James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D, M.D.
12th President and Chief Executive Officer
of Meharry Medical College
James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D., was born and raised in Camden, Arkansas. In 1975, he began undergraduate studies at Harvard University and was selected as the first African-American Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas in 1978. He graduated from Harvard magna cum laude in chemistry in 1979. That fall, Dr. Hildreth enrolled at Oxford University in England, graduating with a Ph.D. in immunology in 1982. At Oxford he studied the biology of cytotoxic T cells with Professor Andrew McMichael and became an expert in monoclonal antibody technology and cell adhesion molecules.
He returned to the United States to attend Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, taking a one-year leave of absence from medical school for a postdoctoral fellowship in pharmacology from 1983 to 1984. In 1987 he obtained his M.D. from Johns Hopkins and joined the Hopkins faculty as assistant professor.
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 the basic sciences. In July, 2005, Dr. Hildreth became director of the NIH-funded Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research at Meharry Medical College.
Dr. Hildreth has received numerous awards over his career for mentoring, leadership and his efforts related to diversity. In October, 2008, he was honored for his contributions to medical science by election to the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious biomedical and health policy advisory group in the U.S. In May of 2015, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Arkansas. Dr. Hildreth has been inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars. He currently serves on the Harvard University Board of Overseers.
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 began research on HIV and AIDS in 1986 and his research has been funded through NIH grants for almost two decades. His work focuses on the role of host proteins and lipids in HIV infection. Dr. Hildreth is internationally recognized for his work demonstrating the importance of cholesterol and specialized membrane regions containing cholesterol in HIV infection. He has published more than 90 scientific articles and is the inventor on 11 patents based on his research. A protein discovered by Dr. Hildreth as a graduate student was the basis for an FDA-approved drug (Raptiva) that was used to treat psoriasis. A primary focus of his research currently is the development of a vaginal microbicide to block HIV transmission in women. Dr. Hildreth has also been a leader in the effort to engage churches and faith leaders in the fight against AIDS. He received a major grant from the CDC to support his HIV prevention and treatment partnership with church leaders. In 2011, Dr. Hildreth received a National Institute of Health Director’s Pioneer Award given each year to a few select scientists of exceptional creativity who use pioneering approaches to major biomedical or behavioral research challenges.
On July 1, 2015, Dr. Hildreth returned to Meharry Medical College to serve as the 12th president and chief executive officer of the nation’s largest private, independent historically black academic health sciences center.
Dr. Hildreth has been married to his wife Phyllis Drennon King for 36 years. They have two children: Sophia, a captain and attorney in the U.S. Army and James, who is continuing studies at the University of Oregon, Eugene.