July 23, 2021

The Passing of Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan

It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan. He was a public servant, author, advocate, and champion who spent a lifetime working for a more just approach to health care. He started his medical career as a civil rights doctor in the summer of 1965 in Holmes County, Mississippi. He was one of the earliest National Health Service Corps physicians and later led the program and the HRSA Bureau of Health Professions. He served as the Secretary of Health for the state of New Mexico and became an Assistant Surgeon General and senior advisor to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. 

Fitz’s writings have served as an inspiration and call to action. His first book, White Coat, Clenched Fist, is an anthem for medical activism. His second book,Vital Signs: A Young Doctor’s Struggle with Cancer, captured his deeply personal experience as a patient. His 1985 NEJM piece, “Seasons of Survival: Reflections of a Physician with Cancer,” was a call to arms for the survivorship movement and he went on to found the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.

In more recent years, Fitz continued to advance health equity through his academic and public policy work. He made significant contributions to research and federal policy, including Congressional testimony that resulted in the Teaching Health Centers program in the Affordable Care Act. He founded the Beyond Flexner Alliance, our growing movement to advance the social mission in health professions education.

Today and moving forward, we honor his work, his life, and his call to persist in the face of inequity. We and the world are better because of him and we will miss him greatly.