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Dr. Levi Watkins

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Information about Dr. Levi Watkins

Profile image of Dr. Levi Watkins

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MedicalMakers
Occupation(s):
Medical Professor
Cardiac Surgeon

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue, Black, Gold
Favorite Food:
Chicken, Fried Fish
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Nice, France
Favorite Quote:
Give Me The Courage To Change The Things I Can. Give Me The Serenity To Accept The Things I Can't Change And The Wisdom To Know The Difference.

Birthplace

Born:
6/13/1944
Birth Location:
Parsons, Kansas

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MedicalMakers
Occupation(s):
Medical Professor
Cardiac Surgeon

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue, Black, Gold
Favorite Food:
Chicken, Fried Fish
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Nice, France
Favorite Quote:
Give Me The Courage To Change The Things I Can. Give Me The Serenity To Accept The Things I Can't Change And The Wisdom To Know The Difference.

Birthplace

Born:
6/13/1944
Birth Location:
Parsons
See how Dr. Levi Watkins is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Distinguished surgeon Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., was born on June 13, 1944, in Parsons, Kansas, the third of six children; his father, Levi Watkins, Sr., was a college professor who became president of Alabama State College in Montgomery, Alabama. After graduating as valedictorian from the Alabama State Laboratory High School, Watkins entered Tennessee State University, majoring in biology and further developing his interests in political science and civil rights. After graduating with honors from Tennessee State in 1966, Watkins became the first African American to be admitted to and to graduate from Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine.

After graduating from Vanderbilt, Watkins started a general surgery residency at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in 1971, where he was the first black chief resident of cardiac surgery. Watkins continued his professional career by conducting cardiac research at the Harvard Medical School of Physiology from 1973-1975. At Harvard, Watkins investigated the relationship between congestive heart failure and the renin angiotensis system. After returning to Johns Hopkins, Watkins was a cardiothoracic surgery fellow from 1976 to 1978; he became a full-time faculty member in 1978 in the Division of Cardiac Surgery, joining the medical school admissions committee a year later.

In 1980, Watkins performed the world’s first human implantation of the automatic implantable defibrillator; he also developed the cardiac arrhythmia service at Johns Hopkins. Watkins did research on coronary heart disease in African Americans through the Minority Health Commission and Panel for Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery; because of this work on behalf of minority students he was appointed to the National Board of the Robert Wood Johnson Minority Faculty Development Program in 1983.

In 1991, Watkins was promoted to full professor of cardiac surgery and dean for Postdoctoral Programs and Faculty Development at Johns Hopkins. In these positions, Watkins revolutionized postdoctoral education in America by helping to establish the nation’s first postdoctoral association. In 1992, Vanderbilt University established a Professorship and Associate Deanship in Dr. Watkins’s name to honor his work for diversity in medical education.

Watkins received honorary degrees from Sojourner Douglass-College (1988), Meharry Medical College (1989), Spelman College (1996), and Morgan State University (1997); his other professional affiliations included the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. Watkins has been the recipient of numerous accolades over the years, including the Vanderbilt Medal of Honor (1998), the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association Heritage Award (1999). In 2000, Watkins was honored by the Guidant Corporation for pioneering work on the automatic defibrillator.

Dr. Watkins passed away on April 11, 2015 at the age of 70.

Levi Watkins was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 5, 2007.

See how Dr. Levi Watkins is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Levi Watkins' interview, session 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. Levi Watkins lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers his grandparents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. Levi Watkins lists his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers his neighborhood in Montgomery, Alabama
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers the Alabama State Laboratory School in Montgomery, Alabama
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about his upbringing in Montgomery, Alabama
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers integrating the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. Levi Watkins recalls his social life at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. Levi Watkins recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his graduation from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. Levi Watkins recalls his research at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers mentoring black students at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. Levi Watkins recalls designing the implantable cardioverter defibrillator
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers operating on his father
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers his relationship with his father
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about the mentorship of Vivien Thomas
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers the Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about the Robert Wood Minority Faculty Development Program
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his board memberships
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about his mentors
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration at Johns Hopkins Medicine
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about his awards, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dr. Levi Watkins remembers being assaulted at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dr. Levi Watkins recalls being the subject of 'A Dream Fulfilled'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about his awards, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about the Levi Watkins Professorship at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dr. Levi Watkins reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dr. Levi Watkins shares his advice to aspiring physicians
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about affirmative action
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dr. Levi Watkins talks about the role of religion in the African American community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dr. Levi Watkins reflects upon his values
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Dr. Levi Watkins reflects upon the importance of history
  • Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Dr. Levi Watkins reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Dr. Levi Watkins describes his mentorship of young people
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dr. Levi Watkins narrates his photographs