Charles P. “Pat” Wilkinson, M.D., F 71
A brief post-BP history:
Charles P. “Pat” Wilkinson, MD.
Happy 50th, BPEI !!
It is a time for both celebration and reflection.As for the latter, I can enthusiastically state that my vitreoretinal fellowship time at the BPEI was the best academic year of my life. The opportunity to learn in the midst of a fabulous (and small) faculty was in retrospect rather unique in terms of what was going on in ophthalmology. Fluorescein angiography was new (I recall a fellow at a prestigious northeastern institution who was sent to Miami to “learn all there was to know about F.A. in 2 weeks” so that he could return and teach his mentors.); the Argon laser was just being mass-produced; buckling techniques were somewhat different than in Baltimore; and vitreous surgery was in its infancy.
How lucky can a guy be? There I was rubbing elbows with the retinal names Norton, Curtin, Gass, and Machemer (not forgetting Parel and Justice) and with an additional faculty that included Smith, Flynn, Glaser, David, Forster, Anderson, and many others. And with a fine group of community ophthalmologists who enthusiastically participated in resident-fellow education. The Chief was an amazing ringmaster in all activities but one who encouraged discussion among all parties. The size of the Department in those days was relatively tiny, but this was a blessing to us students, as we were consistently in the midst of giants in the field.
But I’m supposed to be providing a narrative of what’s happened to me since departing Miami, so here goes:
I had grown up in Norman, Oklahoma, and following college, med school, residency, and fellowship I returned to Oklahoma City, which is approximately 20 miles from my childhood home and the location of the University of Oklahoma medical school. In those days, the Eye Department was chaired by a part-time faculty member, as was the case in Miami prior to the Chief’s arrival. I joined the practice of this fine man, Tullos Coston, and his partner, Tom Acers. Following the construction of the Dean A. McGee Eye Institute (MEI) in 1975, the 3 of us became full-time faculty members, with Tom as Chair. I remained at the MEI for the following 16 years serving as Vice-Chairman of the Department and Director of the vitreoretinal service. It was a great time in “retina” with virtually every national and international meeting featuring a wealth of new advances in our surgical field. I was lucky enough to be included in Robert Machemer’s triannual meetings from the beginning and developed many close relationships that persist to this day. My daughters Laura and Melinda enjoyed growing up in “the City”, which was and is a fine place to live.
Following a divorce I decided that leaving Oklahoma would be in my best interest, and I was quite fortunate that an opportunity was available in Baltimore, the location of my medical school and residency, as the first full-time Chairman of the Eye Department at Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC), located in a northern suburb. GBMC was completed in 1965 and featured an individual residency program of 9 that was “affiliated” with the Wilmer Institute at Johns Hopkins. In 1997 the GBMC residency program became formally integrated with Wilmer, and 2 years later the process of evolving to a common set of residents rotating through all institutions was begun. Although I became a full (although part-time) Professor at Johns Hopkins, I spent the vast majority of time at GBMC, where we built a new Eye Department. I initially hired 2 additional full-time faculty members, and the number of full-time faculty has slowly increased over the years. Still, we have always relied upon the teaching skills of a very prestigious part-time faculty.
In 1992 I married Alice, the widow of the late Ron Michels, a dear friend and another BP alumnus, and we continue to enjoy things in “Charm City”. My two step-children, Randy and Allison are now married with children, as are my 2 daughters. I have been very fortunate to have been able to participate in activities of several organizations, including the AAO, ABO, AOS, Retina Society, Macula Society, ASRS, and FDA.
I write this after recently beginning my 19th year at GBMC, and things continue to evolve. Today is literally Day 1 of our use of EMR’s in our department. A decision has been made for GBMC to leave the Wilmer program, a process that will require a few years. Fortunately, we have obtained ACGME approval to join with the University of Maryland in a similar relationship. Our first group of “GBMC-MD” residents will begin working here on July 1, 2013, and there will be no “GBMC-Wilmer” residents left after June 30, 2016. With all the economic woes and unknowns facing us around the country and world, I hope that we in ophthalmology will be able to continue to attract outstanding young people to join our fabulous specialty.
I’ve been a lucky guy, and I have been truly blessed to have had the opportunity to spend time at the BPEI. I have witnessed a remarkable expansion of facilities and faculty members over the years, and I remain very proud of my BPEI heritage. I am confident that under the leadership of Eddy Alfonso and those to follow that the Institute will maintain its reputation as the premier department in the world.
Best wishes to all at this momentous time,