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Meet Thomas LaVeist, The First African American Dean of the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

Thomas LaVeist


Dr. Thomas LaVeist is the first African American dean of the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and a leading researcher in studies about racial disparities that influence or impact an individual’s health outcome. Dr. LaVeist has written and lectured on “minority health issues and cultural competency in healthcare” and has contributed more than 150 articles to this academic topic.


From 1990 to 2016, Dr. LaVeist was a professor at Johns Hopkins University and the director of its Center for Health Disparities Solutions. From 2016 to 2018, he worked as a professor and chair of the Health Policy Management program at George Washington University before joining Tulane.

On February 3, 1961, Thomas LaVeist was born in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were William Thomas LaVeist from the Dutch-French speaking Caribbean island of St. Martin and Eudora E. LaVeist from the Dominican Republic. LaVeist was raised in a housing project in Brownsville, New York, with his parents and siblings.

He received his Bachelor of Arts in 1984 from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and later his Ph.D. in medical sociology from the University of Michigan, where he helped found the National Black Graduate Students Association (NBGSA). Dr. LaVeist received a postdoctoral fellowship in public health from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in 1990.

Dr. LaVeist’s research on race disparities began with his dissertation, and he describes how he was inspired in part by reading an account of the Titanic’s sinking in 1912 that he found in an Ann Arbor secondhand bookstore. He observed that one’s social class could actually predict death. Those who survived the Titanic’s sinking were almost certainly first-class passengers. Those with second class tickets died in greater numbers, but those with third class tickets were the most likely to perish in this major maritime disaster.

He reasoned that the ticketholders’ social status influenced the assistance they received during the ship’s sinking. He came to the conclusion that an individual’s income and socioeconomic status influence the type of assistance received not only in disasters but also in regular health care. As he pointed out, race in the United States is particularly linked to income and socioeconomic status, and people in this category frequently face health disparities as a result of racial barriers to health care, both medical and more broadly societal.

Bridgette Thomas LaVeist, Dr. Thomas LaVeist’s wife, and the couple’s children live in New Orleans. He is continuing his groundbreaking research into the socioeconomic (and racial) causes of health disparities in low-income communities throughout the United States.



Written by How Africa News

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