Alumna aids School of Medicine building campaign

Though she’s quick to disagree, Dr. Vivian M. Wilkerson (M.D. ’58) is some­thing of a trailblazer. As one of only four women admitted to medical school at the Medical College of Virginia in 1954, she helped pave the way for other women to follow in what was once a predominantly male profession. Today, she’s helping blaze the fundraising trail for the construction of a new state-of-the-art educational facility for the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.

Wilkerson’s generous five-year, $25,000 pledge helps set the stage for other alumni to join her in support of the $158.6 million capital construction project. Her pledge bolsters the $37 million private gifts component of the public-private partnership. The building will provide new instructional and simulation space and will allow for expanded enrollment.

Born and raised in Highland Springs, Va., Wilkerson’s decision to enter medical school came late, though it had been in the back of her mind. After graduating with a double major in business and science from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, she worked for eight years at MCV as a research technician in the pharmacol­ogy and hematology departments.

“I always thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do it,’ ” Wilkerson explains of returning to school after so much time away from studying. “We had a female medical student who worked with us in the hematology lab one summer and she encouraged me.”

She finished medical school and completed her rotating internship and pedi­atrics residency at MCV and worked as a civilian pediatrician at Kenner Army Hospital at Fort Lee for the next 34 years. When Wilkerson retired in 1995 at 70, the Kenner outpatient pediatric clinic was renamed in her honor.

Now, Wilkerson’s name will be proudly displayed on the donor wall in the new School of Medicine building, too.

Wilkerson lived at home while attending medical school. Her father worked on Main Street and he took her to campus almost every day. “Maybe it’s [because of] my Scottish background that I didn’t spend every penny I earned!” she says.

Instead, she saved her money and was able to pay her own tuition. Recognizing that today’s students struggle financially, she has made regular contributions to the School of Medicine’s Annual Fund, which exclusively supports student scholarships.

“Vivian has a deep love for MCV and has been a very involved alumna of the School of Medicine over the years,” says Dr. Ruth Campbell (M.D. ’57), her friend, fellow pediatric resident and former chair of the MCV Foundation board of trustees. “She has been very supportive of the School of Medicine with her time and resources.”

Giving back is important to Wilkerson, and she encourages others to follow her lead. In addition to her pledge to support the new building, her previous gifts include a contribution toward the renovation of the MCV Alumni House.

“I was taught to believe that you should give back for what you’ve received. I want to give back to future doctors and help them get all the opportunities they need to become good doctors.”

– Contributed by Nan Johnson

To make a gift to the School of Medicine, contact Tom Holland, associate dean for development, at (804) 828-4800 or