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Annual Levi Watkins, Jr. M.D. Lectureship

Renee Blanding, M.D., headshot

Every year, over 300 students are welcomed to the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus for the Summer Scholars Program, a partnership among the National Institute on Aging, National Institute on Drug Abuse and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Researchers and faculty from these programs recruit underrepresented minority students and those from underprivileged backgrounds with the goal of increasing diversity in academic medicine and science. To celebrate these students, Johns Hopkins Bayview hosts an annual lectureship, named in honor of Levi Watkins Jr., M.D., a leader in the field of cardiothoracic surgery who worked to enhance the culture of diversity and inclusion at Johns Hopkins.

The 12th Annual Bayview Summer Scholars Levi Watkins Jr., M.D., Lectureship was held virtually on July 13, with more than 90 students, faculty and staff in attendance. Renee Blanding, M.D., vice president, medical affairs, Johns Hopkins Bayview, presented “The Letter: Advice and Reflections for the Next Generation of Biomedical Professionals.”

In her keynote address, Dr. Blanding implored this year’s scholars to "devote your time and your talents to researching, diagnosing and treating patients with the most challenging diseases, and I want you to do this work with humility, conviction and compassion.”

“I ask that you commit to serving the community with all the resources that you have,” she continued. “And I ask that you devote the time to solving the problems of health care, such as health equity, throughput and operations.”

Sherita Golden, M.D., vice president and chief diversity officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine, concluded the celebration by thanking Dr. Blanding for being so transparent and sharing her journey. “I have been so inspired, as I’m sure all of our young, future physicians and scientists have been,” said Dr. Golden.

To view a recording of this year’s lecture, click here and enter passcode kWB*Hv1M

Students who attended the conference were entered into a raffle to win an iPad. Congratulations to Edward Nguyen and Dillon Murugesan. Nguyen is a student from the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine and is participating in the MSTAR program. Murugesan is a student at The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education and participating in the pulmonary and critical care medicine summer internship at The Johns Hopkins University.

In 2016, this celebration was renamed in honor of the late Levi Watkins, Jr., M.D., a pioneer in both cardiac surgery and civil rights. Dr. Watkins’ niece, Crystal C. Watkins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Memory Clinic in the Neuropsychiatry Program at Sheppard Pratt, and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, inspired students with the inaugural keynote address.

Levi Watkins, M.D.

Dr. Levi Watkins is a fitting namesake for the Summer Scholars Lectureship. After joining the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1971, Dr. Watkins charted a career of historic firsts. In 1980, he performed the world’s first implantation of an automatic heart defibrillator in a human. In cardiac surgery, he became the first black chief resident at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and later the first African-American full professor. He was a tireless advocate for fairness and diversity, spearheading a drive to recruit minorities to Hopkins and establishing the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration.

Previous keynote speakers have included:

  • Renee Blanding, M.D., Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
  • Marie Bernard, M.D., National Institute on Aging
  • Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, Ph.D., University of Maryland-Baltimore County
  • Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, M.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Jean Lud Cadet, M.D., National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • Levi Watkins, Jr., M.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Lisa D. Cooper, M.D., MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Crystal C. Watkins, M.D., Ph.D., Sheppard Pratt Health System
  • Nadia Hansel, M.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Michele Evans, M.D., National Institute on Aging
  • Ivan Montoya, M.D., National Institute on Drug Abuse
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