Dr. Joseph Hobbs
Dr. Joseph Hobbs. Photo by Phil Jones.

Mine the Past: On the Shoulders of Giants

In 1974, Dr. Joseph Hobbs graduated from the Medical College of Georgia. He has since spent his entire career at Augusta University and is now the chair of the Department of Family Medicine and the senior associate dean for faculty affairs and primary care.

Medicine was not Hobbs’ first career choice. As a boy, he dreamed of a career as a scientist. Maybe he would become an astronaut and be the first man to explore some distant planet. This boyhood fascination with space flight was the basis of his growing interest in biological sciences.

However, after a summer at Harvard University doing basic science work and getting a better understanding of what a scientist does, Hobbs began to look at medicine as an opportunity to not only explore his science interest but to teach as well. Then, during Hobbs’ junior year of college, he first heard the names
John Harper and Frank Rumph. This changed everything.

Fifty years ago, Harper and Rumph became the first African-American students to attend the newly integrated Medical College of Georgia.

Their attendance had a big impact on Hobbs’ decision to apply for medical school at MCG, though he still had apprehensions about the school’s commitment to African-American students.

Those apprehensions disappeared when he received his acceptance letter — personally delivered by the dean of student affairs.

“This was the first time I got a sense that the MCG administration was serious about desegregation,” he said. “They weren’t doing it just to comply with federal laws.”

Now, Hobbs is in the position to spearhead many of the events commemorating those trailblazers, including a special hooding ceremony for Harper and Rumph.

Without their leadership, Hobbs and those who followed would not have been able to provide the foundation of support enjoyed by the generations of African-American doctors and researchers who followed.

“In the back of my mind, I’ve always had a special place for their contributions to my life,” Hobbs said. “Because they were there for me, I think it made it almost mandatory that I’m there for others.”

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