SPECIAL EDITION: Vanderbilt mourns Levi Watkins Jr.

Levi Watkins Jr., M.D., renowned cardiac surgeon, champion of racial equality and diversity, and the first African-American to be admitted to and graduate from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM), died Saturday from complications after suffering a stroke. He was 70. When Dr. Watkins walked through the doors of VUSM in 1966, he broke new ground by becoming the school's first African-American student. When he graduated four years later after being elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society, he was still the only one. However, he blazed the trail for a medical school now nationally recognized for its admission of students underrepresented in medicine. Read more...

Remembrance: Andre Churchwell, M.D., senior associate dean for Diversity Affairs


Levi's life was one committed to transformative change, starting the day he walked through the doors of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM), nearly a half-century ago. His natural curiosity, intelligence and passions spurred him to effect change in many areas of human endeavor. Given his energy, determination and family-imbued values he was able to leave a monumental legacy for the ages: Read more...

Remembrance: George Hill, Ph.D., professor of Medical Education and Administration, Emeritus


Dr. Watkins will always have a presence throughout our country and here at VUSM. We will honor his legacy as long as the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine exists with the annual Levi Watkins Jr. Lecture in his honor, where he was the first speaker. He attended every presentation of the Levi Watkins Jr. lecture, from when it was established in October 2002 through last year. Read more...

Remembrance: Kevin Johnson, M.D., chair of Biomedical Informatics


I have a very fond remembrance of something Levi did for me that arguably was emblematic of the role he played for many of us. It is the day of my interview for medical school. I am already feeling anxious, because I was told by people at my college that no one from there ever got into Hopkins! My interview lasts a total of 10 minutes. Read more...

Remembrance: John Tarpley, M.D., professor of Surgery


Levi Watkins has been a personal friend, colleague and catalyst for nearly 49 years. He has been an incredible "Friend of Vanderbilt" over the past nearly four decades on multiple fronts, never forgetting his medical school roots. I met Levi Watkins Jr. in the late summer of 1966 when we were among the 54 folks matriculating at Vanderbilt for medical school. Read more...