A. Cherrie Epps, Ph.D., Education Leader and 11th President and CEO of Meharry Medical College, Dies at 86

Anna Louise Cherrie Epps, Ph.D., (86), peacefully passed away surrounded by loved ones the morning of Thursday, May 18th at her home in Brentwood, Tennessee. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana on July 8th, 1930, to the late Dr. and Mrs. Ernest Cherrie, Sr. She married Dr. Joseph Epps, Sr. in 1968 who preceded her in death in 1984.

Anna Louise attended Corpus Christi Elementary School and Xavier University Preparatory School. At the age of sixteen, Anna Louise was admitted to Howard University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in zoology at the age of nineteen. With high marks, she applied to both Howard Medical School and Meharry Medical School. She was denied admittance to both schools because she was too young and a female.

From 1953 - 1955 Anna Louise worked as a technologist in the clinical laboratories of Our Lady of Mercy Hospital in Cincinnati and Flint Goodridge Hospital in New Orleans. She then moved on to Xavier University of Louisiana where she served as an instructor and acting head of the medical technology department until 1960. While working at Xavier, Anna Louise earned a Master of Science in microbiology from Loyola University.

In 1961 Anna Louise returned to Howard University to become an assistant professor of microbiology in the College of Medicine. While at Howard, she was awarded a Ph.D. in zoology and was elected into Sigma Xi. In 1969 Dr. Epps received the United States Public Health Service Faculty Research Fellowship in the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where she later became an associate professor. A second research fellowship allowed her to return to New Orleans to continue her work at Tulane University.

In 1969, while at Tulane University, Dr. Epps developed MEdREP (Medical Education Reinforcement and Enrichment Program for Minority and Other Disadvantaged Students) from a program she had started at Howard University. MEdREP helped prospective students prepare for the MCAT and gain experience with lab projects. Dr. Epps also served as an associate professor of medicine and was named Director of Medicine at Tulane Medical Center. In 1980 Dr. Epps was named assistant dean of student services, followed by associate dean of student services in 1986. In 1995 Dr. Epps was named interim vice president for academic affairs at Tulane.

In 1997 Dr. Epps was named Dean of the School of Medicine at Meharry Medical College, making her not only Meharry’s first female dean of the medical school, but also the only African-American woman with a Ph.D. to become dean of a U.S. medical school. Dr. Epps served as dean until 2002. In addition to dean, Dr. Epps went on to serve as senior advisor to the president of Meharry and was named Dean Emerita of the School of Medicine. In 2013 Dr. Epps was named Meharry’s 11th President and Chief Executive Officer. Serving from May 2013 through June 2015, Dr. Epps led Meharry through a significant transformation period with focus on the accreditation process for all three schools. She also is credited with making the college’s fiscal health sound before passing on the reins.

Throughout her career Dr. Epps held key appointments on boards and committees. She served on the Minority Health Advisory Committee for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Department of Health and Human Services and the National Board of Medical Examiners and is an emeritus member of the Georgetown University Board of Regents.

Dr. Epps is survived by her stepson Joseph (Shirley) Epps, Jr.; sister-in law, Lois Carlson Cherrie; nephew, Ernest (Nancy) Cherrie, III; two nieces, Tiffany (Blaine Le Cesne) Cherrie and Cyd Cherrie Anderson; and a host of relatives and friends.

In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Ernest (Anna Louise Johnson) Cherrie, Sr., her beloved brother, Dr. Ernest Cherrie, Jr., and stepdaughter, Dr. Grace Epps.

A funeral mass celebrating her life will be held on Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 1 o’clock in the afternoon at The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France, 615 Pere Antoine Alley, New Orleans, Louisiana with Bishop Fernand J. Cheri officiating. The family will greet friends at the cathedral from 12 noon until the time of service. Burial will be held in private. A memorial in Dr. Epps’ honor will be held on Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 10 o’clock in the morning at Meharry Medical College, S.S. Kresge Learning Resource Center Auditorium, Nashville, Tennessee.