James Hildreth named Meharry’s 12th president

Dr. James E.K. Hildreth

Dr. James E.K. Hildreth

International HIV/AIDS research pioneer and former Meharry professor Dr. James E.K. Hildreth was named as the next president of Meharry Medical College.

The 58-year-old worked as a professor and researcher at Meharry from 2005 to 2011. He was the founding director of the school’s Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research.

Hildreth comes to Meharry from the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences, where he currently serves as dean. He’s made significant contributions to the university’s fundraising efforts and research programs. Hildreth also played a significant role in enhancing faculty development and student engagement at UC Davis. Specifically, Hildreth introduced a formal fundraising to the college, more than doubling the amount of private funds raised; created a biology postdoctoral program; hired 16 new faculty members; and opened a first-of-its-kind advising center for undergraduate students.

He was drawn to return to Meharry as president because of the college’s mission to offer care to Nashville’s most vulnerable citizens. He knows what it’s like to be denied medical care because you are ‘poor and Black.’ His father, who died of cancer, received very little care because of those two things.

“Coming to a place whose whole history and founding was to take care of people who are disadvantaged and poor was very powerful for me,” said Hildreth.

“That’s why I came in the first place, and that’s why I’ve come back,” he said in an interview Friday. Meharry’s “mission, its history, the people, everything about it, resonates with who I am and what I’d like to achieve with my life and my work.”

Meharry Medical College is a top producer of primary care physicians and has the highest percentage of African Americans graduating with Ph.D.s in the biomedical sciences in the country. Sixteen percent (16%) of all African American dentists graduate from Meharry. Of the more than 6,000 medical and dental alumni across the country, 81% practice in underserved rural and urban communities. Each year, the college provides approximately $37 million in uncompensated medical and dental care to the uninsured and poor. The endowment is nearly $137 million and the research program focuses on health disparities in HIV/AIDS, women’s health and cancer and toxicology.

Prior to UC Davis, Hildreth held positions at Johns Hopkins including founding associate dean for Graduate Studies and professor in pharmacology, and he was a professor at Meharry from 2005-11. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, his doctorate in immunology from Oxford University, and his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He was the first African American from Arkansas to be named a Rhodes Scholar. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, a recipient of a National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award and serves on the Harvard University Board of Overseers.

Hildreth will assume his new role on July 1, replacing sitting President A. Cherrie Epps, who has served as Meharry’s president and CEO since July 2013.