Leaders in Medical Education: Dr. Margaret Wilson, Dean of Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University of Health Sciences

Dec 2, 2015 by Thasin Jaigirdar

Dr. Margaret Wilson is the current Dean of Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, the first osteopathic medical school. She is also a Professor of Family Medicine, Preventive Medicine and Community Health. She earned her B.S. in Biology from Truman State University and her Doctorate at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her clinical focus involves Family Medicine with an interest in Women's health and Geriatrics. Her research interests include medical education as well as the spirituality in medicine.

What is your background and how did you get interested in medicine?

I grew up in Kirksville, Missouri which happened to be the birthplace of osteopathic medicine. I had two older brothers who went to medical school, and I knew at a young age that I was interested in medicine. I was attracted to the blend of science and human interaction that it offered. My family had always emphasized the value of education and service. I worked in a hospital lab during college helping to solidify my intent to become a physician. Having grown up surrounded by osteopathic influences, I was attracted to its philosophic approach of whole-person healthcare attending to the mind, body and spirit of patient needs.

How did you become involved in medical education?

Probably like many medical educators, it started with precepting students in my practice, then evolved to classroom teaching, course development and administration. There is nothing more rewarding than working with students and watching them learn and apply their skills to clinical care. One of the things I still enjoy most is the opportunity to work with students in my clinical practice seeing patients.

What do you believe is the toughest challenge we currently face in medical education? What are suggestions you have in dealing with those problems?

I think the toughest thing about medical education right now is how do we best prepare students to be ready for the ever-changing healthcare system. We have to be able to go beyond teaching the knowledge and skills to practice but help them to be adaptable and resilient in facing the challenges of healthcare today.

What advice would you give current undergraduates interested in a career in medicine?

I would tell those interested in medicine that despite the many changes and uncertainties that may be occurring in healthcare today, it is still the most rewarding career that you could choose to undertake. The opportunity to be of service and help your fellow man cannot be underestimated. The chance to constantly learn new things, work hard and feel you are contributing to a greater good makes it a joy to get up and go to work each day.

What does a typical day look like as Dean of a Medical School?

I guess I would laugh if I had to say there is ever a typical day in the life of a dean. Every day brings new challenges, new issues and new ways of looking at things. A typical day usually involves many meetings and working with members of my team to problem solve issues that arise. Some good advice I received early in my administrative career from a retired University President was that you may not always be able to attend to everyone’s problems in the way they wish but you can always be a good listener. In that way, being a family practice physician well prepared me for being a dean!

Do you have any final thoughts you want to share about either your career or just medicine?

I have been so fortunate over the course of my career to be able to serve in many roles but there is no doubt that being a physician has been the most rewarding. Medicine continues to be an extraordinary choice for those who truly feel called.