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Matthew Walker, Sr.

One of the most prominent African American doctors in the United States in the 20th century, Dr. Matthew Walker began his medical profession with residencies at Hubbard Hospital of Meharry Medical College and Freedman Hospital of Howard University. A dedicated student throughout school, Dr. Walker received one of the two highest scores on his Surgery Board exams.

In 1955, he became one of the first African Americans voted into the Nashville Academy of Medicine, and in 1961, he was named to the Board of Hospital Commissioners of Nashville General Hospital. Soon after, he founded the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, Inc. (MWCHC) in Nashville, Tennessee. Funding for MWCHC came from a direct request Dr. Walker sent to President Nixon who later honored Dr. Walker for his contributions to health care in Tennessee. He also began Meharry Medical College’s surgical residency program.

Dr. Walker is credited for training half of the African American physicians in the United States at the time of his death—many of whom are still practicing. His meticulous attention to surgical techniques, respect and care for patients and his open manner with students made him very popular. During his four-decade long career at Meharry, Dr. Walker was revered as one of the best professors and mentors, evidenced in the fact that more than 70 former students created the Annual Matthew Walker Surgical Symposium in his honor. The Symposium is currently in its 39th year of existence.

The American Journal of Surgery cited him in 1998 as one of seven exemplary African American surgeons. Editor emeritus of the Journal of the National Medical Association Dr. W. Montague Cobb wrote, “During the 28 years this writer edited the Journal… it was possible to pay tribute to many outstanding figures…at Meharry. Yet, none stands taller than Matthew Walker. His stature will grow in the lengthening corridors of time—we shall not see his like again.”

A lifelong educator, innovative physician and committed public servant, Dr. Matthew Walker is a 2018 inductee of the Tennessee Health Care Hall of Fame.