At Texas A&M, we celebrate the American Medical Association’s Women in Medicine Month this September by highlighting a few of our extraordinary female researchers, scientists, physicians and students who are making meaningful contributions to medicine every day on our campuses and across the globe.

Emily Wilson, PhD, professor in the Department of Medical Physiology and associate dean and assistant vice president of faculty development and interprofessional education, is one of these remarkable women. To help mark Women in Medicine Month, she answers some questions about the profession and her life.

Q: How did you become interested in biomedical research?

A: I always loved science in general. My father was a medical doctor, and my mother was a medical lab technician, so it seemed like the perfect blend of the two. The more I became involved in research, the more I loved it.

Q: Why did you choose academic medicine?

A: I love the environment of an academic center. I like feeling like there is something new to learn all of the time. I enjoy the interaction between clinicians and basic scientists.

Q: How have you seen your career evolve from researcher to administration?

A: My move into administration was never planned. As a matter of fact, it is one of the last things that I would have thought I would do. I became involved in the graduate program in the College of Medicine out of a deep love for graduate education, and then I served as the executive associate dean in the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Science Center. Both of these positions were part time administration, so I always had one foot in research. The move to full-time administration has been a little tougher because I will always say that research is my first love.

Q: How do you help support or advocate for women in medicine?

A: I believe in mentorship. I think that is one of the reasons that I became so involved in the graduate program. I like to believe that I have an open nature that allows people to feel comfortable asking for help.

Q: What else can be done to support women through the academic process?

A: I think that providing good mentorship is something that will always help support women during their academic career.

Q: What accomplishments do you consider to be the most significant of your career to date?

A: My PhD research was among the first to show that sphingolipid breakdown products have biological functions, and I have made contributions to the role of mechanical force in vascular remodeling. In my administrative role, I would say that helping to build the Division of Interprofessional Education at the Health Science Center. I feel that hiring Chris Kaunas to lead those efforts is one of my great accomplishments. It is fun to see something that was struggling take shape and to be the force that it is.

Q: Are there any women, past or present, who inspired or influenced you to pursue a career in the field? 

A: There are really too many to name, but at an early age my mother, Adalyn Wilson, influenced my love of science and encouraged me. I am blessed to have parents that believed in me and encouraged me to do what I was passionate about. Dr. Betty Boeker at Utah State University was an early influence. I believe that it is important to have other women who can show you the way. Currently, I would say that both Cindy Meininger and Farida Sohrabji are women that I greatly admire because of both their research abilities and their willingness to serve and mentor.

Q: What advice would you give young women interested in biomedical research?

A: I would encourage them to work hard, to develop skills and to believe in themselves. I like to say that an academic career is a marathon, not a sprint, so remember to breathe.

Q: What is your personal motto?

A: Right now, it is something attributed to Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

— Christina Sumners

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