Dr. Levi Watkins, M.D.:
Dr. Levi Watkins is a pioneer in many respects. He was educated at Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He then became the first African-American to be admitted to and to graduate from Vanderbilt's School of Medicine. After graduating from medical school, Dr. Watkins went onto become the first black chief resident in cardiac surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital as well.
In February 1980, Dr. Watkins performed the world’s first human implantation of the automatic implantable defibrillator. He has subsequently developed several different techniques for the implantation of this device, and also helped to develop the cardiac arrhythmia service at Hopkins where various new open-heart techniques are now being performed to treat patients at risk of sudden cardiac death.
Dr. Watkins contributions to the university, however, extend well beyond the operating room. In 1979, he joined the admissions committee at Johns Hopkins University's Medical School. Thanks in large part to his efforts, by 1983, minority representation at the school had increased by 400%.
Out of the 121 students who received degrees during Dr. Watkins time on the admissions committee, there were 14 black graduates – the largest class of black physicians in the university’s history. He also initiated the Martin Luther King, Jr. annual commemoration celebration at the Johns Hopkins University.
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