The portrait of MWCHC founder Dr. Matthew Walker Sr. sits next to the lab coat he wore during his career. The family has preserved the coat of Walker who passed away 50 years ago. Photos by JW3 Consulting Group

By Monique Gooch

NASHVILLE, TN — “A Legacy of Healthcare” was the theme on March 30 to celebrate 55 years of the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Healthcare Center (MWCHC) serving Middle Tennessee.  

This year’s Legacy Breakfast honoring Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr. was held at  the Cal Turner Family Center on the campus of the Meharry Medical College. 

Breast specialist and surgeon Robin Williams, M.D. was the evening’s speaker. Antoinne Able M.D. who specializes in rehabilitation medicine at TriStar Southern Hills Hospital, received the prestigious Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr. Legacy Award.

Former State Senator Brenda Gilmore received the revered Michelle B. Marrs Healthcare Advocacy Award for her 30 years of community service. MWCHC also distributed four scholarships to Meharry Medical College students. Dr. Mathew Walker, III funded the first scholarship in 2018.

“It is such a wonderful honor to return to help celebrate the 55th year of Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center,” said Williams. “Congratulations to all the scholarship recipients and congratulations to the honoree recipients.”

Williams greeted and thanked colleagues and patients for being present for the event. Williams mentioned that there were some long-term employees that have been with the organization for over 20 years while giving her presentation about Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr. “The longevity of some of the seniors of this one organization embodies the commitment of sustaining the legacy of Dr. Walker. The commitment is evident by the 56,000 plus appointments per year, 18,000-plus patients per year, and 200-plus healthcare professional training per year, provision inmedical care, dental care, behavior healthcare and three locations in three counties, regardless of race, ethnicity, or social economic status.” 

Williams said that MWCHC is far exceeding the original vision. She described some of Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr.’s contributions as not only a doctor but the comeuppance for other Black medical professionals. “Dr. Walker changed the world. Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr. was truly a trailblazer.”

Sen. Gilmore received the Michelle B. Marrs Healthcare Advocacy Award. “Thank you so much for this honor. It has been a labor of love for being a public servant for this community. It’s also an honor to be attached to anything with the word, ‘legacy.’ Thank you for those who supported me over the years.”

Able received the prestigious Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr. Legacy Award. “I want to say thank to the chairman, CEO, Katina Beard, I am deeply honored to have received a recognition for the work I’ve done for the community. Receiving this award is not just recognizing me but everyone who helped me to get to where I am today.” 

The Matthew Walker Scholarship and Michelle B. Marrs Award winners were Robel Tesfay, Leiana Hollingsworth, Claude F. Albritton II and Alexis Cunningham.

“I just want to take a moment to express my gratitude. I really do appreciate every moment of this. Dr. Walker’s vision of providing quality healthcare and health education aligns perfectly with my career opportunity,” Albritton said.

“I am so eager to have a legacy in revolutionizing medicine. I plan to uphold a legacy of excellence in healthcare. I truly appreciate this award and the honor you bestowed upon me. I promise to represent this organization mission well in my academic career.”

Robel Tesfay also received a scholarship. “I’m very grateful to be here especially under the legacy of Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr. Thank you to everyone here tonight.” 

Leiana Hollingsworth received the scholarship for her remarkable work in research, her outstanding GPA, as well as her service in leadership. “I feel extremely honored to be here. I’m a third year medical student. I was born with sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL. I needed hearing aids at a very young age, but they were not covered by medical insurance and are considered a cosmetic need. I was raised by a single mom and hearing aids were expensive. So I did not receive my first pair of hearing aids until I was 17.”

So, I have a goal of eventually becoming a pediatric EMT and going into non-profit work, doing hearing screenings for free, giving out hearing aids for free; that’s my goal. At times that seems like it’s impossible, but then I look at Matthew Walker pediatrics and you see that’s it is possible. There are physicians that came before you that really made healthcare about caring for people. I am extremely honored to be here.”

Over 300 people attended the return of the in-person breakfast after three years of virtual celebrations. The night ended with pictures, mingling, and fellowship. MWCHC celebrates its 55th year as a community health center, with additional events to be announced throughout the year. It is the first federally-qualified health center to be named after an African American man. 

The organization will continue to celebrate throughout 2023. Plans include include increasing their patient load by 20 percent and relocating the Smyrna clinic to larger headquarters to accommodate growing demand. And the EPIC event will return in October.

You can learn more about MWCHC  and make a donation at The Matthew Walker clinic provides healthcare and wellness service. Their mission is to provide quality healthcare. There are three Tennessee locations, Nashville, Smyrna and Clarksville.