With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening the health and well-being of everyday individuals, health and wellness has become a top priority for many, not only in the local community but around the globe. Doctors and nurses are scrambling to mobilize and fight against the virus with everything they’ve got, and one such professional is helping to make our community safe and healthy so that we can one day hopefully return to normal life prior to the pandemic.
Kevin Watkins, 56, nurse, president of the NAACP chapter in Port Huron, and resident of Wales Township, has committed himself to the fight against not only COVID-19, but to wellness and educating the public on health matters. Watkins is an instructor at St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, where he teaches in their nursing department. When he’s not teaching at the college, Watkins can be found at his second place of employment, Medilodge of Port Huron, caring for residents.
“I fit in with them (Medilodge) on a part-time/full-time basis. The college doesn’t normally educate during the summers unless I'm teaching the LPNs — they're usually the only nursing students that go through the summer,” says Watkins.
Arriving in Michigan from California, back in middle school with his parents and seven siblings, Watkins and his family made their home in Detroit. From there, Watkins attended college at Michigan State University. He originally enrolled for pre-med, but ended up in the nursing program where he received his bachelor's degree in nursing as well as a bachelor’s in psychology.
In the sixth grade, Watkins originally wanted to be a doctor. “I remember when I said I wanted to be a doctor. My aunt said, ‘You can't be a doctor, black people are not doctors, that's something you shouldn’t aspire to be.’ That broke my heart, but it didn't break my spirit. I kept moving forward.”
“I've been charged by God to do this. It's time to give back, and the way to give back beyond empowering my peers is to educate the next generation of nurses. That's what I do now,” says Kevin Watkins.
People often think of nurses as the doctor’s sidekick, or as a lesser position. Watkins clarifies the differences and the dynamic relationship between the two.
“It’s a partnership. You cannot obtain wellness without the nursing piece. You have the doctors to steady the ship, to identify the issue and set the ship asail. The nurses keep the ship asail, and get it to its destination. So, we’re a team,” Watkins says.
“It's almost like you can't have one without the other. If you do, it's a vessel half-empty. So you need both, and the nurses are the ones that carry it home. We’re the portion that keeps you from getting setback by educating you to move forward to reach the end of the continuum of wellness.”
As a nurse for the past 30 years, Watkins has had a hand in helping many residents from all walks of life get through various medical conditions and on to lead long healthy lives through education that promotes wellness.
Working with the St. Clair County Health Department and Dr. Annette Mercatante, Watkins was one of the nurses involved in the program that sought to get approximately 500 Covid vaccinations to the residents of Port Huron’s south side this past March. Held at the Eleger G. Harvey Reinvestment Center, the program’s goal was to get the vaccine to the large minority population of the city, and with someone “who looks like them,” Watkins felt people would be more comfortable with the procedure.
Of all the great things Watkins has accomplished in his tenure as a nurse, he says his greatest pleasure and fulfillment comes from educating those who are seeking to become nurses themselves. “I've been charged by God to do this. It's time to give back, and the way to give back beyond empowering my peers is to educate the next generation of nurses. That's what I do now,” says Watkins.