As healthcare integrated, Willmott says, “Most of the black hospitals just died. They were not incorporated into white hospitals. I think that's the thing that makes the Truman story unique.”
The 60-minute film explores the secret meetings in the mid-1950s between the white assistant city manager, Albert Mauro Sr., and Dr. Sam Rogers, the leading black physician, that paved the way, Willmott says. The impetus, as it so often is in healthcare consolidation, was financial rather than the moral case for integration, Willmott says—the city simply couldn't afford separate but equal any longer. Willmott credits Mauro's respectful approach to Rogers and other African-American healthcare providers: “If it had been someone besides Mauro, it might not have been so successful.”
The importance of Truman's founding continues to resonate in the person of John Bluford, Truman Medical Centers' president and CEO and the current chairman of the American Hospital Association, Willmott says. Bluford's career started at a segregated South Carolina hospital that he describes in the film as not much more than a first-aid station that served the entire African-American community, Willmott says.
“To arrive today at a hospital that is far more than what is called a safety net hospital and to have an African-American heading that up is the American story,” he says.
To watch the film go to www.fromseparatetoequal.org.