Andrea Hayes Dixon, M.D., FACS, FAAP is now the first Black woman to be appointed as Dean of Howard University College of Medicine (HUCM).
After the announcement of her appointment was made on Sept. 22 by Howard University’s newsletter, The Dig, Hayes Dixon officially began her role on Oct. 3 as the new dean of HUCM. This addition increases the number of academic deans who are women at Howard University to 11.
This is one of Dr. Hayes Dixon’s many firsts, as she has a track record of making history. In 2006, she was the first Black woman to become a board-certified pediatric surgeon in the U.S. and became the first woman to serve as chair of the Department of Surgery at Howard in 2021.
“I’ll be able to use my knowledge and experience here at Howard College of Medicine because of all of the adverse circumstances that have happened to me that I’ve overcome,” Hayes Dixon said. “And I can use those experiences to help other students and trainees overcome some of the things that they may be encountering.”
Hayes Dixon has many plans she’d like to implement for HUCM, such as adding more “outstanding faculty” to the college of medicine. What excites her the most, however, are her students. “I think Howard medical students are a really important set of students. Many of them in fact – this was the only medical school that they were admitted to and they are very motivated to do well,” she said.
She is also excited to provide a “special environment” for students where they are able to think creatively with medicine. “I believe research is the way we can change how we treat patients in the future and I would like to inspire the next generation of physicians to think ‘outside the box’ as they say, to try to be able to provide cures for several illnesses that we don’t even think are curable today,” she said.
According to 2021 data by the Association of American Medical Colleges, a nonprofit organization focused on educating others on health, out of all of the deans at U.S. medical schools, 22 percent of them are women in permanent positions. 12 percent of deans in permanent positions at U.S. medical schools are in racial/ethnic groups that are underrepresented in medicine.
Representation is very important to Hayes Dixon for a multitude of reasons. “It’s really important for the healthcare system to have representatives from every race, religion and nationality. I think because when you’re ill, you’re very stressed and you want to be in the most comfortable environment possible, and if you see someone who looks similar to you, who’s your physician, it makes you more relaxed and helps you get through whatever illness it is,” she said.
Toni Jenkins, 28 year-old, third-year medical student at HUCM from Charlotte, North Carolina spoke on the importance of representation in the medical field.
“Having different perspectives is essential in having appropriate health care and having good health outcomes …if you can’t connect with your patients then you’re not going to give them the best care possible,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins was excited to hear of Dr. Hayes Dixon’s appointment, but she thought it was usual for Howard to prompt historical firsts.
“I think Howard is known to have many firsts. When we think of civil rights leaders, we think of the vice president of the United States [Kamala Harris]. Howard is just known to be kind of that platform for building people into those types of positions,.. so I feel like Dr. Dixon’s position as the first female dean at Howard College of Medicine is a first but it’s not uncommon for Howard to have firsts.” Jenkins said.
Roger A. Mitchell Jr. M.D. is a full tenure professor and chairman of pathology for Howard University College of Medicine. He believes that the future of leadership in medicine is enhanced with Hayes Dixon becoming the dean at HUCM.
“[Howard University] College of Medicine started in 1868 and since then we have not had a female woman who is the dean and so I think it’s monumental. Then her as a person you know, I think she’s pragmatic and she’s thoughtful. She’s a strong physician and pediatric surgeon, but on top of that she has 20 years of experience with a basic science molecular lab. So I think you know she’ll be a huge asset to the college of medicine.” Mitchell expressed.
Alicia Edwards, 29 year-old, second-year medical student at HUCM from Savannah, Georgia finds the appointment of Hayes Dixon to be affirming for her journey through medical school.
“I’m really excited, I came to Howard because I wanted to see representation. I wanted to see myself in medicine. I wanted to just see that, so it’s a constant reminder that I can do it too,” she said.
Hayes Dixon succeeds former dean Hugh Mighty, who has served as dean of HUCM since 2015. Mighty expressed excitement for the appointment of Hayes Dixon in a statement on Howard University’s newsletter The Dig.
“This is an exciting moment in the history of the College of Medicine as we look forward to the continued rise of the University in training the next generation of medical leaders and providers,” he said.
Hayes Dixon expressed that her appointment will be one of many in changing the trajectory of leadership in medicine.
“I think you know that maybe not just my appointment but my appointment in addition to many other female dean’s appointments across the country will really change how medical education is viewed…this historic position will allow not only other black female doctors who want to be deans but also the majority population to really understand that we can lead as well if not better than others in the position before.” Hayes Dixon said.
Hayes Dixon studied religion at Dartmouth College, a private university in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. She also attended the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, where she earned her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.).
She previously worked as surgeon-in-chief and division chief of pediatric surgery at University of North Carolina (UNC) Children’s Hospital. She was also a professor of pediatric surgery and surgical oncology at UNC. Hayes Dixon is also a researcher and has been leading a basic science laboratory for about 20 years according to Dr. Mitchell, which focuses on rare sarcomas and maintains clinical research efforts.
Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett