For First Black Graduate, SGU Was “Opportunity Of A Lifetime”

SGU News caught up with John Washington, MD ’81, who with his charter class colleagues were the first to enter medicine as St. George’s University graduates. Dr. Washington has spent the last 35 years working as an emergency medicine physician in Macon, GA, and he looks back fondly on where his journey began.

St. George’s University: How did you end up choosing SGU?

John Washington: Going to SGU was the opportunity of a lifetime for me. We’re talking about a time when black individuals didn’t really have that kind of opportunity in medicine. For us, we had to go to Howard or Meharry, which is the oldest black medical school in the nation. Some schools weren’t letting black medical students in.

A friend of mine at one school told me some stories about how he was treated—and of the things that went on. It’s amazing he made it through. He isn’t alone either. When I compared my time in Grenada to the experience that he and others had elsewhere, it was completely different. SGU was a great fit for me.

SGU: How would you describe the camaraderie amongst the charter class?

Dr. Washington: The most important thing I remember is that everybody stuck together. It was a tight-knit group, and everybody helped each other out in any way they could. We studied hard, and it was easy to see who was committed to making it through and building a legacy for the school. Looking back at it now, we were able to lay the groundwork for what was then this completely new and unique school.

SGU: What’s it like for you looking back on the foundation that you and your classmates built?

Dr. Washington: It’s just been marvelous. I believe that SGU is the preeminent foreign medical school in the world, in terms of the training it provides and the opportunity it gives students to practice in the US. Graduates from SGU are everywhere now, and they’re doing well. I’m proud to have been part of the first class and to have helped physicians who followed in our footsteps.

– Brett Mauser