William Jenkins, MD, Early African–American Resident Looks Back

William Jenkins, MD. Photo by Joe L. Fisher, BAPAC.

William Morris Jenkins, Jr., the oldest practicing Black doctor in Richmond, celebrated his 82nd birthday on February 12. He was born in 1929, at the beginning of the great depression, in Greensboro, North Carolina.,
After more than fifty years of continuous medical service, he still practices pediatrics in inner-city Richmond.” Well, let’s see,” Dr. Jenkins says about his schedule, “I practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.”
Dr. Jenkins began his career as one of Oakland Children’s Hospital’s first African-American medical residents. He was preceded by at least one other resident, Thomas Browne, from 1952 to 1953. Dr. Jenkins recalls that he was the first African–American resident at Children’s Hospital to complete a three year residency program.
He came to Children’s Hospital in 1960 after two years in an OBGYN program in Kansas City. There were two separate medical programs in Kansas City, one for white residents, and the second for Blacks.
Dr. Jenkins said the program for Blacks “was not up to par academically.” He felt the training he was getting would not leave him “competitive with the best doctors.”
Driven by the desire for excellence, Dr. Jenkins used the racial prejudice he experienced as a source of motivation. “One of the big things that drove me is the bigotry agenda,” he says. “But I knew how to get around it, by being a better doctor and by spending more time learning.”
He was determined that if a patient chose not to see him, he wanted to make sure that the reason for the decline wouldn’t be “because I didn’t know my stuff.”
He said some potential patients did choose to not see him because of the color of his skin.
Dr. Jenkins said, “There’s always prejudice, and there will always be prejudice. But, at Children’s Hospital I was able to get the training I needed to be competitive.”
After Dr. Jenkins graduated from Morehouse College, in Atlanta, Georgia in1953.In 1957, he graduated with an M.D. from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. He interned at Meharry from 1957-58. He did hid OBGYN Residency at the Kansas City General Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas from 1958 through 1960 before coming to Oakland’s Children’s Hospital. In 1963, he completed his Pediatric Cardiology Fellowship at Children’s Hospital in Oakland.
He served Highland Hospital with academic faculty appointment. And, from 1964-2003, he held hospital appointments at the following facilities: Doctors Medical Center, in San Pablo, Alta Bates Medical Center, Berkeley and Summit Medical Center in Oakland.
He practiced Pediatric medicine from 1963-1995 at North Oakland Pediatrics. And from 1973 till the present he has practiced at the Richmond Pediatric Medical Group.
He said, “I always knew that where I was going to practice was in the inner city. There was a need, and I could practice the kind of medicine I was taught.” He set up practice in Oakland, and later, when he got some help, in Richmond, where more than 50 years later, he still practices, serving the underserved. Dr. Jenkins was also one of the founders of the West Oakland Health Center, and a mentor to five generations of African American residents who follow in his footsteps at Children’s Hospital.
His office, the Richmond Pediatric Medical Group, is located at 120 Broadway.