admin July 14, 2012 0

Georgia native, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice is Dean and Executive Vice President  for the Morehouse School of Medicine.  As founder of the Center for Women’s Health Research at Meharry Medical School, the nation’s first research center devoted to studying diseases that disproportionately impact women of color, Dr. Montgomery Rice is a trendsetting trailblazer in her own right.   Born and raised in Macon, GA, Montgomery Rice and received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School.   She is board certified by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology with a subspecialty in Reproductive Endocrinology.  Her internship and residency were both in gynecology and obstetrics, and completed at Emory University. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she earned her degree in Chemistry.   She also served as director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice is more than qualified to lead the students at Morehouse School of Medicine.  She has served a year in her current role, and receives daily motivation from the students, to continue.  “These students are very focused on making a difference,” said Montgomery-Rice.  “I’m motivated by the fact that [with] what I do, I get to make a difference. The students give you a lot of energy. With patients, I’m very much driven to want to discover more, know more, and create solutions that help contribute to the lives that they desire to have.”
Deciding late in her career to become a doctor, Dr. Montgomery Rice was in her third year at Georgia Tech when she went to a summer program that changed her life.  It was then that she  made her decision to pursue medicine.  At this program, she was given an assignment that fueled her interest.  The assignment called for the integration of science and discovery – which begged her to ask herself the question: ‘What can I do that combines the assignment with people?’  For her, medicine was that opportunity.  “I knew what drove me.  And, I knew that people was what drove me,” she offered.  “I think I have this infectious engagement of people… from my mother.  Medicine allows for you to help people and be very objective about it… it’s evidence based. And you can measure the outcomes in the lives of people,” say.
So far, in a short timeframe at the Morehouse School of Medicine, she has begun many strategic alliances.  One such under development is the partnership with Atlanta’s Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospital which will allow them to expand their residency training opportunities and undergraduate medical education clerkships as well – in hopes that some of their faculty to be engaged with the VA.  “We are so pleased to be able to provide service to the veterans. This is going to create a pipeline for us so that people can stay here and practice in the state of Georgia and continue to explore research opportunities with the VA.”  She has also sought to seek out and expand research opportunities both with Emory and is also looking to expand clinical opportunities at Grady.  She likewise vows to look for more private hospital partnerships.
There are also connections to a continued partnership with the University of Zambia.  “We just had a paper accepted that looks at the acceptability of a microbicide to be introduced into clinical trials,” said Montgomery Rice.  They will continue the work on this front on behalf of a cream designed to prevent HIV.   Distance learning is also an important item to Dr. Montgomery Rice.  Global health is an important factor, but distance learning is just as important. “I’m a really strong proponent of distance learning,” she announced.  “I believe it is how we advance technologies to remote areas.”
Dr. Montgomery Rice has certainly made many contributions while functioning in several other capacities.  She was principal investigator of multiple large multicenter clinical trials in women’s health.  She has also raised the academic standards and improved the retention and graduation rates of African-American males at other educational institutions with which she was affiliated.  Black Enterprise  named her as one of ‘America’s Leading Doctors’ while Ebony  magazine both categorized her as a ‘Mover and Medical Shaker’ and listed her to their ‘Power 100 List’ in 2011’.   Montgomery Rice was also selected to receive one of the highest awards given to a female physician for contributions to women’s health:  The American Medical Women’s Association Elizabeth Blackwell Award for 2011.
As Dean and Executive Vice President at Morehouse School of Medicine, her experience so far has been pleasurable.  She has had an incredible level of engagement both with the faculty as well as the students.  And, the students and the collective energies they bring to the table, give her daily inspiration.  All seem to be receptive to ideas that she has brought to the prestigious institution.  “Everybody’s opinions matter,” declared Montgomery Rice.  “We have an open door experience for people so they can come and share.  When they don’t think their voice is being heard, then they can speak louder.”
With a true love for people, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice is truly a gift to the school and to the medical profession – including the patients she treats.  “When I interact with patients, I am very driven to want to discover more…learn more…to want to be able to create solutions that help contribute to the lives  they desire to have – free of disease and free of the inequities that have been imposed on them based on circumstances they have limited control of.”
The good doctor leans on the fact that she is able to make a difference every day with what she does.   “The biggest challenge I’ve experienced, is balancing.  I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m a sister, I’m a friend.   And I have this career that I really value.  The balance is being a person who wants to contribute 100 percent in all of those areas and recognizing that you always fall short…”  said a very human Montgomery Rice.  “I hope that I’m a good wife.  [However] the thing that I hope I’m most successful in is being a mom.  I hope I’ve inspired in my children that they can do anything.”  She spends a lot of time making sure that she has instilled the right values in her two children so that they remember when they get older, as she remembers the same with her mom.          She also shared thoughts about her career and not wanting to let down the people who have sowed into her life.  “As a professional, what I hope is that I’ve been an example.  A lot of people have made investments in me with their time, with their commitment, with their mentorship; and I hope that I’ve been a good return on that investment.”  Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice  appreciates and enjoys her career.  And for anyone who has poured into her, they can look at all of her accomplishments and see their ROI.
From whom has her best advice come?  From her high school principal, Dr. Gloria Washington who told her, “Be yourself and be authentic,” remembered Dr. Montgomery Rice who also recalled incredible life advice from her seventh grade teacher Ms. Betty Davis.  Ms. Davis made her repeat the word ‘humble’ over and over again adding, “Humility is what will carry you when you don’t have wings to lift you up.”  Definitely words by which to live.
When she does have some time to herself, she can be found in the kitchen – as she is known to be a great cook!  In other time to herself, she enjoys skiing and scuba diving.    Well deserving of all the accolades and awards given her, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice is successful largely in part because she is so passionate about what she does, committed to the people whom she serves, and leads by example.  She offers advice to up and coming doctors and medical professionals telling them to not be afraid of not knowing – adding, “Look at this as a challenge and an opportunity.”  She encourages students to connect with someone who believes in them and is willing to help them identify opportunities, as she shared that she always had people in her life who have helped her along the way, and help her to see the door.  “I believe that mentorship is the equalizer,” she said. And, she too has and will continue to serve as a mentor to many.
For Montgomery Rice, the glass has always been half full.   She remains optimistic in all things.  What has her experience been like being a woman in medicine?  “We tend to be more nurturing.  We’re not always more empathetic, but we are willing to listen,” she said.  “You can have it all…just not all at the same time.”  She credits her success to some who cheered her on from the sidelines.  “I [always] had someone telling me that it was possible, and I never believed otherwise.”

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