20th Anniversary REACH Keynote Speaker

David Satcher, MD, PHD

Former US Surgeon General

Sworn in on February 13, 1998, Dr. David Satcher became the second person in history to ever hold the positions of Surgeon General and Assistant Secretary for Health simultaneously. He is director of The Satcher Health Leadership Institute, which was established in 2006 at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. The Institute’s mission is to develop a diverse group of public health leaders, foster and support leadership strategies, and influence policies toward the reduction—and, ultimately, the elimination—of disparities in health. The Institute’s programs reflect Dr. Satcher’s demonstrated track record in improving public health policy and his commitment to eliminating health disparities for underserved groups, such as minorities and the poor, and shedding light on neglected issues, such as mental and sexual health.

An In-Depth Look

Additional Information About Dr. Satcher

Service to Country

Dr. Satcher was sworn in as the 16th Surgeon General of the United States in 1998. He also served as Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services from February 1998 to January 2001, making him only the second person in history to have held both positions simultaneously. His tenure of public service also includes serving as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and administrator of the Toxic Substances and Disease Registry from 1993 to 1998. He is the first person to have served as director of the CDC and then surgeon general of the United States.

In addition, Dr. Satcher has held top leadership positions at the Charles R. Drew University for Medicine and Science, Meharry Medical College, and the Morehouse School of Medicine. He has been a Macy Foundation fellow, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation clinical scholar, and a senior visiting fellow of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Removing the Stigma of Mental Illness

Having also held the position of director of the National Center for Primary Care (NCPC) at the Morehouse School of Medicine from 2002 to 2004, Dr. Satcher currently occupies the Poussaint-Satcher-Cosby chair in mental health at the Morehouse School of Medicine. This reflects his long commitment to removing the stigma attached to mental illness, as evidenced by Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon, the first surgeon general’s report on mental health released during his tenure as surgeon general. As surgeon general and assistant secretary for health, Dr. Satcher led the department’s effort to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health, an initiative that was incorporated as one of the two major goals of Healthy People 2010.

Dr. Satcher is a strong advocate for raising Alzheimer’s awareness and research funding. He has both a professional and personal perspective on the issue, as his wife, Nola, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s almost 14 years ago. Having experienced the toll that the disease takes on families, Dr. Satcher works to provide support for those in similar situations by raising awareness and offering resources to caregivers. 

Honorary Degrees and Affiliations

Dr. Satcher has received over 40 honorary degrees and numerous distinguished honors including top awards from the National Medical Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians; he is also the recipient of the Symbol of H.O.P.E. Award for health promotion and disease prevention. In 2005, Dr. Satcher was appointed to serve on the World Health Organization Commission on Social Determinants of Health.

Currently, Dr. Satcher serves on the Board of Directors of Johnson & Johnson, MetLife, and the CDC Foundation. He also serves locally on the board of United Way of Greater Atlanta and The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.


Dr. Satcher graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1963 and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He holds MD and PhD degrees from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. He is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Preventive Medicine, and the American College of Physicians. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, the 100 Black Men of Atlanta, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

A proponent of maintaining a healthy lifestyle through physical activity and good nutrition, Dr. Satcher is an avid runner, rower, and gardener.