Tag Archives: cohort

TSU’s accelerated program prepares inaugural class for medical school

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s accelerated medical program is one step closer to fulfilling part of its mission as the first cohort prepares to enter medical school. In 2021, TSU put out a national call to recruit students, aspiring to become medical doctors and dentists, for the innovative Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute Meharry Medical College/Tennessee State University Medical/Dental Accelerated Pathway Program. One of those students answering the call was Samantha Altidort. The Nashville native looks to become a family medicine physician.

Samantha Altidort working in a Western Blotting and protein assay techniques lab during honors undergraduate research.

“When I found out there was a program at Tennessee State University that was geared towards increasing the number of minority physicians and preparing them for a future in medicine, I immediately applied,” said Altidort, who is a part of the inaugural class preparing for medical school at Meharry Medical College.

Established in honor of Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., a renowned heart surgeon and TSU alumnus, the program serves as a pipeline for minority students to become medical doctors. The program was also created to ensure that there is a steady supply of physicians and dentists committed to addressing health equity in underserved communities.

Jaden Knight, of Dayton, Ohio, aims to attend Meharry Medical College and become an orthodontist. Knight added that he looks forward to addressing the underrepresentation of African American men in the field and improving minority patient satisfaction.

“It’s important for TSU to have a program like this because there is a lack of minorities in the field,” Knight said.

Jaden Knight

Reflecting on his decision to apply for the program two years ago, Knight referred to it as an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“You have this support system of peers who are going through the same journey. It’s great to have someone to lean on.”

In addition to increasing the number of minority doctors to address health disparities such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease in communities of color that have the highest numbers for these diseases, the program also boasts exceptional academic students like Brooke Major.  Major is also a part of the first Levi Watkins Jr. Institute cohort and the inaugural cohort of the Oprah Winfrey Leaders Scholarship program (OWLS).

With aspirations of becoming an OBGYN, Major finds motivation in seeing minority medical students participate in panels and formal discussions facilitated by the program.

Brooke Major during a Dr. Levi Watkins white coat ceremony.

“It was motivating for me to see Black young women who are interested in the same career field on the other side,” Major shared. “I feel blessed.”

Approaching her third year, the Dallas, TX native shared that she has faced academic challenges due to the fast-track accelerated program. But revealed, it’s the unwavering support of the program’s faculty and staff that she truly loves.

“That’s the biggest takeaway for me about the program that I love,” she expressed with gratitude. “Overall, they want to see us succeed. They just want us to get where we want to be, and they want to produce more Black doctors.”

Barbara C. Murrell, chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute and director of community relations expressed confidence in the program’s future. As the first cohort studies for the upcoming MCAT, Murrell said the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute is in good hands and will thrive with those following in the footsteps of the inaugural class.

 “It is important to pass the baton on to new students because it guarantees the continuation of the program and production of more African American and other minority physicians and dentists,” Murrell said.

Amari Johnson graduated from high school as valedictorian with a 4.4 GPA.

She explained that incoming freshman Amari Johnson is a prime example. Johnson, from Greenwood, Mississippi, received acceptance letters from 36 colleges, with over $1.1 million in scholarships offers from 17 of the institutions. As a valedictorian with a 4.4 GPA, Johnson says she always wanted to attend an HBCU.

When deciding on a college Johnson asked herself, “Where am I going to feel most at home? Where am I going to be able to reach my full potential?” Johnson shared.

Johnson aspires to become a surgeon, representing minorities and addressing health disparities and equity. “Who better understands the African American woman’s body than an African American woman,” she said.

“We need to see more people in those positions, and this program is instrumental for that,” Johnson said. “It will inspire more doctors and nurses.”

Dean Barbara C. Murrell

Murrell also acknowledged the program’s potential to increase retention and make substantial contributions to society.

“Our society has a definite need to improve healthcare in the African American and other minority communities by helping to eliminate the disparities in healthcare and promote health equity,” Murrell stated.

Grateful to witness the making of history as minority students become medical and dental professionals committed to serving underserved communities, Murrell shared a final piece of advice, “Dream big, work hard, stay focused, and make wise decisions.”

