Promoting Equity and the Next Generation of Leaders
Dr. Jean Raphael ’93 is the Head of Academic General Pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital, and the Founding Director of the Hospital’s Center for Child Health Policy and Advocacy.
In 1993, Jean Leclerc Raphael graduated from Xaverian Brothers High School as co-valedictorian and was named “most intelligent” by his classmates in the senior superlatives. He went on to do his undergraduate studies at William’s College before attending Harvard Medical School. Dr. Raphael completed his residency in pediatrics and became Chief Resident at Boston Children’s Hospital. He then concurrently earned his Master of Public Health from Harvard and trained in health disparities through the Commonwealth Fund Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy. Upon graduation from that program, he was offered a position at Texas’s Baylor College of Medicine, primarily focused on general pediatrics but with a secondary appointment in hematology and oncology. Now, Dr. Raphael is the Head of Academic General Pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital, overseeing the primary care program in terms of clinical care, research, education, and advocacy. He is also the Founding Director of the hospital’s Center for Child Health Policy and Advocacy.
It was a long road from his childhood growing up in a single-family home in Dorchester, commuting 90 minutes to and from school, his activities dictated by the schedule of the 34E Forest Hills bus because it was his only way of getting home. But throughout the journey, he knew he wanted to make a difference for underserved communities, and he believed helping children was the best way to do that.
“I’ve always been interested in child health. Growing up in Dorchester, I wanted to give back to communities that were vulnerable and underserved. That was always a passion of mine. I felt that getting into healthcare would allow me to take care of families - to take care of children. The key with children is that there’s so much potential there. Being able to interact with them at that stage of development is an opportunity to transform their lives, and also the lives of their families as well.”
Now the Boston native who has lived in Texas since 2006 is busy raising three children. Despite a 16-year absence from the city, he considers himself a Bostonian to this day, checking Boston.com each morning and raising his children in the proud tradition of cheering on the Boston home teams. The Raphael’s are known around Houston as “the Boston family,” because they’re often spotted in public wearing Boston sports paraphernalia. About the move, Dr. Raphael says, “Texas Children’s Hospital is a large hospital and it has the great academics that I wanted.” Plus, he adds, the cost of living in Boston had gotten more expensive. So, Dr. Raphael and his young family packed up and they made the move.
No matter where he’s been located, throughout his career Dr. Raphael has focused on the issue of equity. He says, “Based on where I grew up, seeing so many families including my own deal with a lot of adverse childhood experiences, the issue of equity has always been an important one to me. Every child should have an opportunity to succeed in the ways that they desire, so that they can meet the full potential of what they want to be in the world. That doesn’t exist in the current landscape because of economics, racism, bias, access to health care, and issues around educational opportunity. My overarching goal in my career has been to try to advance health equity and to increase the opportunities for children to really succeed in life.”
He’s been able to do this in a variety of ways. “There have been times when I’ve been more involved in research on health equity but now, being in the role of a leader, I have more influence in terms of what our clinical care looks like, how we educate our learners and our faculty about health equity, and also pushing our group and our institution in areas of advocacy to ensure that there is equity within the healthcare system and in the general society.”
Dr. Raphael says his experience at Xaverian played a “huge role” in his life. Because he grew up without a father present, he says the relationships and role models at Xaverian took on added importance for him. “Having that community, that constant nurturing from all the teachers and the administration, made it a place I went into every day, and I felt cared for and nurtured. I knew all of the people around me were invested in me as a person. I think Xaverian was such a great match for me in terms of high school.” He didn’t always think that, though. Young Jean dreamt of going to a different area boys’ school. He’d never even heard of Xaverian. He and his mother attended a school fair, however, and heard one of the Xaverian Brothers give a presentation on their school in Westwood.
“My mom was just so impacted by her conversation with the Brother who was presenting. At the end of it, she said, ‘This is where you’re going,’” he says. “I knew that conversation meant a lot to her. With the attention they paid to us that day and when I visited the school, I was also convinced; there was no question where I wanted to go. Xaverian just had the environment and the culture that I wanted for the next steps of my development.”
There were many teachers along the way at Xaverian who Dr. Raphael remembers fondly. Mr. Higgins, Mr. Glinski, Ms. Schofield, Dr. Eckstrom, Mr. McCready—he rattles off their names with a smile, talking about their unique quirks or innate ability to show their students how to overcome obstacles, to learn, and to grow in mental toughness. “I can go through the names of teachers at Xaverian very easily, but college and med school not so much,” he says. “It’s because Xaverian was such an impactful part of my life. I looked forward to seeing all of those teachers every day because I knew they cared so much. They didn’t come just to teach, they came to nurture their students and make a difference.”
Dr. Raphael is sure to point out though that the person who had the biggest influence on his life at Xaverian wasn’t a teacher or an administrator; it was his best friend, Andres (Andy) Vizoso ’93. Andy passed away in July 2022 after a battle with gastric cancer. “He and I were very different people, but we immediately hit it off,” Dr. Raphael says. “He always inspired me, was a great support throughout my time there, and will forever be part of the foundation of who I aspire to be.”
Brother Daniel Skala, C.F.X., former Xaverian Headmaster and current General Superior of the Congregation of the Brothers of St. Francis Xavier, remembers Jean as a young man. “Not only was Jean an outstanding student blessed with considerable intelligence, but he also was a humble and compassionate young man. He had an uncanny ability to connect with fellow students and faculty, and he was always ready to help out in any way he could. It was easy to see that Jean had tremendous promise.”
Dr. Raphael has put that promise, humility, compassion, and his ability to connect with others to work fostering the next generation of physicians. “It’s so easy to get focused on what you accomplish and what you do, but that only goes so far,” he says. “It’s so much more important to consistently think about how you can help other people get to where they need to go. I’m most proud of being able to mentor and provide career guidance to people who also want to do great work for children and have an impact on the world. I’ve done research, I’ve had different leadership roles, I’ve been able to have a lot of individual success in that way, but it’s not meaningful tome. It’s the other part that’s meaningful. It goes back to what I learned at Xaverian, what’s essential is how you impact the world.”
Xaverian is a Catholic, college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7-12. As an inclusive community, we embrace diverse experiences and perspectives, welcoming students and families from all faiths and backgrounds. Through exceptional academics, athletics, the arts, faith formation, and service opportunities, we help young men discover their unique gifts and talents so they can share them with a world in need.