Surgeon-scientist, advocate for diversity to speak at commencement

Augustus White, a professor at Harvard Medical School, was the first African-American to graduate from Stanford’s medical school in 1961.

- By Tracie White

Augustus White

Augustus White III, MD, PhD, the first African-American to graduate from the Stanford School of Medicine, will be this year’s speaker at the school’s diploma ceremony.

The ceremony will be held from 1-3 p.m. June 17 on Alumni Green, next to the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge. No tickets are required.

Throughout his career as an orthopedic surgeon and scientist, White has remained a pioneer and role model for underrepresented minorities in the medical profession. His early interest in orthopedics stemmed from his athletic career as an undergraduate at Brown University, where he played football. At Stanford, where he served as president of the medical student body, he became interested in spinal motion and back pain. He earned a medical degree from Stanford in 1961 and his PhD from the University of Gothenburg at the Karolinska Institute for research on the analysis of spinal motion in 1969.

White is an internationally known, widely published authority on biomechanics of the spine, fracture healing and surgical and nonsurgical care of the spine. He has authored or co-authored more than 200 scientific and clinical publications, including chapters, books and articles — among them the book The Clinical Biomechanics of the Spine.

White served as orthopedic surgeon-in-chief at Harvard Medical School for 13 years.

Since his retirement from the operating room in 2001, White has focused on how prejudice can get in the way of good medicine, and in 2011, he wrote the memoir, Seeing Patients: Unconscious Bias in Health Care.

He is the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Distinguished Professor of Medical Education at Harvard Medical School.

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit

2024 ISSUE 1

Psychiatry’s new frontiers