Although she originally planned to become involved with patient care and research, Dr. Marjorie Price Wilson enjoyed a successful career as one of the few women in the upper-most ranks of medical administration in the United States. She has held posts in academic medicine as well as the public health service, and has served as president and chief executive officer of the commission that evaluates the qualifications of foreign medical graduates seeking further training in the United States.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1924, Marjorie Price was encouraged by her parents to pursue a career. She was inspired to become a doctor at the age of 6, after frequent visits to visit an ailing cousin at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She studied chemistry and biology at Bryn Mawr College, graduating in 1945. When she expressed an interest in attending medical school, her father encouraged her to apply to the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. Knowing that she would be pursuing a career "in a man's world," however, she decided to study at a co-educational institution. She entered the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as one of six women in a class of eighty-nine. She earned her doctor of medicine degree in 1949, interned at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hospitals, and completed a residency in pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh.
When she and her husband moved to Washington, D.C., in the early 1950s, she took a temporary position reviewing research contracts for the Veterans Administration, giving her the opportunity to meet leading scientists in various fields of medicine. After a brief stay in Florida, where she did a residency in clinical pathology, she and her husband returned to Washington, where she took a job with the Veterans Administration in medical education administration, working with residency and internship programs and allied health training programs. While there, she initiated the Veterans Administration Clinical Investigator Program, one of the organization's first full-time research jobs. Like other women aspiring to senior administrative positions in medical institutions, she became increasingly aware of an institutional "glass ceiling" that was limiting her advancement, and left the Veterans Administration in 1960.
Dr. Wilson accepted a position with the Extramural Programs at the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She then transferred to the National Library of Medicine where, as associate director, she developed an extramural program to build and equip libraries, and offer training and research support in the information sciences. In 1970 Dr. Wilson was offered a prestigious position with the Association of American Medical Colleges as director of the Department of Institutional Development, where she developed a management program to provide deans with administrative leadership training. In 1984 she published her influential study based on this work, Leadership and Management in Academic Medicine.
From 1981 to 1986 she served as a senior associate dean at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, and as vice dean from 1986 to 1988. Between 1988 and 1995 she was president and chief executive officer of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, based in Philadelphia, which assesses the readiness of international medical graduates to enter residency or fellowship programs in the United States. She also held a number of important advisory positions with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the National Board of Medical Examiners, the John E. Fogarty International Center, and the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowships.
Though she had been professionally successful, Dr. Wilson felt that she has had to make some sacrifices in her personal life for the benefit of her career. She and her husband postponed having children until she was well established in her chosen field, and she sometimes felt that she did not devote as much time to her familyor herselfas she would have liked. "I think that there have been things missing personally that I want to emphasize more in the future," she told an interviewer mid-way through her career, "such as personal time for enjoyment for things that I likethe beauty in my personal, daily living, the time to think and contemplate that we so often put off until another time."
Still, Dr. Wilson never regretted pursuing her career and everything she has accomplished. She saw herself as a strong advocate for women in medicine, and has done much to carve a path to leadership positions for other women in medicine.