Michael T. Watkins was born in Washington DC in 1954, and relocated to New York City in 1957. He was raised by the late Muriel Knowles Watkins (mother), and the late Hilda Blackshear (grandmother). He completed his secondary education at the Peter Stuyvesant High School and undergraduate studies in Biology at New York University. At NYU, he was active in the National Society of Black Science Students. While attending NYU, Dr. Watkins worked at the Beth Israel Medical Center as a unit secretary, and based on that experience decided to pursue a career in medicine. In 1976, he entered Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chairman of the Third World Caucus, a coalition of minority students at Harvard University. His interest in biomedical research was cultivated in medical student rotations in the laboratories of A. Clifford Barger (Integrated Cardiovascular Physiology) and Barry M. Brenner (Renal Physiology). After two years of surgical residency at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Watkins served two years of active duty in the United States Army. He was fortunate to be stationed at the Uniformed Services University, where he began his initial research in Vascular Cell Biology in the laboratory of Drs. John B. Sharefkin and Norman M. Rich. Surgical Residency was completed at the University of Rochester, Strong Memorial Hospital followed by a Vascular Fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Watkins was awarded a Robert Wood Johnson Faculty Development Award to pursue postdoctoral studies in cellular and molecular biology at the Mallory Institute of Pathology from 1988 through 1990. He joined the Department of Surgery at Boston University in 1990, where he rose to the rank of Associate Professor of Surgery, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in 1996. He has ongoing extramural research funding from the American Heart Association, the VA Merit Review and the National Institutes of Health since 1990. In 1996, Dr. Watkins was appointed Chief of Vascular Surgery and in 1999, he was promoted to Co-Chief of Surgical Services at the VA Boston Healthcare System. In 1999, Dr. Watkins became the program director at the only accredited Vascular Surgery Fellowship based primarily at a VA Medical Center. In April 2002, Dr. Watkins assumed the directorship of the Vascular Surgery Research Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital, where he is an Associate Visiting Surgeon and Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Watkins has received the Joint Services Commendation from the Department of Defense, the Care and Compassion Award from the VA Boston Healthcare System and teaching awards from the University of Rochester and Boston University. Dr. Watkins has been a reviewer for the American Journal of Physiology, the Journal of Vascular Surgery, Journal of Surgical Research, Year Book in Vascular Surgery and served as a member of the Surgery and Bioengineering Study Section for the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Watkins was recently elected to the Research Council of the Society of Vascular Surgery, the Publications Committee of the Society of University Surgeons. In April of 2006, Dr. Watkins became President of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons. His clinical interests are in acute spinal cord and limb ischemia-reperfusion injury, vasculogenic impotence and autogenous vein grafting for arterial occlusive disease. Dr. Watkins maintains basic science interests in vascular cell biology, eicosanoid biochemistry and signal transduction pathways in vascular endothelium and smooth muscle.