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Pioneer doctor propelled by ‘demand’ to give his best


The first African American to be admitted to and graduate from the University of Tennessee, Memphis College of Medicine will revisit his roots Feb. 25-26. The first African American to be admitted to and graduate from the University of Tennessee, Memphis College of Medicine will revisit his roots Feb. 25-26 when he returns to share his story with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) campus community.

 Alvin H. Crawford, MD, will be the keynote speaker for the Black Student Association Awards Ball at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Alvin H. Crawford – an award winning physician –is a professor and director of the Spine Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the health care facility where he has built his career for some 30 years. In January, Crawford marked the 50th anniversary of his entrance into UTHSC medical school.

During his two-day visit, Crawford will:

• Return to Melrose High School, his alma mater, to speak with seniors (Feb. 25, 10 a.m. in the high school library);

• Be the guest of honor at a UTHSC luncheon (Feb. 25, noon to 1 p.m. in the Student-Alumni Center, 800 Madison Ave.);

• Autograph copies of the UTHSC Centennial Book in which he is featured (Feb. 25, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., 920 Madison Plaza adjacent to the UTHSC Bookstore);

• Deliver the keynote address at the UTHSC Black Student Association Awards Ball (Feb. 26, 7 p.m. at the Memphis Marriott Downtown).  

UTHSC is celebrating its Centennial in 2011, as well as marking 50 Years of African-American Achievement at UTHSC and across the UT system.

Crawford’s career includes more than 30 years as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. He is acknowledged as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on Avideo-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, which allows surgeons to insert rode through small incisions to straighten the spine. And, he has trained more than 40 (mostly international) fellows.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Crawford back to the Memphis campus,” said UTHSC Chancellor Steve J. Schwab, MD. “His persistence, toughness and commitment to share his knowledge and experience with the next generation are incredibly admirable characteristics.”

Growing up in Orange Mound, a segregated area of Memphis in the 1950s, Crawford, a young student of clarinet and saxophone, was inspired by his high school band director, Richard “Tough” Green.

“Richard Green taught me to take on any challenge to succeed,” said Crawford. “He didn’t expect the best. He demanded the best.”

A prolific author, Crawford has published more than 200 articles, 6 books, and 32 chapters.  He developed a teaching module in pediatric orthopedics that is used throughout the United States and 33 other countries.  Among his numerous awards and acknowledgements, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Surgeons.

Although he no longer performs surgery, which he says is “a young man’s game,” his love for and desire to help children compels him to continue providing consultations.  He also continues to mentor other physicians.

At the same time, Crawford still pursues his lifelong interest in music, playing classical clarinet in Cincinnati’s Queen City Orchestra and in the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

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