Convocation 2023

The 148th Convocation

October 2, 2023

The Cal Turner Family Center for Student Education

Click below to download program.


Myrna Alexander-Nickens, M.D. ’82 FACC was raised in Biloxi, Mississippi and received a Bachelor of Science degree at Tougaloo College. She completed medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and spent her internship, residency, cardiovascular and interventional fellowship at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Alexander-Nickens moved to Jackson, Mississippi to practice clinical and interventional cardiology for 16 years with Jackson Cardiology Associates.


Dr. Alexander-Nickens served as director of the pharmacy and therapeutics committee for the Division of Medicaid, and was the chairperson of the department of cardiology at St. Dominic Hospital. As a leader and pioneer in the state and the first female interventional cardiologist to practice in Mississippi, she transitioned to the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in 2012 as the director of the Cardiovascular Women’s Clinic with a special interest in cardio-obstetrics. Dr. Alexander-Nickens is vice chair of diversity, equity, and inclusion with the Department of Medicine at UMMC.


Dr. Alexander-Nickens enjoys all aspects of cardiovascular medicine with board certification in echocardiography as well as internal medicine and cardiovascular diseases. She is very active in the Department of Medicine and is focused on training the next generation of medical students, residents and fellows and being a mentor to young cardiologists.


When Dr. Alexander Nickens isn’t at work she loves spending time with her husband and son, family members, church family, jogging, tennis, golf reading, going to the theater and traveling. Her favorite quote is from President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”—an adage that keeps her busy with the next generation.

Brandon H. Barton Jr., D.D.S. ’80, has served in dentistry for more than 43 years and is an avid supporter of Meharry Medical College.


Born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 1953, he graduated from Purcell High School in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1971 and attended the University of Cincinnati where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering in 1976. He then attended Meharry Medical College, earning a D.D.S. degree.


While studying engineering, he served for seven academic quarters as a co-op student for Proctor and Gamble on several projects, one resulting in a process that was patented. While attending the University of Cincinnati, he helped to establish a chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and is a charter member of the National Society of Black Engineers. His engineering pursuits included working as a process engineer at Monsanto Chemical Company in Addyston, Ohio; Stauffer Chemical company as a project engineer and Oak Ridge Associated Universities as an energy conservation specialist assigned to Meharry Medical College. Indeed, many engineering projects overlapped his study of dentistry at Meharry, at one time analyzing the College’s total energy consumption for preparation of grant applications for state assistance for energy conservation modifications, implementation of energy conservation measures saving the College $174,000.


Even with those projects and his dental study, Barton graduated from Meharry with the Dean’s Meritorious Student Award, American Academy of Periodontology Award and the National Dental Association Award while serving as class vice president, business editor to FOVEA and regional director of the Student National Dental Association.


Upon graduation from Meharry, Dr. Barton served as a contractual dentist for Herman Keifer Dental Clinic and was an associate dentist with a practice in Detroit, Michigan. He then went into private practice in Detroit in 1981 where he has served since.


Dr. Barton is a member of the Meharry Medical College Board of Trustees and is a past president of the Meharry National Alumni Association. He is also a member of Meharry’s “Guardians of our Legacy”—alumni who have given $100,000 or more to the College in the course of a lifetime. He is also the past president of the Wolverine Dental Society, a member of the National Dental Association where he was chairman of the Legislative Committee, a member of the American Dental Association, a former member of the Medicaid Advisory Council, a former Board member of the United Methodist Union and Board member of City Connect—a nonprofit agency that helps Detroit-area nonprofits and governments work together to solve local problems, and to mobilize funding in support of their work.


Dr. Barton is devoted to wife Lauren Barton, M.D. ’80, his three children and three grandsons. He is an instrument-rated private pilot and enjoys biking, golf and fishing.

Cimona V. Hinton, Ph.D. is a full professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development at Clark Atlanta University. She is the director of research infrastructure and cores for the RCMI program, and principal investigator/program director of a predoctoral training grant (NIGMS T32).


