Madison, Romell 1952–
Romell Madison 1952–
Possessing both a drive towards achievement and a desire for a well-rounded life, Romell J. Madison has always balanced his personal successes with a sense of responsibility to his family and his community. A respected professional with a thriving dental practice, he has also participated in many national, state, and local organizations, both to improve public understanding of dental issues and to inspire young people to reach higher goals. He has worked to educate government officials about public health issues and has worked on several state health boards. However, Madison’s family life has remained important to him, and he has never allowed his career to overshadow his home life.
Though Madison’s life and career have been centered in the old southern city of New Orleans, he began his life in another port city quite far away, Nagoya, in central Japan. James Madison, a career soldier in the United States army, was stationed in Nagoya when he met and married a young Japanese woman named Fuki Tanaka. On May 25, 1952, their first son, Romell James was born there. Young Romell spent his first five years in Japan, his family then moved to the United States. Sergeant Madison was stationed for a short time in Colorado before retiring from the military. Upon his retirement, Madison moved his family to his home state of Louisiana to raise his children in New Orleans.
New Orleans is an historic city with a diverse population. Mixed race people are common there, and an African American/Japanese family could be more comfortable in New Orleans than almost any other city in the world. Fuki Madison exerted a strong influence over her children, encouraging and expecting excellence in their schoolwork. Education was important to her, and the Madison children knew that their mother would be very disappointed in them if they did not do well. During the 1960s, when blacks all over the United States were struggling to overcome prejudice and racism, his mother’s urging motivated Romell Madison to aim for opportunities that had been denied to many African Americans.
It was a childhood sports accident that would point Madison towards his future career. He broke his arm playing baseball and watched with fascination as doctors pulled on his arm to reset the broken bone. He began to think he would like to learn to help people in the same way when he grew up.
Madison’s devotion to his studies paid off when he was accepted at the selective McDonogh 35 college preparatory high school. He graduated in 1970 and entered the University of New Orleans. In 1972, while still an undergraduate, he married Grace Perkins.
After three years, Madison left the University of New Orleans and entered the College of Pharmacy at Xavier University in the same city. His major was pre-medicine—his final goal, medical school—but he knew that medical school would be difficult and expensive. He decided to study pharmacy, the science of preparing and giving out medications, so that he could work in a field related to medicine while he saved and prepared
Born Romell James Madison on May 25, 1952, in Nagoya, Japan; married Grace Perkins, July 8, 1972; children: Romell Jarrod, Leslie. Education: University of New Orleans, 1970-1973; College of Pharmacy, Xavier University, BS, pharmacology, 1975; Meharry Medical College, DDS, 1984.
Career: Pharmacist, 1975-1980; Dentist, 1984—.
Selected memberships: New Orleans Dental Society, president, 2001 and 2002; Pelican State Dental Association, president, 2001 and 2002; National Dental Association, president, 2003; Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Alumni Chapter, polemarch, 2003; Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, 2004,
Selected awards; Student National Dental Association Scholarship, 1981; Meharry Medical College, Oral Medicine and Oral Diagnosis Award, 1983; Meharry Medical College, Dean’s Award, 1984; American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon’s Award, 1984; American Academy of Dental Radiology Award, 1984.
Addresses: Office—4819 Chef Menteur Highway, New Orleans, LA 70126.
for medical school. Being a practical young man, he figured he would also have an alternate career plan in case he did not get into medical school.
In 1980, after working as a pharmacist for four years, Madison was accepted at Meharry Medical College, in Nashville, Tennessee. He chose to attend Meharry’s dental college because he did not want to give up important time with his young family. By 1980 he and Grace had two children. By choosing dentistry, Madison could attain his childhood goal of helping and healing people without the years of long hours away from his family that medical internships and residency programs required.
Though he continued to work as a pharmacist to support his family, Madison excelled at his studies at Meharry. In his first year, he was awarded a scholarship by the Student National Dental Association, an organization that encourages and supports minority students in choosing dentistry as a career. During his dental school years, Madison earned both the Pharmacology and Oral Medicine and Oral Surgery awards. Upon graduation he received a variety of other awards, including the Dean’s Award, the American Teachers of Dental Radiology Award, and the American College of Stomatolagic Surgeon’s Award, for excellence in his studies of diseases of the mouth.
Upon graduation from medical school, Madison planned to continue his education in a dental specialty. He wanted to study oral surgery and gained a place on the waiting lists at both Louisiana State University and Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University. While waiting to be admitted to one of these schools, he returned to his hometown of New Orleans and opened a small private practice. Soon, business became so good that Madison never found the time to return to college. Family and friends became his first patients, and, as Madison told Contemporary Black Biography, his reputation spread quickly by “word of mouth.”
Madison’s skill, kindness, and dry sense of humor attracted patients in large numbers. His vigorous beginning schedule of twenty to thirty patients a day soon grew to fifty patients a day and kept growing. Twenty years after opening his practice, Madison’s practice had grown to include five associate dentists in two offices, serving over 30,000 patients. Though he did not return to college as a full-time student, Madison did continue his education in dental techniques, becoming certified in tooth implantation, orthodontry, and laser dentistry, among other skills.
Early in his career, Madison joined the National Dental Association, the nation’s oldest organization of dentists of color. Started in 1913, when most minorities were not permitted to join other dental associations, the NDA has worked for almost a century to support minority oral health professionals and to promote understanding of the dental needs of minority communities. Madison joined the NDA after graduating from Meharry and has continued to help the organization in its goals. Five times between the late 1900s and early 2000s, he went with a group of NDA representatives to speak with members of Congress and encourage legislation about issues related to dental health. For example, one NDA delegation, which included Madison, sought and received a $100,000 grant to study the effects of automobile seatbelts on head, neck, jaw, and tooth injuries. In 2003 Madison served as president of the National Dental Association.
Along with his work with the NDA, Madison has also been consistently involved in community service projects and organizations, working to advise and encourage young people to consider dental careers. In 2000 the governor of Louisiana recognized Madison’s expertise by appointing him to the Louisiana HIV AIDS Commission and the Commission of Louisiana Minority Heath Affairs. In 2004 he was appointed to the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, which licenses and regulates all dentists in the state.
“About Us.” National Dental Association, www.ndaonline.org (April 17, 2004).
Information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Romell Madison on April 16, 2004.
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