Baylor College of Medicine
Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Pediatrics
CLASS of 1954
James L. Phillips, M.D., is a trailblazer. While at Washington & Jefferson College, he challenged fraternity dominance in intramurals and was elected the unofficial president of the “independents” (those students not involved in Greek organizations). In medical school at Case Western Reserve, he was the first African-American intern at University Hospitals of Cleveland; at W&J, he became one of two African-American emeritus trustees; and as an advocate of the underprivileged, he established programs to prepare underrepresented minorities for medical school.
When he entered W&J on an athletic and academic scholarship, Phillips realized that his career opportunities were limited. “As an African American in the 1950s, I felt I only had three choices—I could be a minister, a lawyer, or a doctor,” he says. However, he quickly found that medicine was his passion and, with Dr. Dieter’s guidance, he entered the pre-medical program and was accepted into medical school by his junior year.
Phillips finished a residency in pediatrics at the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Ohio before being drafted to serve in the U.S. Navy. “Being a physician in the Navy was one of the best experiences of my life,” he says. “I practiced my craft and encountered truly interesting people.” Returning to life as a civilian, Phillips began work as a pediatrician and eventually became the chief of staff at Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center.
Today, Phillips is senior associate dean and professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. Recruited primarily to improve cultural diversity, Phillips has been instrumental in helping Baylor to achieve premier status with regard to recruiting students underrepresented in medicine. His many awards include a proclamation of February 28, as Dr. James L. Phillips Day by the mayor of the city of Houston.
As a man continually concerned with helping people succeed, Phillips never hesitates to share the knowledge he learned while at W&J. “Always study in teams,” he says. “Teamwork and dedication will ensure a successful career, especially in medicine.”