The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has awarded the Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education to former University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean Donald E. Wilson. The Flexner award was established by the AAMC in 1958 to recognize extraordinary individual contributions to medical schools and to the medical education community as a whole.
After "retiring" in 2006 as the nation's second-longest-serving medical school dean, Dr. Wilson is reprising his lifelong role as a medical educator as senior vice president for health sciences at Howard University. He is Dean Emeritus at the School of Medicine.
"An innovator in medical education both at the graduate and undergraduate levels," said Maryland School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece, M.D., PhD, MBA of his predecessor. Department of Medicine Chair Frank M. Calia, M.D., added "Donald Wilson, M.D. is the quintessential academician."
As the School of Medicine's dean for 15 years, Dr. Wilson was the first African American to hold that title at an accredited non-minority medical school and also was the medical school's first vice president for medical affairs. Prior to coming to Maryland, Dr. Wilson chaired the department of medicine at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, College of Medicine in Brooklyn.
As an educator, it may be said that Dr. Wilson regards medical school as a full dress rehearsal for what students will encounter in the real-world of medicine. An early advocate of curriculum reform, he generated greater awareness of problem-based learning and advocated better integration of basic and clinical education. He also was an early adopter of new technology, requiring all first-year medical students to have laptops and making informatics part of the first-year curriculum.
Dr. Wilson's leadership was also key to Maryland's emergence as a leading national research institution. In the words of AAMC President Emeritus Jordan J. Cohen, M.D., "The school underwent a veritable transformation to become a true educational and research powerhouse." During Dr. Wilson's tenure, research grants quadrupled, pressing health issues such as AIDS and schizophrenia were tackled, and the school's research capacity was strengthened with the construction of two biomedical research buildings.
In the policy world, Dr. Wilson has served in numerous national and state positions, including chair of the National Advisory Council for Health Care Research and Quality. The National Institutes of Health also appointed Dr. Wilson several times to serve on agency committees, including a post on the Advisory Committee to the Director. His expertise in fiscal and political trends impacting medicine is widely sought, and when the state of Maryland Health Care Access and Cost Commission - which he chaired for nine years - merged with the Health Resources Planning Commission to become the Maryland Health Care Commission, legislation was passed specifically naming Dr. Wilson as chair.
His leadership has also touched the stage of academic medicine, as he peer-reviews post-M.D. training programs for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education on its Residency Review Committee for Internal Medicine. He also served on the Liaison Committee on Medical Education for 14 years. Within the AAMC, as a member of the Council of Deans and later as its chair, Dr. Wilson helped the council achieve its mission of improving the nation's medical schools. In 2003, Dr. Wilson was chair of the AAMC Executive Council, and today he serves on the Health Care Advisory Panel.
A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, Dr. Wilson earned his B.A. degree at Harvard Medical School and his M.D. degree at Tufts University School of Medicine, completing his internship and residency in Boston at St. Elizabeth's Hospital and the Veterans Administration Hospital, respectively. Dr. Wilson's lifelong commitment to diversity in medicine has been honored numerous times, including his receipt of the first AAMC Herbert W. Nickens Award for diversity in medicine in 2000.