James W. Collins
Back Home Up Next

James W. Collins


Sinai Hospital, Children's Hospital of Michigan, and Wayne State University School of Medicine


James W. Collins

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.

Following 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 in 1958.

Dr. Collins 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.

Since 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.

A former president of both the Detroit Medical Society and the Detroit Pediatric Society, he is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Collins 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.

Active 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.

Tape recorded interview;
Detroit, MI
6 August  1998
audio clip

Dr. Collin talks about role models and their influence on his education

I went 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] Michigan.

And he 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…in 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 Michigan.

He had been a Michigan [graduate]. He graduated in 1932 or [19]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 Hospital.

The only 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 was…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-[19]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.

I: Who were the other two?

R: The 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."

But the irony was, the year he got his bachelor's [degree], it [was] in [19]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.[5] 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.

Then I 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 another…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.


William G. Anderson
Reginald P. Ayala
Arthur W Boddie
Wilma Brakefield-Caldwell
Henry C. Bryant Jr.
Alice Burton
Waldo L. Cain
James W. Collins
Claude and Vivienne Cooper
Gladys B. Dillard
George Gaines Jr.
Leon Gant
Herman J. Glass Sr.
Della Goodwin
Joseph B. Harris
Frank P. Iacobell
Horace L. Jefferson
Sidney B. Jenkins
Arthur Johnson
Rachel B. Keith
William E. Lawson
Josephine Love
Hayward Maben Jr.
Berna C. Mason
Suesetta T. McCree
Dorothy Mottley
David C. Northcross Jr.
Ophelia B. Northcross
Marjorie Peebles-Meyers
Frank P. Raiford III
Garther Roberson Jr.
S. L. Roberson
Elsie Smith
Fannie L. Starks
Lionel F. Swan
Natalia M. Tanner
Oretta Mae Todd
I. Clara Webb
Charles F. Whitten
Charles H. Wright
Watson Young


Home ] Up ]

Copyright , Kellogg African American Health Care Project, 2000.
Text and images may not be used without the permission of the Kellogg African American Health Care Project.