Research takes main stage at Meharry

Frederick T. Harris, Ph.D. candidate and Research Day Grand Prize winner, is congratulated by Dr. Evangeline Motley-Johnson (l), and Dr. Maria de Fatima Lima (r)
photo: Meharry Medical College

The Meharry Medical College School of Graduate Studies and Research (SOGSR) held a gala celebration to commemorate its 40th anniversary on March 16. The event, entitled ‘A Night to Remember,’ was held in the beautiful New Alumni Hall on the campus. Dr. Stephanie Bailey, dean of the College of Public Service and Urban Affairs at Tennessee State University gave the keynote address.

Research is huge at Meharry, as the school also held the 57th annual Research Day, ‘Multiple Facets of A Diabetologist’s Career: A 20 Year Journey,’ on March 13 in the Ross Fitness Center on campus during the week leading up the celebration.

Of 136 poster presentations displayed by students in Meharry Medical College’s School of Graduate Studies and Research (SOGSR), School of Medicine, and School of Dentistry, the SOGSR’s Fredrick Harris was this year’s grand prizewinner, earning a perfect score.

Meharry Medical College was one of the first medical schools to hold a student research day. Meharry’s first, in 1956, was held in connection with its 80th anniversary. After this year’s exhibition of abstracts in Ross Fitness Center, the lecture and awards ceremony was held in the Harold D. West Basic Sciences Building.

Harris, a Ph.D. candidate, was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. He received his B.S. degree in chemistry from Vanderbilt University in 2008. Harris said he always knew he wanted to help underprivileged people as a health care provider or researcher.

“I grew up in the Mississippi Delta,” he said. “It was an impoverished area and many people just didn’t go see doctors. I never understood why. Some may have been afraid, while others were just ill-informed.”

Harris said he was attracted to Meharry because of its mission—the Meharry motto, ‘Worship of God Through Service to Mankind’ impressed him.

“Meharry was definitely a change of venue coming from Vanderbilt,” he said. “But, what really stood out for me was Meharry’s mission and motto. I thought about all of the people in the Delta region and how this motto and mission seemed to be talking specifically about them.”

When Harris initially came to Meharry, he said, two of his professors were “a little hard” on him. He laughs when referring to them. “Those professors knew how to push me and make me succeed even more than I thought I could. They are always available to help me. I truly owe a great deal to them for my success.”

Extremely modest, Harris said his family has been his backbone in everything he has done.

“My parents mean everything to me,” he said. “They are my biggest supporters. I talk with my mom every day. We don’t talk about my accomplishments; we just talk about life.”

Harris expects to receive his Ph.D. in biomedical sciences with a concentration in biochemistry and cancer biology in May 2014. He is contemplating attending Meharry’s School of Dentistry after graduation.