George H. Rawls, MD, Indiana University Clinical Professor Emeritus of Surgery and founding director of the Master of Science in Medical Science program at IU School of Medicine, passed away on Saturday, May 16, at age 91.
Dr. Rawls was a pioneer for African American surgeons in the Indianapolis community and was a lifelong advocate for advancing minority representation in medicine. After a distinguished 34-year career as a surgeon, Dr. Rawls retired in 1993 and then served as assistant dean of student affairs and clinical professor of surgery for five years at IU School of Medicine (1994-1999). In 2001, Indiana University awarded Dr. Rawls with an Honorary Doctor of Science degree to recognize his enduring efforts to increase representation of minorities in medical professions. His legacy includes facilitating increases in both the admission and graduation of underrepresented minority candidates at IU School of Medicine.
Dr. Rawls graduated valedictorian from Florida A&M University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology. He then matriculated to Howard University Medical School, where he earned his medical degree with Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) honors. He served in the U.S. Army for two years and completed his surgical residency at The Ohio State University and a surgical internship at Philadelphia General Hospital.
In 1959, Dr. Rawls became one of the first black physicians to practice surgery in Indianapolis. Earlier this year, he was one of nine IU School of Medicine academic surgeons spotlighted as part of a traveling exhibit called “Opening Doors,” celebrating the achievements of African American pioneers in medicine and recognizing contemporary African American academic surgeons who not only exemplify excellence in their fields but also have demonstrated commitment to educating and mentoring the next generation of African Americans physicians.
Recognizing the need for equitable representation in medical education, Dr. Rawls helped launch the Master of Science in Medical Science (MSMS) program in 1995. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the MSMS pipeline program has graduated 449 students, with 302 matriculating into medical school.
In addition to the success of the MSMS program, Dr. Rawls’s legacy lives on through many other IU School of Medicine and community initiatives:
- George H. Rawls Exemplary Scholar Award: Conferred by the Diversity Council of Faculty Affairs, Professional Development and Diversity at IU School of Medicine, and awarded annually to a student who, like Rawls, stands as an example for academic excellence, commitment to community and commitment to fellow medical students.
- Lula and George Rawls Award of Excellence: An endowed scholarship established by Dr. Rawls in 1997 and awarded to minority students who achieve academic excellence at the various levels: in the MSMS program, during the first two years of medical school, and during the clinical years.
- George H. Rawls Exemplary MSMS Scholar Award: Established by IU School of Medicine Faculty Affairs, Professional Development, and Diversity, this award recognizes a MSMS program student who has demonstrated stellar academic achievement and a strong commitment to enhancing excellence through diversity. The award goes to an MSMS graduate who successfully matriculates to Indiana University School of Medicine as a medical student.
- Eli Lilly Minority Scholarship (1999-2014): For 15 years, this scholarship annually awarded tuition, books and a living stipend to two highly qualified minority students. Notable among the recipients: U.S. Surgeon General and Vice Admiral Jerome Adams.
- IU School of Medicine Pre-matriculation Program (1995-2004): An on-campus orientation experience for minority students a few weeks before the start of medical school. Testifying to the program’s success, it was no longer needed after 2004 when the disparity of successful outcomes for minority students had been eliminated.
- George Rawls Scholarship: Endowed by the Eskenazi Hospital Foundation through the support of many community donors, this scholarship pays tuition and fees for an African American student who is committed to practicing medicine in the state of Indiana. To date, $2.75 million has been awarded to IU School of Medicine students.
- Rawls Scholars Medicine Initiative: Eskenazi Health and the Center for Leadership Development partner in offering this unique experience, named in Dr. Rawls’ honor, allowing high school students to explore a career in medicine by touring Eskenazi Health, the Marion County Coroner’s Office and IU School of Medicine.
In addition to these honors, Dr. Rawls held leadership positions with several professional organizations, including serving as president of the Marion County Medical Society, the Indiana State Medical Association and the Aesculapian Medical Society. He was also a long-term member and past president of the Indiana State Medical Licensing Board. Additionally, he has authored several books.
Dr. Rawls’ greatest joy was his wife, Lula, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His family remembers him with love, including his daughters Yvonne Rawls, Bettye-Jo Lloyd and her husband, Frank Lloyd, Jr., and Sheree Williams and her husband, Sherman Williams. His grandchildren are Frank Lloyd III (Eliza Henson, fiancé), Jessica Williams, Courtnye Lloyd, Joshua Williams (wife Tina Williams), and his great-grandchildren Zoe and Joy Williams.
IU School of Medicine is grateful for Dr. Rawls’ many contributions, most notably as a mentor and champion for underrepresented in medicine students. His legacy of inclusion has impacted not only the university but the broader medical community in the state of Indiana, ensuring our future physicians better represent the populations they serve.
If you would like to share a memory of Dr. Rawls or leave condolences for his family, please fill out this form, which also gives the option of uploading any photos you may like to share. A virtual memorial service is being planned in the coming weeks.
At the family’s request, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Dr. Rawls’ church community:
Witherspoon Presbyterian Church
5136 Michigan Road
Indianapolis, Indiana 46228