Dr. Renee Rosalind Jenkins earned her undergraduate and medical degrees at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. There, as an African American woman in a predominantly white school, she encountered subtle messages of prejudice and low expectations for minority students. She remained undeterred, however, and maintained a positive and proactive philosophy. Dr. Jenkins went on to become chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Care at the Howard University College of Medicine, and the first African American president of the Society of Adolescent Medicine.
Renee R. Jenkins was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1947. In her senior year of high school her family moved to Detroit, Michigan where she finished high school and graduated cum laude. Her mother was concerned that her daughter would not get married or have children if she went into medicine, and tried to persuade her to become a teacher, but Jenkins was determined to try to have a career and a family. After completing her undergraduate degree in 1967 she enrolled in the medical school program at Wayne State University. Dr. Jenkins graduated in 1971.
Dr. Jenkins entered the residency program in pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AECOM), Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, New York City, then pursued a fellowship in adolescent medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, also at AECOM. After completing the fellowship in 1975, she accepted a teaching position at the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at Howard University. At the same time, she also became the first director of Adolescent Services for the department, a position that she continues to serve in today. In 1986, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Population Dynamics Department of the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.
After more than twenty-five years teaching and practicing medicine at the Howard University College of Medicine, where she currently serves as the chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Care, Dr. Jenkins is widely recognized as an expert and advocate in pediatric and adolescent health issues.
Dr. Jenkins feels that her most important contribution to her field "was being invited to and submitting the adolescent health section to Nelson's Textbook of Pediatrics. It is the 'bible' of pediatrics, probably the most commonly used text, and I feel especially honored to be a contributor to two editions."
Reflecting on the early challenges of her education, Dr. Jenkins observes, "Some things that people perceive as obstacles are only mazes. As long as I am healthy, I have the potential to do almost anything." Her educational mission is not limited to her role at Howard University or other academic venues, but has also included expert testimony at U.S. Congressional hearings. In March 2001, she urged Congress to continue funding existing programs and new initiatives that directly affect the health and welfare of children and adolescents in the United States. Dr. Jenkins has often been invited to appear on radio, cable and nationally broadcast television programs, and has served on advisory boards, task forces and blue ribbon panels in Washington, D.C., on such topics as teen pregnancy prevention.
Dr. Jenkins has combined her challenging career with a rewarding personal life, allaying her mother's fears that it was impossible to have both. Dr. Jenkins is married to Charles Woodard, administrator for the OB/GYN Department at Howard University Hospital. Their daughter Kristinza attended the Medical College of Wisconsin (Milwaukee), aspiring to be a physician as well. She now works as a pathologist.
Her leadership and professional achievements have been recognized throughout her career. In 1989, she became the first African-American president of the Society of Adolescent Medicine. In 1991, she was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, a national medical honor society. In 1999, she received the Grace James Award for Distinguished Service from the National Medical Association. In January 2001, she was elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. Additionally, in 2007 Dr. Jenkins was the first African American to be elected as the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Jenkins has been a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics since 1977, and she has served on numerous committees, task forces and councils.