Donald Wilson

Donald Wilson, MD (1936-) was the nation’s first African American dean of a non historically black college or university medical school when he became the dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) in 1991. By the time he retired as dean 15 years later – the second-longest tenure ever for a medical school dean at that time – his major accomplishments included introducing an inclusive and diverse hiring system, changing UMSOM’s teaching methods and growing UMSOM’s prestige as a medical school.

Dr. Wilson was a first-generation college graduate, earning his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1954, and then graduating from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1962. In 1966, he was drafted into the United States Air Force and was stationed in Omaha, NE. There, he served as a medical consultant for the V.A. Hospital as well as the chief of internal medicine, while also chairing the department of medicine at Ehrling Bergquist USAF Hospital.

After his discharge, he became the youngest person to achieve full professor status at the University of Illinois Medical School. His specialty was gastroenterology, and he was a clinical chief at University of Illinois and SUNY Downstate before coming to UMSOM.

During his time at UMSOM the school came to have one of the most diverse student bodies and faculties of any medical school in the country. Dean Wilson increased the amount of women faculty members by 75 percent and tripled the number of minority faculty members.

Dr. Wilson also drove important curriculum changes, using more practical and hands-on lessons for UMSOM students. Additionally, he increased grant and contract awards by 354%, to $350 million; philanthropic support by more than 2000%, to $37 million; and strengthened the school's research capacity with the construction of two biomedical research buildings.

Dr. Wilson was one of the founders of the Association for Academic Minority Physicians in 1986. He also chaired the Maryland Health Care Commission from 1994 to 2004 and the Association of American Medical Colleges in 2004. He also received many awards, including the Frederick Douglass Award from the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, the first Herbert Nickens Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) for promoting equality and justice in medicine, Baltimore Magazine’s 2007 Baltimorean of the Year and the W. Lester Henry Award for Diversity and Access to Care in 2015 from the American College of Physicians. He retired in 2006.

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