Xavier University of Louisiana is planning to open a medical school and graduate school of health sciences, NOLA reports. Xavier's medical school would be the fifth in the state, joining Tulane University School of Medicine, LSU Health New Orleans, LSU Health Shreveport and Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (which will graduate its first class in 2024). 

Reynold Verret, Xavier's president, said the planning process will take at least three years and that its school's administrators have discussed the idea for over five years.

"We're not in a hurry, because we want to do this well," Verret said. 

Xavier's pre-med program has been highly regarded across the country for sending more Black students to medical school than nearly any other college but the diversity gains in the medical field as a whole have been minimal.

Verret said a medical school would allow Xavier to make an even greater imprint in the field with Black students, and tallow it to impact the growing physician shortage in the nation.

"It's important that we not only address the physician shortage but that we address the diversity of the physician population," Verret said. "As we learned throughout the pandemic—but we knew beforehand—trust and representation are linked. Trust is an important part of public health and also in addressing health disparities."

According to the National Medical Association, there were more than a dozen Black medical schools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but today, only four remain. Those are Howard University College of Medicine in Washington D.C., Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Meharry Medical College in Nashville, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in California.

Recently, Xavier has launched other health professional programs including "public health, speech pathology, pharmaceutical studies, and health analytics, as well as a physician’s assistant program" in partnership with Ochsner Health System. Verret believes that the university will lead the field in the representation of Black students.

"Xavier was founded with the mission of promoting the creation of a just and humane society through education,” Verret said. “The establishment of graduate education programs dedicated to the preparation of more Black healthcare professionals is a natural extension of our founders’ legacy, as we approach our second century of service. It is also where we are called to answer a critical need of our nation.”