May 27, 2019
Dear UCLA Urology Colleagues and Friends,
It is with a very heavy heart that I write to inform you of the passing of one of our specialty's giants. A close personal friend and mentor of mine and a towering figure in academic urology, W. Bedford Waters, MD, passed away May 23, 2019 in his home in Knoxville, TN. Three weeks ago he was honored in Chicago with the AUA Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing urologic oncology and inspiring diversity in the field of urology.
In 2017, Dr. Waters became the inaugural chair of the Department of Urology at the University of Tennessee. He had moved there in 2001 after a long career as Chief of Urologic Oncology at Loyola, where he worked for many years alongside Robert Flanigan, MD, immediate past president of the AUA. Dr. Waters was extremely highly regarded as a pioneer in our field, contributing to medical education for almost 40 years. Dr. Waters was a trustee emeritus of the American Board of Urology, serving as its president in 2008-09, the first African-American to hold that position. He served as the president of many regional and national organizations, including the Chicago Urological Society (1995), the Illinois State Urological Society (2000), and the urology section of the National Medical Association (1996-98). He also served on the executive committees of the Society of Urologic Oncology and the Society of University Urologists. Dr. Waters was elected as the first African American member of the prestigious American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons.
In 1974, Dr. Waters was the second-ever African American graduate of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. When medical school tuition presented a barrier to his becoming a doctor, an anonymous donor stepped forward. All the donor asked was, “Do your best,” echoing the advice his mother had instilled in him from a young age. In 2012, Dr. Waters established the Irene Georgia Bedford Waters Scholarship for medical students at Vanderbilt, quietly paying forward that support. After finishing medical school, he took two years of general surgery training at the University of California, San Diego, before moving to the Harvard Program in Urology at the Brigham & Women's Hospital, where he was its first African American and first out urology resident. He was a role model for many of us in many ways.
Dr. Waters visited UCLA Urology several years ago as our first African American visiting professor. Many here got to meet and interact with him directly and see what so many of his former students and trainees experienced.
Earlier this year, he gave an inspirational oral history that was presented on line at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t40aQyIpQ68
W. Bedford Waters, MD, transformed many lives as a physician, leader, teacher, mentor, and friend. That is his legacy.
Mark S. Litwin, MD, MPH
Professor and Chair
Department of Urology
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA