Carol Gilbert, MD, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
Carol Gilbert, MD, inspires both the mind and heart with her practice as a surgeon and teacher.
As the only female resident in her program in the late 1970s, Dr. Gilbert wanted to become a role model for those who followed her. She has achieved this goal in the years since, as learners and her faculty colleagues point to countless examples of her compassion, collaboration, and patience at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital (CRMH). Citing her “never give up” attitude, she has helped many struggling residents become great surgeons. For instance, in working with a resident who consistently performed poorly on tests, she personalized a study program that enabled him to pass his surgery boards on his first attempt.
In addition to direct teaching, Dr. Gilbert leads by example as when she models an attitude for doctors to adopt with their patients: “Never take away hope from a patient. [Even when patients are dying,] you can give them some control.” For Dr. Gilbert, the clinic and the classroom are intertwined, and the person in front of her always has her complete attention. One student summarizes, “[She is] a master clinical teacher—one who not only has exceptional clinical experience and wisdom, but also the deep passion and patience to mentor everyone around her.”
As a devoted and approachable teacher, Dr. Gilbert has had a profound impact on the lives of Virginians and many others. In addition to training residents and medical students, Dr. Gilbert teaches emergency medical service (EMS) providers how to care for trauma victims while in transit to the hospital. She involves patients and their families in medical care: she was the first physician to establish patient family involvement on ICU morning rounds at CRMH. She has been instrumental in creating the only Level 1 trauma center in Southwest Virginia and an integrated regional trauma system, the Near Southwest Preparedness Alliance. She received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Emergency Medical Services and was honored with a Virginia House Joint Resolution for “outstanding service as a surgeon and emergency medical services expert.” Dr. Gilbert also participates in disaster relief teams; she went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Turkey and Haiti after major earthquakes. In Haiti, instead of seeking shelter and abandoning a patient on an operating table during an aftershock, she continued surgery after a colleague put a helmet on her head. Dr. Gilbert’s dedication to saving lives is so great that she has even trained her dog, Moki, to assist in local search and rescue missions.
Dr. Gilbert earned her bachelor’s and medical degrees from the University of California, Davis. She completed her surgical residency at Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon, and a fellowship in traumatology/critical care at the Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Services.