Dr. Richard Hughes: Board-Certified Pathologist
I am writing this abridged case history to shed light upon the work and colorful career of Dr. Richard Hughes, an African American, board-certified pathologist. He earned his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Washington, in Seattle.
I am honoring Dr. Hughes, a mentor and a friend, whom I had the privilege of working with for a period of time after I completed my own medical studies in Michigan. My love for the work of pathology increased greatly after working with Dr. Hughes in his lab. This was a time in my life that I will always treasure.
Black History Month 2017 begins Wednesday, February 1, and ends Tuesday, February 28. Dr. Hughes has not received honors for his landmark achievements because most people do not know about his work—or understand the value of his work.
Actually, most people do not know how difficult it is to become a board-certified pathologist. In my opinion, among the ranks of physicians or medical doctors, none is more brilliant or gifted than the pathologist. The pathologist has traditionally earned the respected title, “the doctor’s doctor.” I have heard doctors say, sotto voce, “God help us if the pathologist cannot help us with this medical problem.”
Richard Hughes had very humble beginnings, having been born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and having experienced city life in much the same way that many other young African American males experienced it. The public education he received as a child was not stellar, as is the case for many young African Americans, but Dick made the best of it.
Oh yes, I forget to mention it. All of us who worked with Dr. Hughes just called him “Dick.” He didn’t make a big deal of the fact that he was a great medical researcher who could rightfully be addressed as “Dr. Hughes.”
Anyway, twenty-one of us worked with Dick in his lab, which was situated in a beautiful building in a wooded area, adjacent to lovely vineyards, in southwestern Michigan. It was a joy working with Dick in this natural setting.
We did some great work there. Much of what we did would be seen as boring to most people. Pathology, as a working science, is rather routine in many regards. However, pathology is essential in the world of medicine.
After I left the lab, I eventually lost contact with Dr. Hughes. I ended up moving away from Michigan to Bethesda, Maryland. I worked for a time with Dr. Slagel in a bone marrow transplantation research lab at the Naval Medical Research Institute. Then I spent some time practicing primary health care medicine aboard U.S. Navy ships and in the field with U.S. Marines units. After about 20 years or so away from my family’s farm in Middle Tennessee, I returned home, back to the land.
I would love to see Dick again. I learned a lot about life and medicine working with him.
If, or when, I ever come into contact with Dick again, it will be a joyful reunion. I will write another discourse like this one to bring everyone up to date on his life and achievements.
Until then, we can thank God for Dick—and for giving us men and women who have the heart to advance the calling of board-certified pathologists.