When Jameson Floyd was giving campus tours to young men considering Morehouse, he had a personal testimony that he would give them at the end: “There’s only one school that for more than 153 years has cultivated excellent Black men, not just academically but as brothers, fathers, and members of the community.
“One school takes that and owns it. And that’s Morehouse.”
That wasn’t just a line from a script, but something Floyd believes whole-heartedly. In fact, the 22-year-old was accepted by a prominent Ivy League university his senior year of high school but chose to attend Morehouse, instead, because he believed the College had something truly special to offer.
“These other schools are great schools but this particular sense of care, brotherhood, and shared experiences at Morehouse—that was something I couldn’t get anywhere else,” he explained. “This was the one place that said, ‘We recognize your academic potential, but we also will develop you as a Black man.
“There was only one school that saw me and said, ‘We can make you more than even you know you can be.’”
Growing up Hoover, Alabama, a comfortable suburb of Birmingham, Floyd didn’t see many people in school who looked like him. He was the only Black person in his first-grade class, for example, though in middle school and high school, he experienced a bit more diversity.
“Early on, that shaped me,” he said. “I look back at that sometimes and I realize I was fortunate because I had such great support from my family.”
Both of Floyd’s parents worked in corporate America and emphasized to their children that good grades can lead to a certain level of autonomy. Grades aren’t necessarily indicative of who you are as a person, they said, but can have a lot to say about where you end up.
Floyd and his two sisters were exceptional scholars, always setting the bar high for themselves.
One of his older sisters attended Howard University and became a dentist; the other sister went to Spelman College and chose biomedical engineering.
“We all kind of shot for the stars, and, fortunately, we’ve done pretty well.”
Floyd aimed high at Morehouse and graduated Sunday with his bachelor of science degree in physics, magna cum laude. He plans to earn both a medical degree and doctorate someday, and since last August has had an Intramural Research Training Award fellowship with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Floyd’s two-year fellowship involves working with the National Human Genome Research Institute on health disparities with sickle cell disease.
“We’re looking at people that have sickle cell disease and then examining the social issues,” said Floyd. “There’s a way to go in and edit your genome (an organism’s complete genetic instructions), but that opens a Pandora’s box. Sickle cell mainly affects Black and Hispanic people, so that has affected the courses of treatment. The racialization of it has affected people.
“Some diseases don’t have to be fatal if it weren’t for race and racism,” he emphasized. “Our group focuses on a lot of those issues.”
Health disparities have captured Floyd’s interest, particularly, during these racially charged times. “History and health disparities are all connected,” he noted. “If you study science and not the culture, you could be missing some key takeaways.”
After his NIH work, Floyd plans to enter a joint MD/Ph.D. program, possibly at Emory, Harvard, Yale, or the University of Pennsylvania—universities with some of the brightest minds, as Floyd describes them. Mainly, he’s interested in finding a top-tier program in which he can continue his work on health disparities, and, eventually, treat patients as well as do research.
“Seeing patients and then going into a lab, you could say, ‘I see the problem, I can treat it, and I can work toward a solution long term. That ability is unique.”
Floyd plans to first do two years of medical school, and then pause and begin graduate school. After that, he’ll go two more years to medical school. He’s undaunted by the idea of spending another eight or nine years in higher education, and plans to take occasional breaks to deal with the rigorous academic demands and fatigue.
In addition, Floyd will also rely on his Morehouse education to get him through. “Being at Morehouse has given me the confidence to say yes, me, period,” he said. “I am the one who can do this… and I will do this.
“I’m on my own path,” he added. “It may not look like the footpath of the more famous Morehouse alums, but it’s no less important. And I feel very assured that this path is for me.”
Floyd likes to say that he’s humbled by all of the help he’s received on his academic journey so far—support that’s enabled him to reach the point of receiving his bachelor of science degree in physics, magna cum laude.And he plans to pass on that assistance to help another student become a Morehouse Man.
“I’ll open the door for the next Jameson Floyd, because we are on a continuum,” he said.
“The cool thing about Morehouse is that it can take a guy like me as well as a guy from across the tracks, and we both can become men that not only are brothers but we can each go into our separate fields and make the kind of change we can want.
“We all have our role to play. And that’s a beautiful thing.”
There’s only one school that for more than 153 years has cultivated excellent Black men, not just academically but as brothers, fathers, and members of the community. One school takes that and owns it. And that’s Morehouse.Jameson Floyd, Class of 2020