Dr. Hinton earned a bachelor of science in chemistry from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Meharry Medical College and completed postdoctoral studies in tumor biology at Harvard Medical School.


Dr. Hinton’s major areas of interest are tumor cell motility, the mechanics of cell migration, cannabinoid receptor signaling and cannabinoids as an anti-tumor strategy. She has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the United Negro College Fund, AAAS, the National Science Foundation and earned the first NIH R01 for a woman investigator at Clark Atlanta University. She serves on several external advisory boards to advise and shape the biomedical research landscape, and she is an inaugural member of the American Association for Cancer Research Trust in Science Task Force, a collective that aims to improve cancer research and care by developing policies and practices that promote societal trust in science and cultivates diversity. She is an advocate for faculty scholarship and graduate education, and was named to the Cell Mentor list of 1000 Inspiring Black Scientists in 2020.


She and her family reside in Atlanta, Georgia.

Julie Gray, D.D.S. ’99, MA, FICD

Associate Dean of Community Based Collaboration
Associate Professor, Department of Restorative Dentistry

Dr. Clive O. Callender, professor of surgery at Howard University College of Medicine, is a 1963 graduate of Meharry Medical College. As the top-ranking medical student, he received surgical training at Freedmen’s Hospital (now Howard University Hospital) in 1969 after which he become a medical missionary in Africa between 1970 and 71. He then pursued transplant surgical training at two of the nation’s premier transplant programs—for the kidney at the University of Minnesota from 1971-73 under Dr. John S. Najarian and for the liver at the University of Pittsburgh under Dr. Thomas E. Starzl from 1986-87. On returning to Howard in 1973, Dr. Callender helped develop the first minority-directed dialysis and transplant center and histocompatibility and immunogenetic laboratory in the country.


In 1991, the New England Journal of Medicine chronicled the first National Organ/Tissue Donor Program in America over 10 years, originated by Dr. Callender at Howard University Hospital, the National Kidney Foundation of the National Capital Area and the DOW Chemical Company. According to national Gallup polls from 1985 and 1990, the number of Blacks signing donor cards tripled, made aware of the extraordinarily successful nature of transplantation. In 1991, Dr. Callender founded the National Minority Organ/Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP) utilizing the earlier successful efforts in the Black community and applying the methodologies to ethnic minority populations.


National MOTTEP identified a two-fold solution to the donor shortage—disease prevention and increased donation rates. With total funding of $16 million from the Office of Research on Minority Health (now the NIH-Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for program expansion, National MOTTEP’s methodology has contributed to the national increase in minority donation rates from 15 percent in 1990 to 30 percent in 2008. In addition, a review of the United Network for Organ Sharing database between 1990 and 2010 concluded that as of 2010, Blacks had exceeded whites and other ethnic minority populations, in reference to organ donors per million—from 8 percent in 1982 to 35.36 in 2010, with a high of 41.12 in 2018. The donation rise drove National Minority Donor Awareness Day from a one-day celebration in 1996 to a week in 2012, and finally to a month in 2020.


National MOTTEP also focused on using telehealth programs in hypertension and diabetes to eliminate minority renal health disparities. The MOTTEP-Export Research Center of Excellence also examined psycho-neuro-immunological issues that led to renal disease as well as a model for overcoming the devastating effect of institutionalized and environmental racism in end-stage renal disease. In 2021, National MOTTEP celebrated 30 years of educating communities and saving lives through organ/tissue donation and transplantation.


From 1995 until 2008, Dr. Callender served as chair of the Department of Surgery at Howard, and in February 1996 he was appointed as the first LaSalle D. Leffall Jr. Professor of Surgery at the Howard University College of Medicine. He has received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Hunter College in 1994, Meharry Medical College in 2008 and Howard University in 2014.


Media appearances have included The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, the CBS Evening News and many more. He has spoken to both professional and lay audiences at more than 1,000 meetings and forums and has authored more than 150 scientific publications. In 1997, Dr. Callender received the Medal of Excellence from the American Association of Kidney Patients and in 2021 he was honored with the Pioneer Award from the American Society of Transplant Surgeons—the society’s highest award.