posted Sep 07, 2005 in CAMPUS EVENTS
Modena Hoover Wilson ’67 clearly remembers the day at Rocky Ford Junior High when she decided to become a doctor. The idea came while dissecting an earth worm, and she rushed home to the Church of the Brethren parsonage to share the news with her family. No one discouraged her, even though it was the late 1950s and very few women had tried to enter the medical field.
Not only did she earn a medical degree – in three years – but she became one of the top-ranking women in medicine in the country. After prestigious two-decade tenure at Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine and Public Health, she spent four years at the American Academy of Pediatrics before being named senior vice president for professional standards at the American Medical Association (AMA) last year.
Dr. Wilson will present the 2005 Mohler Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2 in Brown Auditorium. Her topic will be “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care.” The lecture is the first event of the 2005-2006 McPherson Arts and Lecture Series, a collaborative effort between McPherson College and the McPherson Arts Council. The Mohler Lecture was begun in the fall of 1975 through the generosity of Dr. Robert and Mrs. Fern Shoemaker Mohler.
“It was always clear in our household that science was exciting and important, and that education was very important,” Wilson said. “Our parents (Wilbur and Miriam Coppock Hoover) taught us that the better educated you were, the better you could serve.”
Modena was introduced to science at a very early age by her father. The late Rev. Hoover, who earned a degree in chemistry before being called to the ministry, tried to explain the periodic table to his oldest child when she was only two. Modena caught his enthusiasm and was almost always the only girl in advanced science and math classes in high school. She graduated as valedictorian of Rocky Ford High School in 1963.
After graduating summa cum laude from McPherson College with a degree in biology in 1967, the Mac homecoming queen married fellow student and English major Gary Wilson ’66. They both worked on master’s degrees at Wichita State before joining the Peace Corps. They were sent to Swaziland, Africa, where Modena taught math and science, and Gary taught English and literature. It was on the trip home that she decided to pursue her dream of medical school.
Modena was 28 years old – considered ancient by her lab partners – when she entered the University of Kansas School of Medicine. She was relieved to find that her science classes at McPherson College and Wichita State had prepared her well for medical school.
It was during her pediatric residency that Wilson she settled on academic medicine: “It combined all my loves -- science, service and teaching,” she said.
After her residency, she was recruited by Johns Hopkins University, where she completed a master’s degree in public health, became a professor of pediatrics, directed graduate medical education and clinical programs, and served as associate editor of a pediatrics journal. From 1990-1999 she was director of the division of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine. In 1991 Oxford University Press published a book, "Saving Children: A Guide to Injury Prevention", for which she was first author. She also was co-editor of a pediatrics textbook, "Primary Pediatric Care".
During those years, she and her husband also raised two sons. Wilson gives the three of them much of the credit for her career advancement.
“None of my achievements would have been possible without the tremendous and ongoing encouragement and support of my husband and the tolerance of my children for my busy professional life,” she said.
Wilson experienced disparities in health care first-hand while serving as director of Johns Hopkins’ Harriet Lane Primary Care Program, which served the children of east Baltimore, a very poor area. One of her favorite roles at Johns Hopkins was the teaching clinics for residents, which included the Harriet Lane Clinic. Of her many awards and honors, one of the most important is having a room at the clinic named in her honor.
Catherine DeAngelis, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, met Wilson when she interviewed her for a residency position at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals in 1975. “She was the best applicant I’d ever interviewed,” DeAngelis, also a pediatrician, recently recalled.
Thirty years later, DeAngelis is still impressed with the former student, whom she says “has become one of the most influential women in American medicine.”
One of the AMA priorities Wilson cares most about is that of eliminating health-care disparities.
“That’s a really important issue for me,” said Wilson, who oversees a staff of about 100 people at the AMA. “The Professional Standards Group is very much involved in leading that initiative as well as other initiatives in medical ethics, the full spectrum of medical education, the scientific basis of medical practice, quality and patient safety, and public health.”
She sees the role of the AMA as one of helping doctors help people. “We try to serve physicians and make it easier for them to practice the best possible medicine and to be active in their communities to promote public health,” she said.
Wilson continues to keep the welfare of children uppermost in her efforts. “I mention them prominently in all things we try to do,” she said. “I do consider myself a champion for children.”
For further information please contact Steve Gustafson at (620) 241-0742 ext. 1219.