Joseph Robert Love, MD, the first African American graduate with a medical degree from the University at Buffalo, was a teacher, a physician, a priest, a politician and an activist. Love devoted his life to achieving social justice, diversity, equality and fairness in health care practices.
Love was born in the Bahamas in 1839. Growing up, he was influenced by the church and trained as a teacher. He moved to the United States in 1866. In 1876, he relocated to Buffalo, N.Y., from Savannah, Ga. He was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1876 and was named Rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Buffalo. To date, it is one of the oldest African American Episcopal congregations in the county.
In 1877, Love enrolled as a medical student at the University at Buffalo. He was the first Black student to graduate with a medical degree from the medical school and from UB. A thesis was a requirement in those years; his was titled “Philosophy of Practical Medicine Versus Empiricism.”
As described by Christopher Densmore in a 1996 unpublished paper — “A Heritage of Diversity: Notes from the History of the University of Buffalo” — Love responded to a toast at the graduation dinner by expressing the hope that “the time was fast coming … when the colored American citizen would emerge from his social ostracism of the past and meet his white brothers on the equal plain of education and merit.”
In 1881, Love moved to the Episcopal Mission in Haiti and then settled in Kingston, Jamaica, where he published the Jamaica Advocate and championed the ideas of Henry Sylvester-Williams and Pan-African unity. Today, scholars consider Love to be one of the important Pan-African nationalists of the later 19th century and an inspiration to Black nationalist Marcus Garvey. He also may have practiced medicine in both Haiti and Jamaica. He died in 1919.
This award recognizes inspirational leadership by an individual or a group of medical students for groundbreaking service and dedication to advancing the Jacobs School’s commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity and social justice — leading to a culturally competent learning environment across disciplines.
The award is presented as a way to inspire our students and to honor Love’s lifelong commitment to promoting core values that advance social justice, equality and excellence in health care.
This award is granted annually to medical student(s) underrepresented in medicine.
Faculty, staff and students may nominate individuals embodying Love’s beliefs and commitment to building a diverse, inclusive and equitable learning environment.
Nominations must consist of a narrative of up to 1000 words describing the nominee’s accomplishments.
Nominations are accepted until April 15.
Applications are evaluated by a subcommittee of the Diversity, Inclusion and the Learning Environment (DIALE) Committee. Awards are based on qualifications, commitment to inclusion, diversity and impact on achieving equality and social justice.
Recipient(s) for the 2021 inaugural Joseph Robert Love Scholastic Leadership Award will be selected by Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Award winners are notified by May 15 and are invited to attend the annual Faculty and Staff Recognition Awards ceremony following the Stockton Kimball Lecture.
Award recipients receive a commemorative gift and a monetary award.