To learn more about the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute Meharry Medical College/Tennessee State University Medical/Dental Accelerated Pathway Program and the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/watkins/

TSU receives $1.5 million from HCA Healthcare to create pipeline for future Black doctors and technology experts  

Tennessee State University and HCA Healthcare are continuing their partnership in a major way. In a recent joint press conference, the Nashville-based health system gifted TSU $1.5 million to provide scholarships for aspiring students wanting to becoming medical doctors and technology leaders, and for education initiatives.  

Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. healthcare scholar cohort class of 2025 receives their white coats, presented by alumni of TSU, MMC Physicians and dentist during the fourth annual lecture series and white coat ceremony. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

The HCA, TriStar Health donation will provide scholarship opportunities for 12 students enrolled in the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., Institute and three students majoring in computer science. The goal is to help build the pipeline for African American healthcare professionals and technology experts. The breakdown of the gift includes $1.4 million for Levi Watkins scholars pursuing a degree in the TSU accelerated medical program, while $100,000 will go Computer Science’s HCA Healthcare ITG Scholars. 

“We applaud and thank HCA Healthcare for this generous gift and continued support of TSU, and our talented students,” TSU President Glenda Glover said during the event. “This investment in our students helps them to become the future doctors and health technology leaders they aspire to be. HCA is making their dreams a reality.” 

Mitch Edgeworth, division president for HCA Healthcare TriStar Division, said their cooperation is proud to be able to invest in the university.  

The breakdown of the gift from HCA Healthcare and TriStar Health includes $1.4 million for Levi Watkins scholars pursuing a degree in the TSU accelerated medical program. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“Rooted in our mission to care for and improve human life, we are committed to providing resources and opportunities for future healthcare leaders to grow, learn and make a difference through this partnership,” Edgeworth said. “TriStar Health is proud to be part of HCA Healthcare and supports this incredible investment that will establish a strong and diverse pipeline of future physicians and healthcare ITG leaders in our community.” 

Class of 2025 Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute cohort students said this opportunity will help them succeed in becoming future physicians, dentist, and healthcare professionals to bridge the healthcare gap and provide for underserved communities in need. 

“I hope to reduce the racial inequalities in the medical field as well as fixing the patient and physician trust between the African American community and the physician,” said Sierra smith, a biology major whose goal is to become an anesthesiologist. 

Donnell Shaw, an aspiring dermatologist majoring in biology, said he looks forward to creating a skin care line for African Americans. 

“I hope to accomplish owning my own private practice and making my own Black skin care line. I’ve always loved helping people and giving back.” 

While $100,000 of the donations will go Computer Science’s HCA Healthcare ITG Scholars, HCA will also provide seven ITG staff members to serve as adjunct faculty for the fall semester. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

The gift is part of the organization’s larger commitment to give $10 million over three years to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions.  

Currently, there are 117 new students in the computer science program. In addition to the scholarships for computer science students, HCA will also provide seven ITG staff members to serve as adjunct faculty for the fall semester. 

Christopher Jeff, a junior majoring in computer science, said he felt elated to know that corporations like HCA want more students with a passion in Computer Science to achieve their long-term goals. Jeff aspires to become a software engineer. 

“It means that there are places like HCA that want nothing but the best for people that attend HBCUs and to see them succeed,” Jeff said, noting that he is grateful for the scholarship opportunities and additional faculty members provided by HCA. 

TSU scholars engaging with HCA, TriStar Health representatives before a check presentation of $1.5 million. Their goal is to help build the pipeline for African American healthcare professionals and technology experts. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

TSU and HCA Healthcare have a long-standing partnership. In 2015, the corporation donated $1 million to fund internship opportunities and support the growth of the Health Information Management program. Sherri Neal, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer of HCA Healthcare, said gestures as such, are building a more diverse talent pipeline of healthcare. 

“Increasing the diversity of our healthcare workforce is vital to providing more equitable, culturally competent care to our communities,” Neal stated. 

HCA Healthcare Scholars and HCA Healthcare ITG Scholars will be provided with hands-on shadowing opportunities, mentors, seminars, leadership sessions, career guidance and internship opportunities. 

Please visit www.tnstate.edu/biology/special_programs.aspx to find out more about the TSU accelerated medical program, and https://www.tnstate.edu/computer_science/degrees/accelerated.aspx  computer science.