Discover more from Traveling My Roots
University of Virginia Medical School
Honoring my adoptive father at the inaugural Black Medical Alumni Weekend
One of the main reasons we went to Virginia last month was to attend University of Virginia’s inaugural Black Medical Alumni Weekend. It originally had been scheduled for June 2020, and my adoptive father, Bill Womack, had been invited as alumni. But it was postponed due to the pandemic, and then he passed away at the end of that year. ⠀
I was invited to attend the rescheduled event (April 8-10, 2022) and told that they would be honoring him at a recognition ceremony. It was also the start of the new William M Womack MD Scholarship, now in place for Black medical students attending UVA . ⠀
My dad’s experience becoming a doctor is why he is one of my heroes. The 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling ended racial segregation in public schools, allowing his admittance in 1957 to the University of Virginia Medical School. He was one of the first Black medical students to attend UVA.
Despite the fact that he wasn’t allowed to eat at Charlottesville restaurants, and was ostracized and antagonized by white students and faculty, he made the Dean’s List his first year. He persevered and received his medical degree in 1961 at the age of 25.
It was an emotional yet uplifting weekend. I cried through my unplanned speech at the recognition ceremony, but was so happy that the UVA Medical Alumni Association had placed a brick on campus in his honor. We explored the beautiful and historic university, but couldn’t ignore its dark history of being built and served by slaves, and designed by slave owning Thomas Jefferson.
Overall I loved meeting so many wonderful, accomplished alumni and students, and making new friends. I felt a part of the UVA family. And I felt my dad’s presence all weekend, as we honored him and his amazing life.