Dr. Donald E. Wilson, the new dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, says he is here "to lead and not dictate."
Wilson, 54, told a large gathering of faculty that turned out yesterday to meet him after his appointment that he will look at curriculum reform as soon as possible "so that we are more responsive to the 1990s and the year 2000.
"I'm not happy with the way I see students coming out [of medical schools]. They need to be more responsive to the needs of people we serve," said Wilson, who has spent 11 years in urban medicine in New York.
He recalled that after six months in medical school at Tufts University, he came close to quitting "because all I was doing was spending time doing what I thought was not relevant and there was no attempt to introduce me to things that I might be doing later on."
A faculty committee has spent a year outlining curriculum changes, and Wilson said he soon will be adding to what has been recommended, but stressed that "the dean is here to lead and not dictate."
The new appointment, formally announced by Dr. Errol L. Reece, president of UMAB, makes Wilson the nation's first black dean of an accredited medical school that is predominantly white. He also is the first black dean of the University of Maryland at Baltimore, a campus of six professional schools.
He comes to Baltimore from the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn, where he has been professor and chairman of medicine. He was one of four finalists from a pool of 145 applicants. He will earn $225,000 a year and serve at the pleasure of the president of UMAB.
Medical ethics is another matter that is "extremely important now, and we don't spend enough time talking about that," the new dean said.
"I think physicians need to have a certain amount of dedication built into the options they have as they go through medical school. And I think that sort of by training, once you get used to doing something, then perhaps you continue to do it later on."
Wilson said he would move "rather quickly to bring together some of the factions in the medical center that love each other but have not come to cohabitance yet." And, he promised "to work tirelessly to get our funding restored or get additional funding" from the state.
Maryland's only state-supported medical school has a "funding problem," he explained, brought on by the state's current budget woes.
Wilson, who grew up in Worcester, Mass., and did his undergraduate work at Harvard University, said he decided to become a doctor when he was about 7 years old and seriously ill with a disease doctors could not diagnose "because they did not know as much then."
"This sounds like a tear-jerker or a soap opera, but it's absolutely true," he said. "When I finally got well, I said I would become a doctor." Today, he is a specialist in gastroenterology -- the study of the digestive tract and its diseases -- and internal medicine.
In introducing Wilson yesterday, Reece said the UM Medical School understands "the necessity to bring diversity to the faculty to meet the needs of a diverse patient population."
Many of the words that describe leadership, Reece said, were contained in letters he received from people who wrote to him about Wilson's candidacy.
"These words included intelligent, encouraging, risk-taker, compassionate, decisive, strong work ethic," Reece said. "If these words are true, then maybe I've made the right decision."
"It's important that we all recognize that the assignments that you and I will cut out for this dean will be very heavy. And you and I must understand that although we have someone who can lead us, it takes a certain quality to also follow. So, I would ask that you join with me in following this dean."
Wilson will be coming to Baltimore after a sabbatical that he is spending as a senior consultant to the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research in Rockville.
The agency, which he described as new and one of the most important in the public health service, is involved in new studies to measure the effectiveness of medical treatment, to try to determine appropriate medical treatments and to try to understand such things as who is getting service and who is not.
In Baltimore, Wilson will lead the fifth oldest medical school in the country, which was founded in 1807 and enrolls 585 students. Close to 50 percent of its 5,700 living graduates live and practice in Maryland.