COLUMBIA — During the 1960’s when racial unrest plagued the South, a young African American Catholic named Gerald Wilson attended St. Joseph Academy in Hartsville. According to Wilson, who is now a vascular surgeon for Midlands Surgical Associates in Columbia, his Catholic upbringing provided him with the strength to persevere and excel despite the challenges he faced.
Wilson described the many positive role models in his life, a list that included his parents.
“Ms. Melva Burno, my kindergarten teacher at St. Joseph Academy, was very influential and is someone who I still love and respect,” he said in an interview with The Miscellany. “I also remember Sister Helena, the first African-American nun we were privileged to have as a teacher.”
He also mentioned Sister Martha, the order’s mother superior, who taught Wilson in the middle school years and was someone who held him to high standards and “would not take less than perfection from each of us.”
Although St. Joseph has been closed for many years, the fruits of Wilson’s Catholic education continue to be harvested in his life. On May 22, the physician was inducted into the Society of St. Luke. He was selected by his peers on the medical staff of Sisters of Charity Providence Hospital in Columbia for his exemplary service to his patients and the community.
According to the selection committee’s program from the dinner, the inductees exemplified Providence Hospital’s mission statement “to meet the health care needs of the community by an expression of Christian concern for the sick, suffering, and dying; to manifest love, truth and justice in health care; and to promote the advancement and application of new knowledge about health care.”
Gwen Bower who attended the award ceremony for Wilson, had much to share about the doctor. As a nurse, she has worked with him at many different hospitals throughout the years as a nurse supervisor and now a nurse manager.
“Dr. Wilson is always caring to his patients and his staff,” she said. “He genuinely cares about his patients and will stay with them as long as it takes.”
Wilson’s life has been filled with many firsts. He was the first African American to serve as chief of staff at Providence Hospital and as president of the Columbia Medical Society and the South Carolina Medical Association.
He was married to his wife Antona Marie Greene at St. Patrick’s Church in Charleston. Antona was a student at Immaculate Conception School and a graduate of Bishop England High School. They both valued Catholic education, so they sent their children to St. Peter, St. Martin de Porres and Cardinal Newman schools.
Wilson and his family are active members at St. Martin de Porres Church. In addition to parish activities, the doctor found time to perform community service as the team physician at C.A. Johnson High School in Columbia and chaired the Medical Care Advisory Committee for the S.C. Department of Social Services. Currently, Wilson is president of the South Carolina Medical Association and chair of the South Carolina State Health Planning Committee.
“Dr. Wilson is a devoted Catholic who is very committed to his family,” said Father Paul Williams, his pastor. Giving back to the community is a duty for Wilson and he achieves this through his gift as a surgeon and a leader. He believes that the Society of St. Luke represents what physicians are called to do, which is serve humanity.
Medical talent abounds in the family, as his brother Dennis also is a vascular surgeon and his partner at Midlands Surgical Associates. His daughter, Adrienne Ashley, is a physician completing her residency in emergency medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. His youngest son, Mark Edward, is a rising senior at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., who intends to follow his sister’s footsteps. His other son, Gerald, lives in Atlanta.
From the encouragement of his family and his teachers, Wilson discovered and developed his God-given gifts and has been able to give back to his family, the community and the church. Through all the recognition and honors, Wilson never forgets to thank his parents and the Catholic school that helped form him.