The new accelerated program will “create a pipeline for African-American doctors and dental practitioners” that is needed due to COVID-19, said TSU president Glenda Glover.
As reported by the Tennessean, the two historically Black colleges are launching the new Dr Levi Watkins Jr. Medical, Dental Accelerated Pathway Program to prepare qualified TSU students for early acceptance to Meharry for medical or dental school.
The program’s namesake, Watkins, the heart surgeon and civil rights activist who was the first doctor to successfully implant a heart defibrillator in a patient, was a 1966 alumnus of TSU and the first African-American to graduate from the Vanderbilt School of Medicine.
TSU president Glenda Glover said the accelerated program will “create a pipeline for African-American doctors and dental practitioners” that is needed now more than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meharry is already tackling the need for physicians in underserved communities like many areas of rural Tennessee through a fast-track program in partnership with Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
MTSU students accepted into that program, launched in 2017, attend 3 years at the undergraduate level, earn a bachelor’s degree and then go straight into 3 years of medical school at Meharry with state funding offsetting the cost of tuition.
In return, the students agree to work for at least 2 years in parts of Tennessee that need doctors the most.
Meharry’s new partnership with TSU will provide the same accelerated route of study for TSU students. Meharry graduates already overwhelmingly go on to serve patients in vulnerable or overlooked communities throughout the country, according to school officials, but Glover said the disproportionate toll that the coronavirus pandemic has taken on people of color highlights the glaring need for diverse healthcare providers.