Member Making a Difference: Wilson Liao, MD

Members Making a Difference

Volunteerism informs dermatologist Wilson Liao, MD's research, worldview.

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San Francisco dermatologist Wilson Liao, MD, has spent his medical career immersed in not only his specialty, but each community he’s been a part of. His work in mentoring has led him to guide minority youth in Boston into health care careers, provide music to patients in nursing homes and hospices, and provide treatment to the homeless population of San Francisco.

“I was largely inspired to even go to medical school through the idea of serving the community.”

  • As an undergraduate, Dr. Liao spent time in rural areas of Africa and Asia, working with local physicians to provide treatment to patients without regular access to medical care. The experience, he said, largely inspired his career path.
  • During medical school, Dr. Liao was involved with both the Albert Schweitzer program, which encourages health professionals to become involved with community service, and the Martha Eliot Health Center Minority Youth Mentoring Program, which helps encourage minority youth to enter the health care field.
  • As a teacher at the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Liao leads teams of residents in performing diagnoses and treatment at homeless shelters in the area. This work, he said, helps provide perspective for young physicians.
  • Dr. Liao endeavors to bring the lessons of serving the community to his clinical research into the genetic basis of psoriasis. It can be easy, he said, for researchers to focus entirely on the science and lose sight of how patients live their lives with a given disease. Volunteering can remind physicians of why they entered medicine in the first place, he said. “Volunteerism has been a very important part of my career, and what defines me as a physician.”
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