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Three at Johns Hopkins Appointed to Gov. Ehrlich’s New Medical Malpractice and Health Care Access Task Force

Johns Hopkins Medicine
Office of Corporate Communications
Media Contact: Gary Stephenson
July 29, 2004

Task Force to Conduct Review of Maryland's Medical Malpractice Situation

Levi Watkins Jr., M.D., associate dean of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and professor of cardiac surgery, Richard P. Kidwell, managing attorney for claims and litigation and director of risk management for the Johns Hopkins Health System, and Andrew Harris, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology/critical care medicine and gynecology/obstetrics at Hopkins and a Maryland State senator for District 7, have been appointed to a new task force established by Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to address Maryland's growing medical malpractice costs.

According to Ehrlich, the soaring cost of malpractice insurance has reached a crisis point that is adversely affecting physicians' practices and limiting access to health care. During the past four years, the total annual amount paid out by Medical Mutual, the largest medical malpractice insurer for physicians in the state, jumped from $47 million to $74 million.

The 20-member task force will develop recommendations regarding the medical malpractice situation for presentation to the governor sometime this fall.

Watkins, the first African American admitted to the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the first black to graduate from that institution, joined Hopkins in 1970 as a surgical intern, and in 1978 was appointed the division of cardiac surgery's first black chief resident. Between 1973 and 1974, Watkins conducted research at Harvard that helped lead to the development of angiotensin blockers in the treatment of congestive heart failure, and rejoined Hopkins in 1975 where he was the first surgeon to implant an automatic defibrillator to prevent sudden cardiac death. He was promoted to full professor of cardiac surgery in 1991, as well as dean for postdoctoral programs and faculty development.

Kidwell, a 1979 graduate with honors from the University of Maryland School of Law, was an associate and partner in the Baltimore law firm of Miles and Stockbridge from 1979 to 1993. He joined Hopkins in 1994 as managing attorney for claims and litigation and director of risk management. He oversees the medical malpractice litigation for The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Howard County General Hospital, the physicians of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the physicians and staff of Johns Hopkins Community Physicians. In addition, Kidwell supervises the risk management personnel at each Johns Hopkins Medicine facility in their efforts to improve patient safety. He is past president and a current member of the Maryland Society for Healthcare Risk Management and chairman of the Maryland Tort Reform Coalition.

Harris graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1980 and received postdoctoral training at Hopkins in surgery, anesthesiology/critical care medicine and obstetric anesthesiology. Former chief of obstetric anesthesiology at Hopkins, Harris also served as director of obstetric anesthesiology at the Bethesda Naval Hospital from 1990 to 1991. Harris, a Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, founded the Johns Hopkins Naval Reserve Medical Unit. A state senator representing District 7 (Baltimore County and Harford County) since 1999, Harris serves as minority whip and is a member of the State Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

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