Opening Doors: Meharry

Dr. David Bernard Todd, Jr.
Courtesy Meharry Medical College Archives

David Bernard Todd, Jr., MD, PhD (1931-1980)
Cardiovascular Surgeon

Dr. D. B. Todd, Jr. was a pioneer in medicine, a renowned surgeon and revered teacher of the Meharry Medical College family. He graduated with the highest honors from Meharry's School of Medicine in 1956 and received a Ph.D. in Thoracic Surgery from the Minnesota Graduate School of Medicine in 1966. After entertaining several offers, Dr. Todd returned to Meharry and served as a faculty member from 1966 to 1980. He also trained under the distinguished Dr. Matthew Walker, and went on to eventually head the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery at Hubbard Hospital. Dr. Todd was the first black cardiovascular surgeon to practice in Nashville, TN and headed the team that performed the first open heart surgery at Meharry in 1972. In April 1982, Meharry officials honored him by renaming 18th Avenue North to Dr. D. B. Todd Jr. Blvd.

Dr. Dorothy Lavenia Brown
Courtesy Meharry Medical College Archives

Dorothy Lavenia Brown, MD (1919-2004)
1st Black Female Surgeon

Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown was a pioneering black female surgeon, and a Tennessee legislator. Dr. Brown enrolled at Meharry Medical College in 1944, and graduated in the top third of her class. She started interning at Harlem Hospital in New York where she was denied a surgical residency due to strong opposition toward female surgeons. This would not deter her from becoming a surgeon. Dr. Brown went back to Meharry and attained her surgical residency, and by completing it in 1954 Dr. Brown became the first African-American female surgeon in the South.

Dr. Brown then served as the educational director of the Riverside-Meharry Clinical Rotation Program, and the chief of surgery at Riverside Hospital. She then became the attending surgeon at George W. Hubbard Hospital, and a professor of surgery at Meharry Medical College. Additionally, she became the first single woman in Tennessee to adopt a child. In 1966, Brown became the first African-American woman to be elected to the Tennessee State Legislature for a two-year term. She was a fellow of the American College of Surgery and a past member of the board of trustees at Bennett College. Brown was also a member of the United Methodist Church and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr.
Courtesy Meharry Medical College Archives
Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr.
Courtesy Meharry Medical College Archives

Matthew Walker, Sr., MD, FACS, FICS (1906-1978)

Matthew Walker was a 1934 graduate (with honors) from Meharry Medical College. He served his internship at Meharry's Hubbard Hospital the following year and entered into surgical pursuits, which were to occupy the remainder of his career. Following his internship, he remained at Hubbard Hospital for three years, 1935-1938, as a resident in surgery and gynecology. Meharry's faculty and manpower needs at the time were such that Dr. Walker had the opportunity to reinforce his training in the basic sciences, an essential for a surgeon. Thus, while a resident, he served as an instructor in anatomy from 1935-1938, and as an instructor in surgery, gynecology, orthopedics, anesthesia, and eye, ear, nose, and throat from 1936-1938. He spent 1938-1939 at Howard University, pursuing advanced training in surgery under Dr. Edward L. Howes, the professor and head of the department of Surgery. Upon returning to Meharry in 1939, he was appointed assistant professor of surgery and gynecology, a position held until 1942. Dr. Walker became a diplomat of the National Board of Medical Examiners in 1935 and a diplomat of the American Board of Surgery in 1946. In 1947, he became a fellow of the International College of Surgeons, and, in 1950, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. His credentials as a surgeon were thus flawless. It is worth noting that all his education and training were obtained in black institutions and his entire career was spent under the aegis of his medical alma mater.

In 1956, Dr. Walker performed surgery and demonstrated the use of radioactive gold in the treatment of cancer on the nationally televised program "Medical Horizons". He served as the 54th president of National Medical Association in 1954-1955 and was its 14th Distinguished Service Medalist in 1959. In 1973, he was named National Omega Man of the Year by the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and the Sigma Pi Phi fraternity. He also formed the Matthew Walker Surgical Society and the Matthew Walker Community Health Center.

All images and text on this page are courtesy of Meharry Medical College Archives. The image on the left of the header is of the G.W. Hubbard Hospital in South Nashville in 1915. The image on the right of the header is of Central Tennessee College in South Nashville.