In 1973, Earl D.R. Kidwell Jr., M.D., graduated from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and became the first African American resident at the Wilmer Eye Institute.
In the intervening decades, Kidwell, who continues to see patients, has logged a storied career in which he has taught upward of 400 residents the art of cataract and oculoplastic surgery. Most of these residents have been at Wilmer, but he’s also instructed trainees at the University of Maryland, Howard University and Maryland General Hospital.
“How many exactly is something you don’t count,” Kidwell says with characteristic directness when asked if he knows the real number. “You just do it.”
One former student who definitely counts himself fortunate to be among those mentored by Kidwell is Peter J. McDonnell, M.D., director of Wilmer since 2003.
In McDonnell’s student days, Kidwell was chief of ophthalmology at Baltimore City Hospitals, which later became Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Johns Hopkins residents would rotate there and work under the supervision of Kidwell, who was known as a particularly excellent instructor in the operating room.
“He was very positive, very supportive, very helpful to learners like me,” McDonnell recalls of Kidwell’s style.
“It’s like in sports, where only a handful a human being in history prove to be both outstanding players and outstanding coaches. Earl Kidwell is one of those.”
Like McDonnell, many others share a fondness for Kidwell, as evidenced by the recent creation of the Earl D.R. Kidwell, Jr., M.D., Professorship of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute. “I think everyone was thrilled to be part of making this happen because of the impact that he’s had on the lives of so many trainees over multiple generations here at Wilmer,” says McDonnell.
The honor of being the inaugural Earl D.R. Kidwell, Jr., M.D., Professor was bestowed upon Timothy McCulley, M.D., chief of both the Division of Oculoplastics and the Division of Neuro-Ophthalmology at Wilmer, who specializes in reconstructive surgery of the eyelids and orbits.
Asked how long he plans to continue his legacy of teaching, Kidwell flashes a grin. “As long as I can do it,” he says, “I’m going to keep going strong.”