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Dr. James Gavin, III

Researcher and medical school president Dr. James R. Gavin III was born on November 23, 1945, in Mobile, Alabama. Gavin attended Livingstone College, graduating magna cum laude in 1966. From there he attended Emory University in Atlanta, earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1970 and earned his M.D. from Duke University in 1975.

Gavin's impressive career in the healthcare industry began in 1971, when he went to work as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Public Health Service, a position he held until 1973. Today, he still serves as a reserve officer. After earning his M.D., Gavin worked as a pathologist at Duke University Hospital. The Washington University School of Medicine hired Gavin in 1979, where he served as an associate professor of medicine until 1986. After Washington University, Gavin went to the University of Oklahoma, where he worked on diabetes research. In 1991, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) hired Gavin as its senior scientific officer, and in 2000, he was promoted to the director of HHMI-National Institutes of Health Research Scholars Program. Morehouse College School of Medicine named Gavin its president in 2002.

Gavin is an active member of numerous organizations, having served as president of the American Diabetes Association and on the editorial board of The American Journal of Physiology. He is a recipient of the Emory University Medal for Distinguished Achievement, the Banting Medal for Distinguished Service from the American Diabetes Association and the Internist of the Year from the National Medical Association. He currently serves on the board of directors of Baxter International and is outspoken in his support of affirmative action. Gavin and his wife of thirty-two years, Annie, have two sons.

Accession Number

A2003.102

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/8/2003 |and| 8/15/2003 |and| 8/11/2003

Last Name

Gavin

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

W H Council Traditional School

Central High School

Dunbar Creative Performing Arts

Livingstone College

Emory University

Duke University School of Medicine

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Mobile

HM ID

GAV01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

We Are A Small Medical School With Outrageous Ambition.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

11/23/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Medical school president, chief executive officer, and healthcare executive Dr. James Gavin, III (1945 - ) leads the Morehouse University Medical School. Gavin served as president of the American Diabetes Association and on the editorial board of The American Journal of Physiology.

Employment

United States Public Health Service

Duke University Hospital

Washington University in St. Louis

University of Oklahoma

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

Morehouse College School of Medicine

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. James Gavin's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. James Gavin lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. James Gavin describes his great grandfather, Seborn Gavin

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. James Gavin describes his paternal grandmother, Maggie Gavin

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. James Gavin talks about his father, James Gavin, Jr.

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. James Gavin talks about racial discrimination and desegregation in Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. James Gavin continues to talk about his father, James Gavin, Jr.

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. James Gavin describes his maternal grandmother, Nona Smoke

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dr. James Gavin describes his mother, Bessie Smoke Gavin

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dr. James Gavin talks about how his parents met and his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dr. James Gavin describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood in Mobile, Alabama, pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. James Gavin describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood in Mobile, Alabama, pt.2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. James Gavin describes his childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. James Gavin describes his childhood personality and his father's high expectations

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. James Gavin describes his teachers at W. H. Council Traditional School in Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. James Gavin remembers his childhood misadventures

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. James Gavin describes his activities at Central High School in Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. James Gavin describes Mr. White and Mr. Thomas, two influential teachers at Central High School in Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. James Gavin describes his social life in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dr. James Gavin talks about his experience at Big Zion A.M.E. Church in Mobile, Alabama and his decision to become a minister

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. James Gavin describes his decision to attend Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. James Gavin describes his experience at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. James Gavin shares about his graduate school experience at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. James Gavin describes co-founding a chapter of the Black Student Alliance (BSA) at Emory University in 1968

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. James Gavin remembers the impact of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. James Gavin talks about his fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. James Gavin talks about H. Rap Brown

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. James Gavin describes his decision to attend Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dr. James Gavin describes how he became a leading expert in the field of diabetes

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Dr. James Gavin talks about the early years of his medical career

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Dr. James Gavin talks about his work with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Dr. James Gavin talks about his work at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dr. James Gavin describes his tenure at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dr. James Gavin talks about his philosophy of management

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Second slating of Dr. James Gavin's interview

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dr. James Gavin recalls the scientific discoveries he oversaw as a senior administrator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dr. James Gavin describes the HHMI-NIH Research Scholars Program

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dr. James Gavin describes increasing opportunities for black medical students

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dr. James Gavin talks about the distortion of affirmative action the United States

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dr. James Gavin talks about the future of affirmative action

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dr. James Gavin talks about his appointment as the president of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dr. James Gavin explains why Morehouse School of Medicine does not benefit from contributions to Morehouse College

