William O. McKinley, M.D.

Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award

“The physician should not treat the disease but the patient who is suffering from it”
— Maimonides

Dr. William McKinley, Carl W. LaFratta M.D. Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Director, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency Program, the 2011 Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Awardee, clearly exemplifies this adage.

As a family member of one of his patients describes, “Dr. McKinley has been there for us the entire way through my sister’s injury. He has been a source of information, comfort and hope as the entire family has struggled with the changes and uncertainty. He is patient with our questions and has a calm, quiet, reassuring manner that makes it easy to trust him and his team and that she will get the very best care imaginable to make her as independent as possible again. You can tell he cares about his patients by his questions and you can tell he cares about how they will be doing once they leave his hospital. We all know spinal injuries often have lifelong effects and Dr. McKinley’s concern and caring goes beyond what is happening in the early stages of recovery.”

Dr. McKinley has long been recognized as an outstanding clinician in his work with patients and families to face the challenges of spinal cord Injury. Since he completed his residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at VCU in 1989, he has dedicated his career to advancing the art and science of rehabilitation. He has served as the Director of the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Rehabilitation Medicine Service for 20 years. His expertise in spinal cord injury, electrodiagnosis, and musculoskeletal rehabilitation have contributed to clinical research in SCI and pain assessment to improve patient care. Dr. McKinley served as Principal Investigator for ten years in a federally-designated VCU Model System of Spinal Cord Injury recognizing the excellence of care his service provides. His research publications have earned numerous awards from academic societies and journals. Richmond Magazine consistently designates Dr. McKinley as a “Top Doc” in PM&R.

Dr. McKinley also serves as the Director of the PM&R residency program and Medical Student Electives Coordinator/ Preceptor. In this capacity, as a teacher and mentor, he instills into the minds of his students the values and principles associated with his mission to restore hope, function, and quality of life for individuals with SCI. He furthers this goal by consistently demonstrating behaviors that reflect integrity, compassion, and respect. His skill in and dedication to teaching have been repeatedly honored with the annual PM&R Faculty Teaching Award.

David, a patient, commented “I don’t know what I would have done without Dr. McKinley. He has helped me recover when I didn’t think I could. Dr. McKinley helped me understand that what I do now will have an impact on how strong and well I will be when I get back home and into the future. He did not try to sugarcoat my situation, but was supportive and direct. I appreciate that.”

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation initiated the Humanism in Medicine Awards in 1991 to recognize students and faculty members who best demonstrate the Foundation’s ideals of outstanding compassion in the delivery of care, respect for patients, their families, and healthcare colleagues, as well as demonstrated clinical excellence.

As attested to by students, family members, colleagues, and above all, the patients who entrust their futures to him, Dr. William McKinley is a most worthy recipient of this honor.