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News & Announcements

In Memoriam: W. Bedford Waters, MD

Posted: May 29, 2019

It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we write to inform you of the death of one of our section’s most beloved members, W. Bedford Waters. Bedford passed away peacefully over the Memorial Day weekend at his home in Knoxville, TN. Just a few weeks ago, we were all excited to see Bedford receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the AUA at the annual meeting for advancing urologic oncology and inspiring diversity in the field of urology. We remember fondly how elated Bedford was when informed of this well-deserved recognition for what was truly a lifetime of achievement in breaking barriers and helping inspire those around him.

Bedford grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee during the height of segregation. However, his academic prowess resulted in acceptance and academic scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University for both undergraduate studies and medical school. Bedford was the second African-American graduate of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. After finishing medical school, Bedford did two years of general surgery training at the University of California, San Diego. He was accepted to the urology residency at Harvard Brigham & Women’s Hospital, where he was the first African American resident and became a stellar surgeon under the tutelage of Dr. Gittes. He then was recruited to join the faculty at Loyola in Chicago. Bedford’s knowledge, skills and charisma soon made him a leader in urologic oncology. Bedford became a fixture in the Chicago culinary scene and was regarded as a master chef known for his legendary parties.

At Loyola, he served as Chief of Urologic Oncology under Chairman Robert Flanigan, our immediate past president of the AUA. Bedford was a renowned technical surgeon and was a resident and fellow favorite for his dapper style, humor, and love of teaching from 1985 to 2001. Bedford eventually returned to Knoxville in 2001 to be near his aging mother and joined the faculty at UT Knoxville. In 2017, Dr. Waters successfully navigated the Urology division at UT to full Department of Urology status and became the inaugural Chair of Urology. Dr. Waters was a pioneer in our fields, contributing to urology and medical education throughout his career. In 2012 Bedford endowed the Irene Georgia Bedford Waters Scholarship for deserving medical students at Vanderbilt School of Medicine. Bedford’s legacy of breaking barriers, outstanding achievement, and giving was honored at a ceremony several months ago with a portrait that hangs in the School of Medicine.

Bedford led a life of service to Urology on many levels. He served on the ABU and was President of the American Board of Urology in 2008-09, the first African-American to hold that position. He was a trustee emeritus of the American Board of Urology. 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 the first African American member elected to the prestigious American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons. Bedford was a stalwart SESAUA member who attended and lectured at many of our meetings.

In closing, it is an understatement to say Bedford was loved by his family, patients, friends, trainees, colleagues and all those whose lives he touched. He was an icon of style and grace but one that was not afraid to break barriers and take on the difficult path, which he did for his entire life. We are all more for having known him.


S. Duke Herrell, MD
SESAUA Secretary

Glenn Preminger, MD
SESAUA President

Earlier this year, Bedford gave an interview which gives the inspirational oral history of his life.