Dr. James Collins was born to James and
Essie Roseman Collins on December 26, 1925 in Cincinnati,
Ohio. His family relocated to Detroit, Michigan in 1926
when he was about six-months old. After graduating from
Northern High School in 1944, Dr. Collins spent two
years in the Navy. He enrolled in Wayne University when
he returned home and received his bachelor's degree
in 1949. He went on to the University of Michigan Medical
School where he earned his medical degree in 1953.
his internship at St. Lawrence Hospital in Lansing,
Michigan, Dr. Collins returned to Detroit for his pediatric
residency at Children's Hospital of Michigan. He was
the second African American to do so and was certified
has held staff appointments at Children's, Sinai, and
Hutzel Hospitals since 1956. He left Sinai in 1983.
He was also on the staff of Highland Park General Hospital
from 1975 to 1977. His faculty appointment at the Wayne
State University School of Medicine began in 1962.
1991, he has been a full professor of pediatrics and
Assistant Dean for Admissions. He has also been the
Director of Medical Student Education since 1980.
president of both the Detroit Medical Society and the
Detroit Pediatric Society, he is also a Fellow of the
American Academy of Pediatrics.
has been the recipient of the Mayor's Merit Award for
Significant Community Service and Contribution, as well
as the State of Michigan Special Tribute and Recognition
Award for Exemplary Leadership in the Field of Medicine.
on the boards of his church and other community organizations,
he is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and
a life member of the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People.
Collin talks about role models and their influence on
to the Navy and that was a great help, because it would
have been difficult to do, but I did get the Urban League
scholarship, and it was only $250, but to me that was
like $250,000 in those days! Remus Robinson [M.D.] was
president of the Urban League. John Dancy was there
and was very impressed with [the] fact that I graduated
with honors and was accepted to [the University of]
said, "Well, I'm going to talk to Dr. Robinson, who's
head of the board for scholarships." And he talked to
Dr. Robinson and Robinson invited me [to] his home.
Now this was quite a few years later and he lived in
this elegant house on Chicago Boulevard. And I'll never
forget walking over there. I walked over there. It was
six or ten blocks. Anyway, and I was so impressed with
his person. He came to the door; he was an elegant man-very
stately, a bit formal. And he says, "How do you do?"
and so forth and so on, and I told him who I was. He
said, "Come on in." And he escorted me into what was
like a library. I'd never been in a library before
somebody's home was a library! I couldn't believe that!
And I sat there and he had all these books on the shelves.
I had this acceptance [letter] to the University of
been a Michigan [graduate]. He graduated in 1932 or
33 and had also gone to college there. He'd gone
to the [Literature] School, as well as the [Medical]
School, and had applied for a residency there, but the
discrimination thing kicked in, and he went to St. Louis
for the basic surgery and then came back to Ann Arbor
for some post-graduate surgery. And he used to practice
dissecting in the gross anatomy lab. He came up every
Wednesday. And I was then a medical student (this is
a year or two later), and there were only two or three
black doctors that came up to the conferences in Ann
Arbor every week. He was one. The other was Dr. [W.
H. M.] Johnson, who was one of the owners of Trinity
[Hospital]. But anyway, he was so well regarded at that
time, and later came down and became chief of surgery
at Parkside-one of the black hospitals right across
from Harper [Hospital]-and Providence Hospital. Later
on he became a member of the surgical staff at Providence
Hospital and actually operated on my wife-she had a
thyroid problem and
we had just gotten married and I
was a first-year resident and [had] intern[ed] at Children's
doctor I knew who was a surgeon was Remus Robinson.
And I went over there and he said, "Oh, don't worry
about your insurance, we're going to take care of all
of this stuff for you." And he took care of my wife
when she had a thyroid problem, and so on. But Remus
I was so impressed with that. He had me go down
to Trinity, too. I met [Dr.] Johnson and what was his
name? [Dr.] Raiford. Raiford, [Jr.] I met. Now the good
news about that visit [was] that Raiford, [Jr.] was
a U of M graduate. He graduated like in the early, mid-20s
and he says-[when] I met him, I hadn't quite gotten
accepted then, I was scheduled for an interview-and
he says, "Well, do you know who's interviewing you?"
And I didn't know. He says, "Well, you go on up there
and I'm going to call up there before you get there
and let them know that I'm recommending you." Now, whether
he actually did that, I don't really know. But I must
admit, when I got there for the interview, the man acted
as though he knew him. But I think he was being polite
a little bit, I'll never be sure of that. But he was
a [University of] Michigan graduate, Remus was a [University
of] Michigan graduate and they were very encouraging
and supportive. And in my class there [were] three of
us [blacks] that were admitted that year.
Who were the other two?
other one was [Oliver] Champion, from Columbia, South
Carolina, and John Franklin. John was from Detroit,
had finished Southeastern [High School], had finished
University of Michigan Engineering School (it was an
interesting story). John had had no biology. He always
want[ed] to be a doctor. He didn't want to be an engineer
in the first place, but they were not
he didn't think
he could get into [medical] school, so he took engineering,
"So I can get a job."
irony was, the year he got his bachelor's [degree],
it [was] in 49-that's the year I got my bachelor's-there
were no openings in engineering. That was a low year.
[Recruiters] were coming to the campus trying to recruit
engineers, but he was black, for one thing, and he didn't
get any offers. So he walked across the campus to the
[medical] school. He and I became roommates later on,
by the way-and John said, "I just didn't know what to
do. I didn't have a job." He had a 3. average from
the engineering school, in math and all that. He went
over and he met a man named Whitaker. Dr. Whitaker was
[vice-chair] of anatomy. John says, "I want to be a
doctor, but I went to engineering school because I didn't
think I'd ever get in and I couldn't afford all those
years, and now I can't get a job as an engineer." And
Whitaker said, "Let me see your record." John had a
student transcript in his hand [and] showed it to him.
He said, "Have you ever had any biology or anatomy?"
He says, "No, never have." He went back and talked to
some people. Next thing I knew, John was in the [medical]
school. John was admitted.
got in from Wayne [University]. John and I didn't know
each other at that point. We met the day classes began.
And we started telling our old stories and we became
like this-we became like brothers. And then there was
oh, Calvin Williams was admitted, too. Calvin
had to drop out after a year, but he started with me.
He was from Wayne [University]. Calvin and myself from
Wayne, and John Franklin from Michigan, and [Oliver]
Champion, who had come up from Fisk [University]. Actually,
Champion had been at [the University of] Michigan already
a year, but his father died, and he dropped out of school
for a year and then came back and entered my class.
And his father was a doctor-John
we called him Champ.
Champ had no financial problems-had a car, I couldn't
believe this guy, I said, "Man, you're wealthy!" John
Franklin and I were eating hamburgers everyday. My man
ate, you know, really well. But anyway, the four of
us really bonded, we studied together, we did everything
together, and we were the only
four [blacks]. Champion
wasn't admitted with me, but he came into our class.
And, we did very well.