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Vanderbilt’s DeBaun to deliver annual Levi Watkins Jr. Lecture

Oct. 9, 2014, 10:10 AM

Michael R. DeBaun, M.D., J.C. Peterson Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at Vanderbilt, will be the keynote speaker at the 13th Annual Levi Watkins Jr. Lecture.

Michael R. DeBaun, M.D.

The address, “Academic Activism: Choosing the Right Time and the Right Purpose,” will be held Tuesday, Oct. 14, at noon in 208 Light Hall.

The lecture honors Watkins, a prominent cardiac surgeon and the first African-American student to be admitted to and graduate from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

For DeBaun, vice chair of clinical research in the Department of Pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt-Meharry Medical School Center for Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease, the opportunity to be a part of the annual lecture series goes beyond a typical speaking engagement.

When DeBaun was applying to medical schools and beginning the interview process, he received a call from Watkins offering congratulations for securing an interview at Johns Hopkins Medical School. But DeBaun said Watkins went a step further.

“He called out of the blue and said he’d like to meet with me to give me some pointers and prep me for my interview,” recalled DeBaun. “He arranged for me to stay with a couple of medical students as well. I met with Dr. Watkins and he provided one of the most important sessions — he gave me critical, lifelong advice.

“I didn’t know how unique and deep his commitment was to help others. To the best of my ability, I have tried to reach out to others as he reached out to me.”

DeBaun’s talk will highlight his journey from a medical student to a professor, all the while harboring the desire and passion for effecting sustainable change.

“This is an honor to speak as the Levi Watkins Lecturer, not only because of what Dr. Watkins has meant to me, but what he has meant for so many medical students for decades. This will truly be a special moment.”

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