUSC Waring Library pages.