Ask Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physicians Amy Wilson, MD, and Rita Hamilton, DO, if they ever imagined becoming the key leaders at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas that they are today when they first started as residents in 1993, the answer is simple:
“If you would have told us in 1993 that we’d be doing what we’re doing now, I would have laughed…out loud… for a really long time,” says Dr. Hamilton, the program director for the Baylor Dallas PM&R Residency Program. Dr. Wilson, who is the president-elect of the Baylor Dallas medical staff, whole-heartedly agrees.
The two first met on day one of their Baylor Dallas residency in July 1993. Since then, they have developed a close working relationship and great friendship, while helping raise the national profile of the PM&R services at Baylor Dallas and Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation (BIR), which provides rehabilitative care for patients with serious brain, spinal cord and traumatic injuries, as well as conditions like severe stroke.
It’s an unlikely journey for these two physicians who didn’t have an inkling for what specialty they would choose when they were in medical school. During their externships, however, both happened to rotate through the niche specialty of PM&R and were hooked. However, each had a different reason for choosing Baylor Dallas/BIR for their residency training.
“I’m from Dallas and was looking to get back closer to home,” explains Dr. Wilson, who attended medical school in Houston. “And when you look at inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, BIR is the premier facility in this part of the country.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Hamilton wanted to get a little further from home. “I’m from a small town in Arkansas with no stoplights,” she says. “Dallas was the perfect location – close enough to go home, but far enough where nobody can come visit without calling.”
While they met the first day of residency, it was another experience early on in training that initially brought them closer together. They were called to discuss a serious matter with William Sutker, MD, in his office. Even though the matter didn’t regard either of them, having to speak to the head of Graduate Medical Education so early on left an indelible impression.
“I think both our knees were knocking the whole time we were sitting there,” says Dr. Hamilton with a chuckle. “It was like being called to the principal’s office.”
Although they are both female physicians in a small specialty and great friends, their personalities and interests couldn’t be more different.
“We’re very opposite, but it works out well,” says Dr. Wilson.
She attributes Dr. Hamilton’s involvement in many of the national PM&R professional organizations – such as the Association for Academic Physiatrists (AAP), the Academy for Spinal Cord Injury Professionals (ASCIP) the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPMR) – with helping raise the profile of the Baylor Dallas/BIR PM&R program around the country. Not only is Dr. Hamilton, who is especially passionate about spinal cord injury, a member of these organizations, but she holds or has held numerous officer and committee leadership positions with many of them.
Meanwhile, Dr. Wilson has kept her focus closer to Baylor Scott & White Health, serving on and leading numerous System, Baylor Dallas and BIR committees and administrative roles throughout her career. Ultimately, her commitment resulted in being named president-elect of the BUMC medical staff. With her selection, for the first time in Baylor Dallas history, all the medical staff officers are women.
“We’ve both had a lot of opportunities in our careers to do different things and have had avenues to develop leadership skills. I think that’s one of the great things about being here,” explains Dr. Wilson.
Despite wanting to be a biology teacher and basketball coach when she was younger, Dr. Hamilton says she never considered leading a residency program.
“I had never thought about being the residency director,” says Dr. Hamilton, “But I’ll tell you what I’ve learned over the last few years, is that anytime Amy Wilson calls you to go to lunch, you should be very careful because you might end up getting an additional job.”
It was at that lunch the pair were discussing possible replacements for the PM&R Residency Program director who had stepped down, when Dr. Wilson suggested that she – Dr. Hamilton – take on the challenge. But it wasn’t only Dr. Wilson, the residents and other faculty also thought she’d be perfect for the job.
Together, they hope to keep building the PM&R Residency and overall service line on the Dallas campus.
“We are especially proud of the past five years in which we have formalized our rehabilitation research program,” says Dr. Wilson. “This effort has resulted in more publications and projects going forward, thus bolstering the program and our reputation.” Also bolstering the PM&R program for the future, is the strong leadership of these two alumni.