Tag Archives: Dr. Edith Peterson Mitchell

TSU mourns the loss of alumna and former trustee Dr. Edith P. Mitchell

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University extends condolences to the family of alumna Dr. Edith Peterson Mitchell, who served on the TSU Board of Trustees from 2017 to 2019. In addition to her distinguished service at TSU, Dr. Mitchell’s legacy resonates through her remarkable achievements in the U.S. Air Force and the healthcare profession.

“Dr. Edith Peterson Mitchell was a close friend and a staunch supporter of TSU,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Dr. Mitchell always made herself available whenever I called upon her to serve in any capacity for the university. She exemplified our institution’s motto of think, work, serve as a trailblazer, civil rights leader, and healthcare advocate. Her family is in our thoughts and prayers.”

Dr. Mitchell’s commitment to making individuals in underserved communities a priority is a testament to the legacy she leaves behind. She was the first woman physician to attain the rank of U.S. Air Force Brigadier General and completed 36 years in the armed forces, earning more than 15 military service medals and ribbons, including the Legion of Merit.

Dr. Mitchell served as the Enterprise Vice President for Cancer Disparities at Jefferson Health’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia and as the 116th president of the National Medical Association. She also chaired the advisory board for the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute at TSU. She attended and spoke at each white coat ceremony to encourage and support the program and its scholars. Due to her position at Sidney Kimmel Medical School at Jefferson University, she even made it possible for two TSU scholars to receive admission and support from the institution annually.

Barbara Murrell, chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute, has cherished a lifelong friendship with Mitchell since 1965 when she met her as a student at TSU.

“We are devastated to hear of the passing of Dr. Edith Mitchell,” Murrell said. “She was an individual extraordinaire who broke the glass ceiling and opened the pathway in so many ways, always overcoming the barriers set to prevent access for advancement. She was a brilliant woman who was loved and respected.”

Dr. Mitchell received a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from Tennessee State University and her medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.

Murrell talked about the love and passion Dr. Mitchell had for her alma mater and the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute. “She worked diligently to impact the lives of young deserving students, sharing her expertise, counsel, and influence to advance the Institute Team and Scholars. She will be missed.”

Since she began her journey at Jefferson University in 1995, along with serving as the Enterprise Vice President for Cancer Disparities, Dr. Mitchell was a clinical professor in medicine and medical oncology. During this time, she took on various leadership positions, including the role of director at the Center to Eliminate Cancer Disparities and the Associate Director for Diversity Affairs at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. Her dedication to addressing healthcare disparities was evident not only through her administrative roles but also in her hands-on work as a clinical professor, further emphasizing her commitment to advancing healthcare equality.

Throughout her academic medical career, Dr. Mitchell, MD, MACP, FCCP, FRCP (London), prioritized individuals in medically underserved communities, making a lasting impact on the landscape of healthcare equality and access.

Mitchell Inspires Students at Second Annual Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Lecture

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Renowned cancer specialist Dr. Edith Peterson Mitchell was the keynote speaker at Tennessee State University’s second annual Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Lecture Series on Oct. 17.

Peterson is a TSU alumna and member of the university’s Board of Trustees. The event was held during Homecoming week in the Robert N. Murrell Forum on the main campus.

Student Government Association President Katelyn Thompson recognized special guests and Malcolm Finally, inaugural president of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Society, introduced Mitchell, who discussed a number of issues with the audience.

They included the decline in cancer mortality rates, the impact of Medicare on cancer disparities, and how specific cancers uniquely affect minority communities.

TSU President Glenda Glover (right) with Guest Lecturer and TSU Board of Trustee Member Edith Peterson Mitchell (left), and Student Government Association President Katelyn Thompson (center) after the Second Annual Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Lecture. (Photo by Erynne Davis, TSU Media Relations)

Mitchell also encouraged students to consider careers in health care.

“Blacks in this country make up 3.9 percent of all physicians in this country, and yet in 2013 the census showed that blacks in this country made up 15 percent of the United States population,” said Mitchell, a retired Air Force brigadier general.

The lecture series, a component of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., Institute, was established to honor Watkins, a 1966 alumnus of TSU and the first African-American to be accepted into and graduate from the Vanderbilt School of Medicine. It features prominent speakers who address areas in health care and STEM to prepare students for the medical field. The late Watkins is known worldwide for being the first surgeon to successfully implant an automatic heart defibrillator in a human patient.

“I tell my students and residents all the time, ‘Don’t forget to look through the rearview mirror and make sure you know what is behind you,’ and we know that Dr. Levi Watkins was there in that rearview mirror for us to get information and be inspired by his work,” she said.

TSU President Glenda Glover and Guest Lecturer and TSU Board of Trustee Member Edith Peterson Mitchell join administrators and special guests for a photo after the unveiling of a display case located on the second floor of the Floyd-Payne Campus Center designed in honor of Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. (Photo by Erynne Davis, TSU Media Relations)

TSU President Glenda Glover welcomed the crowd and explained the purpose of the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., Institute.

“He provided a balm that would heal the hearts of men and women.  It’s a balm that will ensure the longevity of lives of men and women,” said Glover. “So he came forth with that balm from Tennessee State University, and now he has passed that on to students for the students to see and understand the value of having a scientific education.” 

Dr. Lonnie Sharpe, director of the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., Institute, presided over the program which concluded with the induction of new students into the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Society, an organization comprised of students who aspire to attend medical school.

“It was a wonderful experience to have a board of trustee member as our guest lecturer,” Sharpe said. “Based upon my input from the students, they enjoyed her talk, and they are all excited about the additional collaboration that may be occurring with her as part of a research proposal that we are partnering with her on right now.”

Denias Smith, a junior biology major and vice-president of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Society, shared a brief presentation portraying Watkins, which he delivered prior to the unveiling of a display case designed in Watkin’s honor. (Photo by Erynne Davis, TSU Media Relations)

Following the program, the university unveiled a display case on the second floor of the Floyd-Campus Center dedicated to preserving Watkin’s legacy. Prior to the unveiling, Denias Smith, a junior biology major and vice-president of the society, gave a brief presentation, portraying Watkins.

The display includes a portrait of Watkins drawn by TSU Alumnus Brandon Van Leer, a life-size manikin clothed in Watkins medical attire, an automatic heart defibrillator and a video showcasing Watkins when he became the first surgeon to successfully implant the device in 1980.

Students inducted into the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Society include Jayvonna Gambrell, president, a sophomore biology major; Mariel Liggin, secretary, a junior biology major; and Gelanni Jones, a sophomore biology major.

Students take pledge while being inducted into the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Society. (Photo by Erynne Davis, TSU Media Relations)

Other students inducted into the society include Janelle Ariosa, a senior biology major; Kalkidan Bekele, a freshman biology major; Autumn Brunson, a junior biology major; Ashli Earl, a junior biology major; Kristen Wardlow, a freshman; Lauren Graves, a freshman biology major, Larry McNary II, a junior biology major, Mohamed Mohamed, a sophomore chemistry major, Habiba Mwechiwa, a junior biology major, Alanis Onwu, a junior agricultural science major; and Tyree Pitts, a junior biology major.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.