A Survivors Story - Dr. Lori Wilson

If you ask Dr. Lori L. Wilson to describe herself in a few words, she will tell you she is a cancer survivor, surgeon and patient advocate all rolled into one. Her fascination for medicine began at an early age growing up in Portsmouth, Va.
As a grade school student, she excelled at math and science and sought out research experiences that would help open doors for minorities in the fields of science and medicine.

"I spent my first summer research project in high school focused on cancer," says Dr. Wilson. "In my senior year of college, I developed a thesis on oncology at the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute." Medicine has always been her calling. Dr. Wilson received her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Howard University Hospital (HUH); a research fellowship at the University of Cincinnati and a surgical oncology fellowship at the John Wayne Cancer Institute.

In 2011, she joined HUH as a surgical oncologist. “Having the opportunity to come back to Howard and serve this community was a dream come true for me," says Dr. Wilson. At HUH, she has taken on a multitude of roles and responsibilities, serving as the founder and director of Trans disciplinary Breast Clinic; director of the Rosemary Williams Mammoday Program; and program director of General Surgery Residency. She is currently the chief, Division of Surgical Oncology.

Dr. Wilson has also been directly involved in a wide range of community outreach initiatives, leading medical missions to the Sudan and Nigeria. "I think it's important that we continue to serve as a beacon for underserved communities, whether it's stateside or abroad that do not have appropriate access to quality health care," says Dr. Wilson. "Howard University’s work speaks to the notion of people’s goodwill and their resiliency to seek positive change under some of the most challenging conditions."

Place of Birth: Landstuhl, Germany
Education: Georgetown University, BS
Medical School: Georgetown University School of Medicine
Internship, Residency & General Surgery: Howard University Hospital ’94-’96, ’98-‘01
Research Fellowship: University of Cincinnati ’96 – ‘98
Surgical Oncology Fellowship: John Wayne Cancer Institute: ’02 – ‘05

In 2014, Dr. Wilson was diagnosed with breast cancer. She decided to use her situation as a platform to shape her voice and advocacy. Dr. Wilson shares her story with her patients as well as the public. She has been a great resource speaking to the media and participants at health events across the country after being featured in the Ken Burns’ documentary, ‘Cancer: Emperor of all Maladies.’

"My goal has always been focused on making sure that everyone has a fair opportunity to be their healthiest by removing barriers and inequities that can change outcomes, whether those disadvantages are social, economic or environmental," says Dr. Wilson. "For me, this has been a call to arms. I am a survivor, cancer surgeon and patient advocate all rolled up into one."

On a typical day, Dr. Wilson puts in long hours in the Howard University Cancer Center. Her daily routine includes rounding, operating, taking patient calls and providing training to residents and students as well as looking for innovate ways to enhance her program. Dr. Wilson states that developing a good patient/doctor rapport is central to building partnerships with patients, and a necessity to navigate the cancer diagnosis and treatment process.

“I spend as much time as possible talking to my patients, listening to their concerns and questions in order to provide them with all of the information they need,” says Dr. Wilson. “Cancer care is multidisciplinary and a team approach. We have great support from our team of Nurse Practitioners, Patient Navigators and Genetic Counselors.”

Providing access to healthcare in underserved areas of our Nation's Capital has been a career-long mission for Dr. Wilson. “HUH was founded on these core values and it's also one of the things I am most proud of,” says Dr. Wilson. “We provide the highest quality, evidence-based care to the most disadvantaged communities in this city."

Dr. Wilson states that local health organizations need to do a better job of spreading the word about the importance of getting routine screenings in areas where there are health desserts. “We have to be consistently engaged and embedded in our community. This is the only way we will reach disadvantaged patients,” says Dr. Wilson.