ATLANTA, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Surgeon General David Satcher said Tuesday that he will head a think tank and research facility at Morehouse School of Medicine that will study racial disparities in health care.
Satcher, the nation's 16th surgeon general, said he has accepted a job as director of the Morehouse College's National Center for Primary Care, which is scheduled to open this fall.
Satcher, a former director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, became surgeon general under the Clinton administration in February 1998. He is scheduled to leave the position Feb. 13.
A 105,000-square-foot facility is under construction at Morehouse for the new center, which will focus on practice-based research, primary care training programs and will analyze the access and effectiveness of care for underserved populations.
"As director of the National Center for Primary Care, I hope to help to demonstrate the unique role which primary care providers and community-oriented primary care can play," Satcher said.
Satcher, a physician and geneticist, has repeatedly criticized the "institutionalized racism" of health disparities, noting that black children are 2.5 times more likely to die in infancy than whites.
Satcher almost died when he became critically ill as a young child, and white doctors in his Alabama hometown refused to treat him.
"We have a great underrepresentation of African-Americans and other minorities in the health profession," Satcher said.
Conservatives called for Satcher's resignation last year after he released a report that said there was no evidence that teaching sexual abstinence in schools was successful.
As the "nation's doctor," Satcher warned of a national epidemic of obesity, noting that the size of meals served in restaurants has increased as much as 30 percent since 1993. He also released a report calling youth violence a public health issue.
Late last year, Satcher said the condition of CDC laboratories that were being relied upon to respond to bioterrorism was "a national disgrace."
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson issued a statement that said Satcher "gave our country an exemplary level of leadership that will leave a lasting mark."
"His efforts to deal with a wide range of important public health problems, especially disparities in health among various populations, have had a tremendous impact on the health and well being of our nation," Thompson said.
Satcher, 60, received a bachelor's degree in 1963 from Morehouse College, where he headed the Atlanta chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Satcher has an M.D. and Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He was a professor and department chairman at the Morehouse School of Medicine from 1979 to 1982.
Morehouse College, founded in 1867, is the nation's only historically black, private liberal arts college for men. It graduates about 500 students each year, which Morehouse says is more black male graduates than any other institution in the world.