Dr. Audrey Forbes Manley

There were several such instances in my life and my professional career, where I was not only the first African American, but the first African American woman, and a couple of occasions I was the first woman. There’s always, I think, a lot of pressure to perform, to be better than the best, because you realize— at least I always felt—that you are opening a door. You also are setting a record. You are setting a watermark. You are setting an expectation. I was the first African American woman to be appointed as an Assistant Surgeon General in the U.S. Public Health Service. And this is a service that is more than 200 years old. That’s quite significant. Again, opening the door, setting a precedent. That you have to perform, because you are then opening the doors for other people. And if you don’t, you can easily, just as easily, close that door. An M.D. degree really prepares you to do anything in the world that you want to do. It is so very basic. The understanding of the body, the mind, how it functions, growth and development, the stages of life. With me, it was that, plus the experience in the Public Health Service. I think that either one without the other would not have prepared me to be a college president. If you’re only thinking of yourself—what material and monetary things you can get, if the Mercedes and the fur coat and the big house is what’s keeping you going— you’re not going to make it. Not too long. You’ll have some immediate successes. But for the long term, for life, you really have to have goals that are bigger than you, family, that have to deal with society and making a contribution that’s bigger than yourself.