James Hildreth, PhD, MD

President & CEO, Meharry Medical College

James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D. is the 12th president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College, the nation’s largest private, independent historically black academic health
sciences center. Dr. Hildreth obtained a B.A. in chemistry from Harvard University and was selected as the first African-American Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas. He obtained a Ph.D. in immunology from Oxford University where his studies focused on the biology of virus-specific cytotoxic T cells. Dr. Hildreth also became an expert in monoclonal antibody technology and cell adhesion molecules while at Oxford. He obtained an M.D. from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and took a leave of absence from medical school for a postdoctoral fellowship in pharmacology at Johns Hopkins.

In 1987, Dr. Hildreth joined the Johns Hopkins School of faculty as assistant professor. He was appointed as the first associate dean for graduate studies at Johns Hopkins in 1994. In 2002, Dr. Hildreth became the first African American in the 125-year history of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to earn full professorship with tenure in basic sciences. In July 2005, Dr. Hildreth became director of the NIH-funded Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research at Meharry Medical College. In August of 2011, Dr. Hildreth became dean of the College of Biological Sciences at University of California, Davis. He was the first African-American dean in the university, which was founded in 1905. He was also appointed as a tenured professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology as well as professor in the Department of Internal Medicine in the UC Davis School of Medicine.

Dr. Hildreth’s seven years as Meharry president have been impactful and transformative. The College’s extramural research funding base has tripled, from $28 million to $86 million. The first new school in more than 80 years, School of Applied Computational Sciences, was launched. A Physician Assistant program received accreditation and will begin in 2023. He has led a capital campaign launched in 2020 that has raised more than $120 million of a $200 million goal, including major gifts of $38 million (Bloomberg) and $20 million (McKenzie Scott). A number of innovative
partnerships have been launched including State of Tennessee-supported training programs to increase the number of physicians and dentists serving rural communities in the state.

Dr. Hildreth’s research in immunology and virology, with a focus on HIV, has resulted in more than 110 publications in top journals and 11 patents. He has received numerous NIH grants to support his research including a prestigious NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. A technology developed by Dr. Hildreth was licensed by Genentech as the basis for the FDA approved drug Raptiva. Dr. Hildreth has received numerous awards for his research, commitment to diversity in medicine, biomedical research and service to communities. His recognitions include honorary degrees, induction into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars and election to the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine), part of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2022 he was named “Nashvillian of the Year” by Nashville Scene magazine for his leadership in the COVID-19 pandemic response and one the “Fifty Most Influential Clinical Leaders” by Modern Healthcare. Dr. Hildreth was recently named one of the 46 most influential leaders in life science and medicine by STAT.

Dr. Hildreth has been appointed as temporary voting member to two FDA advisory committees: Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) and Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee (AMDAC), these panels review COVID-19 vaccines and drugs respectively for approval. In February of 2021, he was appointed by President Biden to the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. Dr. Hildreth has served on numerous national advisory boards including the Harvard University Board of Overseers. He recently completed service on the Advisory Council to the NIH Director and currently serves as chair of the Veteran’s Administration National Academic Affiliations Council and the board of directors of the Association of Academic Health Centers. Dr. Hildreth serves on several other boards including chair of the board of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.