With over a decade of service at the university, Hawkins is retiring this month from her role as professor in the Department of Urology and the Center for Biotechnology and Genomics at the Medical College of Georgia, and director of Spinal Cord Urology, Urodynamics, and Female Urology at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center - Downtown Division.
For fellow urologist Martha Terris, Hawkins was both a friend and mentor who influenced those around her to be their best.
“I have worked closely with Dr. Hawkins for many years and her desire to provide compassionate patient care is unmatched,” said Terris, chief of the Section of Urology at MCG. “She has never swayed from her convictions, and she always had a way to develop relationships with people to make them feel comfortable. I will truly miss working with her.”
Hawkins is the nation's first African-American full professor of urology and the sixth female urologist to be certified by the American Board of Urology. She also became the first female urologist in the United States Army, and she also served more than 30 years as a military command surgeon, earning the rank of Colonel and serving in the Gulf War.
Among Hawkins' many accomplishments was her contribution to the study of the Ochoa Syndrome, a rare condition that turns smiles into grimaces and impedes bladder and bowel control. If left untreated, most children with the disease die before adulthood.
For nearly 13 years, Hawkins worked with a team of researchers to study the DNA taken from urofacial patients in Antioquia, Colombia, to do genetic mapping and identify the chromosomal region containing the suspect genes.
After completing the painstaking task of screening the genes in this chromosomal region in patients from Colombia, the United States, and France, the research scientists discovered the gene that was mutated in every patient.
“The findings from this study provided new insight into Ochoa syndrome and incontinence, and I was grateful to have had the opportunity to work with a strong team of researchers on such a monumental study,” said Hawkins. “I will cherish those moments of countless hours of working in labs, and I know there will be more cutting-edge research on this condition in the coming years.”After retirement, Hawkins plans to travel and try her hand at an opera singing career. After all, she was professionally trained at Emmanuel College and her cousin is the famous baritone, Gordon Hawkins.
Hawkins is an active member of the Zeta Xi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and a member of Oakey Grove Baptist Church in Evans, Georgia.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from Emmanuel College, a master’s degree from Baylor University and a doctoral degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine.
A retirement celebration in Hawkins’ honor will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 28 in room 6C113 in the VA Medical Center-Downtown Division.