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Vernon E. Wilson Papers 1953-1981
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Biography

Biographical Note

Dr. Vernon E. Wilson (1915-1992) was a nationally known leader in medical education and an innovative administrator of medical programs in academia and government. Born in 1915 to farm parents in Plymouth, Iowa, Dr. Wilson delayed his college education during the Great Depression and worked as a mechanic to assist his family in keeping the family farm. He served with the Navy in the Pacific during World War II, and earned his M.D. degree on the G.I. bill in 1953 from the University of Illinois in Chicago. Although Dr. Wilson was trained in pharmacology, he never hung up his shingle for private practice. Immediately after graduation, he became an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Kansas.

In 1959, Dr. Wilson became the Dean and Director of the University of Missouri Medical Center at Columbia. While at the University of Missouri in the 1960s, he held the positions of Executive Director for Health Affairs (1967-1968) and Vice President for Academic Affairs (1968-1970). In the late 1960s Dr. Wilson gained a well-respected reputation as the Coordinator of the successful Missouri Regional Medical Program. Regional Medical Programs (RMPs) were established as a result of the Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke amendments to the Hill-Burton Act passed by the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration in 1965. The goal of the legislation was to fund and facilitate coordinated regional efforts to conduct medical research and training, provide better delivery of health services, and widely disseminate medical information. As one of the first promising RMPs after the legislation, the Missouri RMP became the model program for other RMPs throughout the country. In Dr. Wilson's early years at the University of Missouri, he flew his single engine plane to rural areas in Missouri to establish links between physicians throughout the state and the University of Missouri School of Medicine. These efforts paid off in later years when he coordinated the Missouri RMP.

Wilson's skills as an administrator and his familiarity with RMPs led to his appointment in 1970 as the Administrator of the newly-formed Health Services and Mental Health Administration (HSMHA). The responsibilities of the HSMHA, a bureau of the Public Health Service, included overseeing RMPs. Wilson was appointed by, and served under, Elliott Richardson, the Director of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare until 1972. Dr. Wilson returned to the University of Missouri as Professor of Community Health and Medical Practice from 1973 through 1974.

Wilson's reputation as a medical educator meant that he was asked to serve on numerous professional committees throughout his career. Among these were a long-term membership on the Council on Medical Education of the American Medical Association, Executive Council member of the Association of American Medical Colleges, and committee chairmanships on the American Board of Family Practice. Dr. Wilson ended his career as Vice President for Medical Affairs at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he served from 1974 until his retirement in 1981.