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Published: Wednesday, 10/9/2013

R. Douglas Wilkerson, [1944-2013]; Research administrator at UT taught pharmacology at MCO

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R. Douglas Wilkerson, a pharmacology professor and researcher who became an administrator at the former Medical College of Ohio and the University of Toledo, after the schools merged, died Monday in University of Michigan Hospital, Ann Arbor. He was 69.

He had a condition that caused nonalcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, his wife, Carol, said.

Mr. Wilkerson of Sylvania Township retired in 2009 as UT vice president of research administration. He also had been a professor of pharmacology and therapeutics.

Mr. Wilkerson was recruited in 1979 from the University of South Alabama college of medicine. He impressed his soon-to-be MCO colleagues with a broad understanding of how biomedical sciences meshed with what future physicians needed to know.

“He was a tremendous addition to the teaching of some of the more difficult concepts of pharmacology to medical students,” said Keith Schlender, a retired MCO pharmacology professor.

Mr. Wilkerson’s research interests included cardiovascular pharmacology. He was among the few researchers in the mid-1980s to study the cardiovascular effects of cocaine use, Mr. Schlender said.

After basketball star Len Bias, 22, died of an apparent cocaine-induced heart attack, the National Institutes of Health brought Mr. Wilkerson and a handful of other researchers together, and MCO received a research contract from NIH, one of the school’s largest until then, Mr. Schlender said.

In 1991, Mr. Wilkerson became an MCO associate vice president for research. He was named vice president for research administration in 2006.

“He worked very hard to bridge the gap so that faculty could understand why the administrators had the viewpoint they had, but also to instruct the administrators on the pressures the faculty had,” said his wife, who worked in the research office. “But he was a teacher at heart.”

When he retired, UT officials credited him with improving administrative support for faculty seeking research grants.

He was born Robert Douglas Wilkerson on Aug. 5, 1944, in Wilson, N.C., to Blanche and Rainey Wilkerson. He was a graduate of Fike High School, where he was quarterback on the football team. He received a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a master’s degree and doctorate in pharmacology from the Medical University of South Carolina.

He was a postdoctoral fellow at Tulane University’s medical school.

He was formerly married to Dorothy Wilkerson.

Surviving are his wife, Carol, whom he married Jan. 1, 1995; father, Rainey; son, Robert, Jr.; daughter, Julie Smith; stepsons, Christopher and Patrick Welch and Brian Reichenbach, and seven grandchildren.

Visitation is at 1 p.m. Saturday in Walker Funeral Home, Sylvania Township, where a celebration of life service is at 3 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor’s choice.

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