Dr. Colin Wilkinson is the founder of the American International School of Medicine in Georgetown, Guyana. The school offers a four-year doctorate program and has educated more than 300 physicians now practicing in several countries around the world. Dr. Wilkinson founded the institution after seeing a need for more thorough student follow up throughout their medical education. He prides himself on making himself available and helping students choose the right path to their success
Dr. Wilkinson found his love for medicine and helping others at a very young age. After his father passed away while he was still an infant, his mother returned to school and became a nurse. Dr. Wilkinson would attend classes with his mother and had daily interactions with others in the healthcare field. He saw what an impact they had on their community and found his calling.
After elementary school, the family moved to New York where Dr. Wilkinson continued his education. After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Wilkinson served on the board of his Medical School and found some policies that he disagreed with in how they approached students in need of additional help or guidance. He set out to change those policies, which led him to open AISM in 1999.
Why did you choose to become a doctor?
My earliest influences were in the healthcare field. My mother went back to school after my Dad had passed away and we were always living in areas where healthcare workers were. I had a lot of interactions with doctors, nurses, first responders, and others in the field. I could have gone into any of those fields comfortably. When I began college, I was at first thinking I would be a chemical engineer, but soon realized how much more complex that field was, I changed my major to biochemistry, and I minored in biology.
Because of the environment I grew up in, I always had a need to give back. I always knew that patient care was in my future. It was just a matter of finding the right specialty for myself. It was later on that I learned how much politics have to do with healthcare. I love seeing patients and treating the person. I saw myself like my mother, in the country helping those who need it.
What area do you specialize in?
I specialize in internal medicine and endocrinology, but I spend all of my time in academic medicine. I found my calling there because I felt for those who were having trouble academically and had no one to reach out to. Even when the board would recognize a struggling student, they would not speak to them directly. They would not offer options to improve their grades or gain a better understanding of the material. It was a discussion that directly related to a person, but that person was not involved in the process. I felt a strong pull to help those students, to provide them an avenue to make the improvements that needed to be made on a personal level.
What is your daily routine?
I wake up very early each morning and start each day with prayer. I then prioritize my day, making sure I know what has to be done first that day. Generally, I start the day at work by answering emails and doing callbacks. We have scheduled meetings throughout the day, but at any time I will handle any urgent matters that come up. It could be a student needing help with financial aid or a teacher needing assistance with something. Those are the things you really can’t plan for and will keep my day busy. I sometimes work until 9 or 10 at night to be sure I have completed everything I set my mind to for that day.
What do you love about your job?
What I love most is watching people develop. I have met high school students that were so young and naive it reminded me of my own childhood. As they go through school and gain knowledge and confidence, they grow as a person. I thoroughly enjoy watching that process. Some of these students come in against the advice of their peers, being told they cannot do this. They learn that they can and it’s an amazing thing to see. I help people realize their dreams and make them a reality. How can anything be better than that?
What would you consider the greatest accomplishment in your career?
Opening the school is the greatest accomplishment I’ve had. When I left that board meeting that day, I feel like I was still young and didn’t know exactly how to set about opening the school. I felt determined because they were so certain I couldn’t do it. After I had accomplished this, I was able to help them make the necessary changes to their program. That was also a great moment for me because it showed they respected me and what I had to offer. I wanted to leave a footprint in this world. In my mind, I saw the academic world as a more valuable option. Would I leave more of a legacy by seeing one patient at a time or helping to educate thousands of physicians who would help thousands of patients?
Tell our readers about some of your volunteer activities.
I volunteer in a couple of areas. A big focus for me is patient education. A lot of patients are noncompliant because they don’t understand it. Breaking it down to their level and explaining how preventive care can reduce future complications is a great way for the patient to gain that understanding. Through the church, I schedule seminars on breast health, prostate health, pediatric behavioral matters, etc. I want to give patients the information they need to make the best medical choices for themselves.
During the holidays, I go to soup kitchens to help feed the poor and homeless. I take the time to sit and talk with people. It’s important to allow them to express themselves. I recall a few years ago when I was volunteering in Atlanta. I spoke with a gentleman who said that he was great with his hands and could fix anything. I introduced him to some local people, and he began working. I use these volunteer moments as another way to help others.
What do you do in order to mentally separate from your job?
I get lost in doing the things I love the most. I need to remove myself from the negativity and politics that are always there. I am very involved in my church and will do things there. I pray, of course. I also like to learn more about the history of the Bible, so I will immerse myself in studying that.