Oral history of Levi Watkins
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Levi Watkins, Jr. was born in Parsons, Kansas. He completed his undergraduate work at Tennessee State University, where he majored in biology. He went on to become the first African American to be admitted to the Vanderbilt School of Medicine. Despite facing enormous prejudice, Watkins graduated in 1970. He completed his medical internship at Johns Hopkins, where he was the first black intern. He then went to study at Harvard Medical School's Department of Physiology. There, he completed revolutionary research on congestive heart failure. In 1975, Watkins returned to Hopkins and became Hopkins' first black chief resident in heart surgery. Watkins notably performed the first implantation of an automatic heart defibrillator. In this history, Watkins discusses his experiences as an African-American in the medical field in the middle of the 20th century as well as his career and education. This oral history is part of the Mame Warren oral histories series.