WHEN Dr. Levi Watkins came to Johns Hopkins Hospital 1970...

salmagundi

March 10, 1994

WHEN Dr. Levi Watkins came to Johns Hopkins Hospital 1970 as the first African-American intern in the institution's history, he found an environment where racial etiquette was little changed from the 1940s, when the only black men at the hospital were pushing brooms and mops.

Dr. Watkins, who would become the first black surgical resident admitted to the Johns Hopkins Hospital staff, was determined to change that.

Growing up in Montgomery, Ala., the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement, Dr. Watkins' role models were Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and Levi Watkins Sr., his father.

He was baptized by Mr. Abernathy and later was a member of Dr. King's congregation at the city's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. He remembers driving people to church so they could boycott the buses.

At Hopkins, Dr. Watkins became a powerful force for change. Today, as a medical school dean and professor of cardiac surgery, he travels the country encouraging young African-Americans to join the Hopkins community.

In honoring his achievements as both physician and activist recently, the Baltimore Urban League expressed the thanks of the entire city for his pioneering efforts.

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