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Dr. Melvin Earl Jenkins, Jr. 1922 - 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 15:15

Melvin Earl Jenkins, Jr., M.D, former Vice President of the Board of Directors at the American Board of Pediatrics, passed away peacefully on October 3, 2015 in Silver Spring, Maryland. He was 93.

Dr. Jenkins was a trailblazer in so many aspects of his career and the American Board of Pediatrics was no exception. In 1983, he became the first African American elected to the ABP Board of Directors.  Dr. Jenkins was an active ABP member from 1975-1993 and a distinguished oral examiner for 12 years. His leadership ability and absolute devotion to bettering child health led to his appointment on many ABP committees, including the Subboard of Pediatric Endocrinology, the Written Examination Committee, and the Research and Review Committee. During his tenure at the Board, he served as Representative to the American Board of Surgery and as Vice-President of the ABP.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Melvin E. Jenkins, Jr. Lectureship Fund at Howard University, thus establishing it as an endowed lectureship to preserve the philosophy of his teachings in perpetuity. If you'd like to give, you may donate via the website (in “Gift Information” Section, “Other Fund Description”, type - Pediatrics MEJ Lecture/Student Prize) or via mail (The Melvin E. Jenkins Lectureship Fund, Howard University Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, 2041 Georgia Ave., N.W. Room 6B02, Washington, DC, 20060). 

We would like to express our condolences to Dr. Jenkins' wife, Maria Beckles Jenkins, and the entire Jenkins family.

Dr. Jenkins was born on June 24, 1922 in Kansas City, Missouri, to Melvin, Sr. and Marguerite Jenkins. As an infant, his family moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where he spent his formative years.  Later, he attended Sumner High School and graduated as the valedictorian of his class of 176 students.  He received both his B.A. and M.D. degrees from the University of Kansas. 

Coming to Howard University Hospital, then known as Freedmen’s Hospital, was his first time traveling east of the Mississippi River making his experiences on the east coast a gateway to his widening career track.  His chairman, Dr. Roland Scott, strongly influenced his career choice of Pediatrics. He also enjoyed the opportunity to study with Dr. Frederick Bartter, for whom the Bartter’s syndrome is named. In 1955, Dr. Jenkins served in the United States Air Force and was stationed in Japan, where he directed the pediatric program of the 6110th United States Air Force Hospital for 2 years.  Post discharge, he pursued a specialty Endocrinology and completed a pediatric endocrinology fellowship at Johns Hopkins University.  In 1969, the University of Nebraska recruited him to be the Vice Chair of the Pediatric Department and establish its first Pediatric Endocrinology program.  In 1973, when he was offered the Chair at both Howard University and the University of Nebraska, he chose the position at Howard University, where he built a dynamic foundation for the global growth of Pediatric medicine.

Dr. Jenkins served as the Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at Howard University until he retired in 1986.  Under his leadership, the Department grew and gained national and international recognition attracting students from all continents.  His colleagues admired him for his absolute integrity; his fairness and even-handedness; his openness and availability; and his unfailing kindness and understanding.  His colleagues unanimously agree that he stood for an uncompromising emphasis on academic excellence, and praised his commitment to the total and continuous welfare of children.

On the national front, Dr. Jenkins was elected Vice President of the Board of Directors of the American Board of Pediatrics, serving also as an oral board examiner. He held memberships in the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, and the Endocrine Society.  Dr. Jenkins also served on numerous research committees, study sections and advisory committees of the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Agriculture, and the Division of Maternal and Child Health of the United States Public Health Service. 

His influence spanned internationally, serving as a health consultant to many of the Caribbean islands; taking his sabbatical at the University of Ife, in Nigeria; and lecturing in Florence, Italy and Sweden.  Dr. Jenkins was a consummate academician who was most proud of all the careers achieved by the faculty, residents and students he proudly mentored.  The Oral History Project of the American Academy of Pediatrics published his interview in August of 2008 and it is available in their Pediatric History Center.