UK HealthCare

Wildcat Wednesday: Carl Watson, 1st Black UK College of Medicine Graduate

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Carl Watson
Carl Watson, M.D., being honored at an event in 2019.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 23, 2022) - To commemorate Black History Month, University of Kentucky Public Relations and Strategic Communications is highlighting alumni from the UK Alumni Association’s Pioneer Project throughout the month of February. Be sure to check UKNow each "Wildcat Wednesday" this month to learn more about a UK alum who left an important legacy at our university.

On this “Wildcat Wednesday,” UK honors Carl Watson, M.D. — the first Black student to attend and graduate from the UK College of Medicine.

Watson excelled during his time at UK while breaking down barriers as the first Black medical student. In 1963, he was among five handpicked students to take part in an experimental study tour abroad. Watson spent three months in Jamaica learning preventative medicine.

He also completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at UK and graduated in 1964. After completing his education, he successfully operated his own practice in California.

Prior to his time at UK, Watson was valedictorian at Lexington’s Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in 1955.

In 2019, the College of Medicine’s Faculty of Color Network (FCN), honored two legends and pioneers of the college, one of which was Watson. In an interview in 2019, Watson explained how being admitted to medical school was something he had been working towards for years. “The door was open and I was prepared to walk through it,” he said.

Learn more about how the university is celebrating Black History Month here.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.