Keeping Medicine Diversified

By: Pachatta Pope Email
By: Pachatta Pope Email

A newspaper image captures a young and scared Halcyon Watkins at a lunch counter that did not serve African-Americans. Unsure of what would happen, she still sat down to stand up for her and other African-Americans' futures.

Now a retired anatomy professor from Pairie View A&M University, she says she had to do something to help African-Americans to look beyond the limitations they were shown.

"The sit-ins were set up so that more opportunities would be available not just to eat at counters," Watkins said, " but opportunities in universities, opportunities for jobs and other professions other than teaching."

The courage that sustained Watkins anchored her to enter into a profession that was not common in black communities.

"Everybody that was gonna leave there and do something as
an African-American was gonna become a teacher,' Watkins said.

The biology graduate wanted to become a veterinarian. And she wanted to go to one of the best institutions, Texas A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Without her parents knowing she applied for admission and was told in no uncertain terms that her application was denied.

"The dean at the veterinary school informed me that by no
means would I be the first black or woman in the
veterinary school," Watkins said.

Learning what happened, Watkins' father contacted the late State Senator Bill Moore. Watkins said the senator began the process to sue A&M for admission.

But on the courthouse steps, the senator asked Watkins what she
wanted most...to be a veterinarian or the first black and first woman to enter A&M's vet school.

She said, " I wanted to be a veterinarian, so we walked back
down the steps."

Watkins applied and was accepted to Tuskegee Institute, now university in Alabama. She graduated and became a practicing veterinarian and a college professor. And in the process she found her calling.

"To work with young people and to get them motivated and
to you know sort of direct their paths," Watkins said.

Watkins worked to establish partnerships with colleges and universities across the country to offer minority high school and college students exposure to different aspects of science, in particular veterinary medicine. And one of those schools was Texas A&M.

Watkins says she is pleased to have some of her students
enroll in A&M's vet school.

"I am very proud to say that I had something to do with
that," Watkins said.

She is seeing the efforts she made at the lunch counter
revealed.

"Doors open," Watkins said.


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