Walker III Lecture in Health Equity
This annual lecture series—the Matthew Walker III, PhD Lecture in Health Equity—is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Walker III, PhD, for his lifelong dedication to service and unwavering commitment to improving the human condition.
Dr. Walker—who joined Vanderbilt’s faculty in 2011—developed and taught Vanderbilt University’s innovative Biomedical Engineering Design curriculum. He held dual appointments as Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering and Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences in the School of Medicine. Dr. Walker was also the Associate Director of the Medical Innovators Development Program.
Well-revered for his legacy of mentorship, his peers remember him for his love of teaching and fostering connections between the worlds of medicine, engineering, and biotechnology. He’s been described as a genius who could turn ideas into design, which helped solve complex challenges in health care.
Dr. Walker was born in Newark, New Jersey on November 10, 1964. Growing up, he loved fishing, music, and theater. He was an avid swimmer and an outstanding saxophonist. Throughout his life, Dr. Walker valued the virtues of spirituality and family.
He earned a bachelor of science in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1987. He later earned his doctorate in Cardiovascular Biophysics and Pharmacology from Tulane University School of Medicine in 2003. In the years between, he spent time as a mechanical/biomedical engineer with NASA in Houston, Texas.
Dr. Walker completed his postdoctoral training in the Harvard–M.I.T. Division of Health Sciences and Technology. He then spent eight years at Merck Research Laboratories, where he led a team of pharmacology and biomarker development imaging specialists in cardiovascular, diabetes, cancer, and obesity-related drug discovery efforts, resulting in many medicine-related patents. While at Merck, he also led the novel technologies adoption team. In addition, he was the founder of the Association of Underrepresented Minority Fellows.
A beloved role model, Dr. Walker always positioned health equity at the forefront of his work. Equality is built into the structure of the Walker family—and has been passed intergenerationally. Dr. Walker took inspiration from his father, the late Matthew Walker, Jr., who was a pivotal leader in the Civil Rights Movement and a veteran Freedom Rider.
Dr. Walker acknowledged the urgent need for more diversity in medical schools. In 2018, he moderated part of a Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance summit for Black men interested in health professions.
In 2020, he was named a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering for his interdepartmental endeavors. He also served on the board of the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, which was named for his grandfather, Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr., a surgeon who championed bringing affordable health care to marginalized populations.
Dr. Walker was also committed to community service and education, serving on educational boards across the country. He was the co-founder of the Association of Underrepresented Minorities and other scientific societies.
In naming our annual lecture in Health Equity in honor of Dr. Matthew Walker III, the Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences hopes to further the visionary’s mission of innovation and connectivity—and providing equitable health care to all.
- 2022 - Hedy Weinberg, MA, ACLU Tennessee