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Dr. James Gavin talks about the challenges of being a president and his management style

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Dr. James Gavin talks about the need for fiscal stability in predominantly black medical schools

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Dr. James Gavin talks about socialized medicine

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Dr. James Gavin describes health concerns in the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Dr. James Gavin describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Dr. James Gavin talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Dr. James Gavin's personal photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

3$3

DATitle
Dr. James Gavin describes his great grandfather, Seborn Gavin
Dr. James Gavin shares about his graduate school experience at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia
Transcript
Okay. Let me ask you about your family history. How far can you trace your family back?$$Well actually I can trace my family back to the former slave who was considered to be the patriarch of the East Coast Gavin clan and that was a fellow by the name of Seborn. That's S-E-B-O-R-N, Seborn Gavin, who was actually a slave in a plantation in Macon County, in a little town called Noxubee, Mississippi. My cousin, who is a--$$Can you spell that town for us?$$N-O-X-U-B-I-E [sic, N-O-X-U-B-E-E], I believe is the way it's spelled. I have a cousin who is a retired psychiatrist who lives in Williamsburg, Virginia, his name is Dr. James Baker. And Jim decided when he retired that he was going to do a little work on genealogy and so he looked into the Gavin family tree and he has been diligent in his pursuits and we actually now have an annual reunion. Every other year, the reunion goes back to Mississippi but in the off years, it's held in different cities around the country. And so for that reason we can actually go back for some several generations to Seborn's time. Seborn was called the "Black Mayor of Noxubee" because when he was finally freed, he was one of the people who used to negotiate with the local white people to get things done for the local black community and he would do this in exchange for being able to convince the black people to do things that the white people wanted done. And so he would always win a trade-off and he was, in fact, credited with negotiating the first brick schoolhouse for black children in that part of the country. So there's a lot of lore associated with that part of the Gavin genealogy.$$Is Noxubee, Mississippi in Macon County?$$In Macon County.$$In Mississippi.$$Yeah.$$Now is that a--near the Gulf or is it--$$No, it's up in the Delta.$$Okay, all right. Now are there any stories from the 19th Century that are passed down through your family? Now, when did your--did Seborn Gavin live?$$Seborn lived in the late 1800s. He was in the 1860s and in that part of time.$$So during the reconstruction?$$Yes, he was a Reconstruction Era, freed slave.$$Okay, well that was a good story about the schoolhouse but are there any other stories about the slavery period itself or any stories that are passed down, you know throughout--$$There weren't many stories of that time that were passed down with the exception of sort of general descriptions of how--how cagey and how wily Seborn was in terms of his ability to negotiate and come away from the negotiating table with something that could benefit the black community. He was a strong believer in education so most of the things that he fought for had to do with winning educational opportunities for the local black populace although clearly they were still very much in farming types of activities.$$And he was a great grandfather on your--on which side?$$On my father's side.$$On your father's side.$Okay, all right. So, well, you went on to graduate school, right?$$Yes, I left Livingstone and came here to Atlanta [Georgia], to Emory [University]. A very different kind of experience. In 1966, the height of the civil rights struggle, Emory was not a place ready for black students, in general. It was trying to make a move in that direction but it was--it was an uneasy fit, at best. As one of the first black students admitted to the Division of Basic Health Sciences, especially for a Ph.D. program, I had some--some pretty testy experiences at Emory, including a professor who did not believe that I wrote a paper that I submitted for a course once because the quality of the writing was too good. He said this is high quality stuff. Who wrote this? And, of course, at that time I was not the man you see before you now. I was a dashiki wearing, Afro wearing, militant, well not militant, but activist. I founded the Black Student Alliance at Emory. I was a co-founder with another person and I was--I was a pretty outspoken guy. So that was not a good encounter for me. In fact, I didn't think I was going to make it through Emory. The good side of it was that there some supportive people there and with that kind of support, it was possible to get through and having the West Side of Atlanta, the AU [Atlanta University] Center, and the church, I was going to an A.M.E. Zion church here in Atlanta, all of those were places that served as a kind of a safe haven--safe haven, sort of a harbor of respite and that allowed me to get through. Then later, my girlfriend [Ann Gavin], who by then was out of college and came here to work, she moved to Atlanta and it worked out just fine. I'm happy to say that over the years Emory has changed a lot. I've really developed a far different relationship with Emory and I actually can look back on those bitter days with a little bit more sanguinity. Very interesting times though. Exciting.