Category: Alumni at Work, Alumni Stories, Community Health, Health Magazine

Title:Reflections on Health with Lori Wilson, MD (C’88, M’94)

Professor of Surgery, Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Diversity, and Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at Howard University

I grew up in a middle class African American community in Portsmouth, Virginia. I was 7 when I decided to become a surgeon, after seeing Hawkeye on the TV show “M*A*S*H.”

Pipeline programs offered opportunities for me, like a summer mentorship with a clinician-researcher at Eastern Virginia Medical School when I was 16. Someone there said the highest accolade was to become a professor, and I’ve had that in mind ever since. This year I achieved it.

I was a Bible-Belt Southern Baptist so coming to Georgetown opened my world. I was drawn to the Jesuit aspect, and received a truly dynamic education at Georgetown. I’m a first- generation college graduate. My mom and dad made huge sacrifices for me to go to Georgetown.

Before medical school, I was a car salesman. I’ve always loved cars—fast cars. It gave me the opportunity to do something that was not expected and do it for fun.

In medical school we brought a diseased lung to a D.C. middle school to teach the effects of smoking. I could see the kids looked up to me because I was like them. It got me thinking how I could make a difference in my community.

When we look at statistics for African Americans in surgery it’s 3-6%, and less than 15 women in the entire country who are African American full professors of surgery. I’m blessed to be in that group.

It’s so important to give back. I am committed to servant leadership, and try to do God’s work by taking care of our brothers and sisters.

During my fellowship I worked in genomics and immunology, developing blood sample signatures and biomarkers to personally cater to the needs of the patient for their type of cancer. Over the years in my area of cancer—breast, GI, soft tissue, melanoma—immunotherapy and personalized medicine have changed the way we treat patients and save lives.

I go around the country to talk about being a breast cancer survivor.

As a surgical oncologist I love the fact that I’m educating the clinicians of the future, teaching them the value of research, and operating every day. I love to be the mentor I didn’t have growing up.

I was recently promoted to associate dean of faculty development and diversity at Howard. It gives me an opportunity to ask what diversity looks like from an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) standpoint.

When I walk into a consultation, I often don’t fit people’s expectations of a surgeon. When I was at a predominantly white institution before Howard, many patients didn’t understand my role in their care, but we ultimately always got to where we needed to be.

It’s our responsibility to care for those who are underserved and underrepresented. In my 10 years at Howard, I’ve been able to travel around the world to share my surgical experience, so others can stay in their country and take care of their own.

I put an emphasis on caring for those that may not have the resources to care for themselves, and to help them understand the process of their disease.

Family is big for me. I have a 10-year-old son, who is special needs. He is an amazing young person who is learning how to navigate the world. He makes my day, every day. My husband is my biggest cheerleader.

I love to cook and bake, and I love learning new things. I think the ability to expand our understanding is one of the greatest gifts we have.

grphic with a kid and grandma, houses and u street sign

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that health is local—and extremely personal. As the pandemic soared across the country, so raged nationwide debates on mask requirements, vaccine mandates, and…

Roberta Waite

On July 1, Dr. Roberta Waite will begin service as dean of the newly reconceptualized and standalone Georgetown University School of Nursing—one that continues a nearly 120-year history of nursing…

Mutsa Nyakabau

“With fewer resources you have to be creative as the provider in how you’re able to advocate and facilitate care for your…