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Cardiologist to Speak on Cardiovascular Health Disparities


The Bluff City Medical Society, in partnership with the UT Center on Health Disparities, is featuring Levi Watkins, Jr., MD, as its guest lecturer for the Annual Bluff City Memorial Lecture.

The Bluff City Medical Society, in partnership with the University of Tennessee Center on Health Disparities, is featuring Levi Watkins, Jr., MD, as its guest lecturer for the Annual Bluff City Memorial Lecture. Dr. Watkins is a cardiac surgeon, as well as professor and associate dean of the College of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. The event will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26 at the South Auditorium of the Coleman Building on the University of Tennessee Health Science Center campus.

Dr. Watkins has distinguished himself in several areas of cardiology. His ground- breaking research at the Harvard Medical School Department of Physiology defined the role of the rennin-angiotensin system as it relates to congestive heart failure. He performed the world’s first human implantation of the automatic implantable defibrillator in February 1980 at Johns Hopkins.

He left his mark on academia as well. After being appointed dean for postdoctoral programs and faculty development at Johns Hopkins in 1991, he worked to establish the nation’s first postdoctoral association for which he is credited with revolutionizing the culture for postdoctoral education in America.

Dr. Watkins was the first African-American admitted to the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine from which he received the 1998 Vanderbilt Medal of Honor for outstanding alumni. In 2002, both a professorship and an associate deanship were established at Vanderbilt in Dr. Watkins’ name to honor his work for diversity in medical education.

The Bluff City Memorial Lecture series was inaugurated in 2004 by the Bluff City Medical Society to commemorate the achievements of African-American physicians who gave unselfishly to their patients and the community.

The Bluff City Medical Society (BCMS) was founded in 1885 by a group of African-American physicians and is a branch of the National Medical Association (NMA). A current BCMS program, the Health Initiative on Obesity, empowers the membership to take an active role in educating patients, family and friends about lifestyle changes that can enhance their quality of life.

“Since April is National Minority Health Month and National Health Disparities Month, Dr. Watkins’ topic, ‘Cardiovascular Health Disparities’, is especially timely and pertinent,” said Robin J. Womeodu, MD, UT associate professor of preventive medicine and medical director of the Center on Health Disparities. “Disparities in modifiable risk factors such as elevated blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity, elevated cholesterol and lack of exercise put African-Americans at increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Significant disparities have also been documented in the medical treatment provided for African-Americans who are diagnosed with atherosclerotic heart disease.”

“Dr. Watkins, along with UTHSC researchers, is trying to find better ways to address the modifiable risk factors in primary and secondary prevention initiatives and make sure patients understand their cardiac diagnosis well enough to make an informed treatment choice in partnership with their healthcare providers,” Dr. Womeodu noted.

For more information about the event, please contact rwomeodu@uthsc.edu.