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The Levi Watkins Jr., M.D., Endowed Memorial Lectureship

Levi WatkinsDr. Levi Watkins, Jr., M.D.
June 13, 1944 – April 11, 2015

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In April 2015, one of Johns Hopkins’ most beloved alumni, Levi Watkins Jr., passed away while doing what he enjoyed most: guiding prospective Johns Hopkins medical students.

Dr. Watkins joined the Department of Surgery as a surgical intern in 1970, and in 1978, he became the first African-American chief resident in cardiac surgery. He later established himself as a pioneer in open-heart surgical techniques, and in February 1980, he implanted the first automatic heart defibrillator, which has saved hundreds of thousands of lives since that time.

Just as important as his contributions to the field of cardiac surgery were his contributions to education, mentorship and advocacy for civil rights. He pioneered the recruiting and mentoring of minority students. He was a role model to many, sharing his experiences and providing his guidance to students, faculty members and community members outside of Johns Hopkins. He bridged the gap for minorities by advocating for opportunities and inclusion, and he tirelessly promoted policy and cultural change.

Dr. Watkins displayed his leadership in many ways. He went on to become a full professor of cardiac surgery in June 1991, and that September, he was appointed dean for postdoctoral programs and faculty development for the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In this capacity, he helped revolutionize the culture of postdoctoral education in the United States by working to establish the nation’s first postdoctoral association. Thanks to Dr. Watkins, more than 50 associations now exist today throughout the U.S.

While we will never forget Dr. Watkins, we want to permanently memorialize his legacy here in the Department of Surgery and honor his great impact on our institution. In memory of our friend and colleague, it is our desire to establish the Levi Watkins Jr., M.D., Endowed Memorial Lectureship. This permanent endowed lectureship will focus on diversity and mentorship, important priorities for which Watkins was passionate.

Please partner with us in making a gift in memory of Dr. Watkins to establish the Levi Watkins Jr., M.D., Endowed Memorial Lectureship, which will give future generations of faculty members and students the opportunity to learn about diversity and mentorship, honor Dr. Watkins’ legacy, and help us ensure that his passion, advocacy and service continue to live on in the Department of Surgery at Johns Hopkins.

Levi's Legacy: Robert Higgins, Edward Cornwell III Q&A

Robert S.D. Higgins, surgeon-in-chief at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Edward E. Cornwell, III, surgeon-in-chief at Howard University Hospital, discuss the legacy of Levi Watkins Jr., a pioneer in cardiac surgery, and the growth of minorities in surgical medicine.

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