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Dr. Waters Exemplifies Excellence in Medicine and Leadership

educationW. Bedford Waters, MD, Professor and Chair of Urology, knew at a young age he wanted to be a doctor. During his training, and as a practicing physician, he has been at the vanguard of social, medical and educational change.

“I remember what my mother told me,” Dr. Waters said. “’Do your best.’ I have been very fortunate to have had excellent mentors and role models, whom I have tried to emulate with my own residents and students.”

Dr. Waters received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt in 1970. Despite being told his dreams were too big, in 1974 Dr. Waters became the second African-American student to graduate from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where he attended on an anonymous scholarship. Following medical school, Dr. Waters completed his internship and one-year residency in general surgery at the University of California, San Diego, from 1974-1976. He subsequently completed urologic training at the Harvard Program in Urology in Boston, Massachusetts from 1976-1980.

After residency, Dr. Waters taught and practiced urology for 21 years in Chicago before joining faculty at in the Department of Surgery at the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine. During his tenure with UT, he has initiated a nationally-recognized Urology Residency Program and successfully championed the formation of the Department of Urology, which he currently chairs.

UT Graduate School of Medicine Dean Paul Hauptman, MD, interviewed Dr. Waters for his new video series, “In the UTGSM Faculty Lounge with the Dean,” to highlight the significance of Dr. Waters’s accomplishments.

Career Achievements

Through his career, Dr. Waters has trained 66 residents, authored over 75 peer-reviewed manuscripts, written 18 book chapters, and given over 180 presentations at local, national and international meetings. He has extensive experience in the treatment of urologic cancers, focusing on renal cancer, testis cancer, bladder cancer and urinary diversion. Dr. Waters has been active in promoting early prostate cancer detection in the African-American community. For his activism, he was recognized as one of 25 African-Americans "Making It Happen" in Knoxville during African-American History Month in February 2005. 


Dr. Waters has received numerous awards and honors for excellence in urology and medical education. In 2012, he was recognized by the Worldwide Who’s Who. In 2016, he received the UT Graduate School of Medicine Excellence in Teaching Award. The following year, the American Cancer Society recognized him as its Hope Gala Honoree. Dr. Waters has also been recognized in the U.S. News and World Report as one of four top physicians in the state of Tennessee. In recognition of his career accomplishments, he was recognized by VUSM as one of six Vanderbilt pioneers in education, science and medicine in late 2018. Most recently, Dr. Waters received the 2019 American Urological Association Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing urologic oncology and inspiring diversity in the field of urology.

Pictured from left: John Stark, Carolyn Harris, W. Bedford Waters, MD, and Stephanie Spottswood, MD, attended the recent Vanderbilt University School of Medicine portrait unveiling in Langford Auditorium, which honored Waters, Spottswood, Anna Bowie, MD, Thelma “Byrd” Bowie, MD, James Carter, MD, and Katherine Dodd, MD. (photo by Nathan Morgan)

National Leadership and Service

Dr. Waters is actively involved with many regional and national organizations, serving in a variety of leadership positions over the past 20 years as follows:

As a cherished member of the faculty of the Graduate School of Medicine, Dr. Waters exemplifies the best of academic medicine combining teaching, education and research. His dedication and work ethic have benefited patients and trainees for decades. The University of Tennessee Medical Center and Graduate School of Medicine community are proud to share his story and celebrate his accomplishments.

Posted February 11, 2019


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