Meet Andrew Wilner, MD — Neurologist, Podcaster & Author of “The Locum Life”

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Dr. Andrew Wilner never has a boring day.
A board-certified neurologist, board-certified internist, and fellowship-trained epileptologist, the multi-faceted MD and medical journalist also teaches and practices medicine.

Among the earliest clinical advocates of locum tenens medical practice, Dr. Wilner discovered the freedom, flexibility, and financial rewards it offers almost 40 years ago. Locum tenens has allowed him to contribute his clinical expertise in a variety of inpatient, outpatient, academic, and community settings while avidly pursuing other passions including journalism, scuba diving, and making life better for those less fortunate.

“Locum tenens has proved the best solution to balance my two careers of medicine and writing, provide time for family and hobbies, and pay the bills,“ Dr. Wilner says. “Over the years, the temporary nature of locum tenens work provided me the freedom to write several books, author hundreds of articles, lead medical missions in the jungles of the Philippines, and film fascinating sea creatures underwater.”

Having authored and published several clinically focused books, he released The Locum Life, A Physician’s Guide to Locum Tenens in January 2019. (It rates 4.5 stars with 36 reviews to date on amazon.com.)

Not surprisingly to anyone who knows him, Dr. Wilner created a video for each of the book’s 20 chapters. (Chapter 4, “Disadvantages of Locum Tenens” has been the most widely viewed so far.) In November 2020, he released The Locum Life as an audiobook narrated by the author.

The Ubiquitous Physician

Andrew Nathan Wilner, MD, FACP, FAAN, currently serves as associate professor of neurology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Memphis, Tenn. He’s also site director of Neurology Graduate Residency Training at Regional One Health in Memphis, describing himself as “Dr. House” for the medical students and residents there.

Dr. Wilner keeps his clinical skills sharp as both division director of neurology at Regional One Health and a locum tenens neurologist at the Memphis VA Medical Center — working a 7-days-on / 7-days-off schedule.

One of the largest medical and surgical teaching sites for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Regional One Health trains more than half the doctors in Tennessee, according to Regional One Health’s website.

In January 2021, the podcast Dr. Wilner began in early 2020 to help promote his latest book (The Locum Life) was named to Feedspot.com’s “Top 20 Physician Podcasts You Must Follow” for the second year running. This year, PracticeMatch.com included Dr. Wilner’s podcast as one of the top 10 best podcasts for physicians.

Now with 44 episodes available on YouTube and six more slated through the end of 2021, The Art of Medicine with Dr. Andrew Wilner continues exploring the artistic, business, and clinical aspects of practicing medicine. Podcast topics run from ‘the scope of cybersecurity threats to hospitals and educational institutions’ to “Medspa vs Dayspa,” featuring experts from a variety of backgrounds.

“As host and producer, I try to make each program informative and entertaining,” he says. “I hope that being recognized by Feedspot.com and PracticeMatch will encourage more people to listen.”

In addition to hosting The Art of Medicine, Dr. Wilner appears as both a podcast host and guest on ReachMD.com, the platform on which he anchors NeuroFrontiers. Four weeks ago he was interviewed by host Burke Allen on The Big-Time Talker podcast. The list of his media appearances continues with Transformational Pediatrics and Pediatrics in Practice, both of which he hosts for doctorpodcasting.com by RadioMD.

“As a teacher, I believe that education is the key to a successful life in a complex world,” Dr. Wilner says. “I hope my podcasts entertain and offer knowledge and perspective to help people understand and navigate life’s many challenges.”

In case that’s not enough to keep the good doctor moving like “the Energizer bunny,” he shares his enthusiasm for scuba diving through Underwater with Dr. Andrew, also on YouTube. Interestingly, he met his wife during a mission-and-scuba-diving trip to the Philippines and brought her back to the US on a fiance Visa about seven years ago. Their son Jack is now three years old.

Oh, and Dr. Wilner runs two to four miles pretty much every day.

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The Beginning That Almost Wasn’t

“I think I always knew I wanted to be a physician. Since I was a child, I was always fascinated by living things,” Dr. Wilner says when asked about his medical school motivation. “I’d also discovered my passion for creative writing by age 10 or 12, so I wanted to understand what makes people tick, from a writer’s point of view.

“To discover what makes people do what they do, you need to learn a bit about their physiology — how they’re put together — so becoming a doctor seemed to be an obvious part of becoming a better writer.”

Formalizing his education in living organisms, he earned a biology degree at Yale. “Then I went to medical school to learn about the most mysterious organism of all, the human being,” he says.

During one of his in-person interviews for admission to medical school, the would-be doctor was asked why he wanted to go to medical school.

“Because I want to be a better writer,” he answered.

Perhaps not surprisingly, he did not get in. The interviewer wrote a scathing review of Wilner that, he believes, torpedoed his admission to that prestigious medical school. Despite being listed on several waitlists for other medical schools, none of them came through.

While recovering from that colossal lesson in “political correctness,” the now-highly-credentialed-and-accomplished neurologist, epilepsy specialist, author, and YouTube star learned the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) had changed and he now would need to take the new MCAT to reapply, but he had missed it for that year.

This meant waiting two years after his college graduation to reapply to medical school in the US–with no guarantee of acceptance.

Seeking to help his eldest son through this dilemma, Dr. Wilner’s father — who owned a small accounting firm in Fall River, Mass., where the physician-to-be grew up — learned that medical schools in other countries sometimes would accept US applicants. The elder Wilner suggested the possibility of his son starting his medical education in France — an idea the latter thought ludicrous at first, painfully aware that French had been his worst subject in high school.

However, considering the minimum of a two-year delay he faced for medical school admission, Dr. Wilner applied and was accepted to the Faculte Catholique de Medecine, a private medical school in Lille (northern), France. He then enrolled in an intensive French language course at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and spent the summer mastering the language necessary to pursue his medical education.

Jaw-droppingly impressive, no?

Dr. Wilner flew to France via Iceland and Belgium, on ‘the cheapest flight he could find.’ Upon arrival in Paris, he learned another life lesson: Don’t check your electric typewriter with the rest of your luggage. It might come over the conveyor belt in pieces.

Not the greatest first chapter for the professional writer who would become a board-certified internist and neurologist. Dr. Wilner credits his parents’ support — and particularly his father’s pragmatic advice and encouragement — for enabling him to achieve his goal of becoming a physician.

Andrew Wilner Earns the UTHSC Teaching Excellence Medallion

Dr. Andrew Wilner’s Teaching Excellence medallion from The University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Decisions, Decisions

Ranking in the top 10% of his med school class after his second year, the soon-to-be doctor realized he had a decision to make: At that time France prohibited foreigners who graduated from French medical schools from staying in the country to practice medicine, so he’d need to return to the US, labeled as a “foreign medical school graduate,” to practice.

Although he was enjoying his immersive French experience “very much,” Dr. Wilner decided to reapply to an American medical school and, assuming he got in this time, finish his remaining two years of med school. And that’s exactly what he did. He was accepted at Brown University, an Ivy League school in Providence, RI, where he completed his 3rd and 4th years of medical school.

What prompted him to specialize in neurology?

Upon realizing he still didn’t see his clinical destiny following a year-long internship in internal medicine, Dr. Wilner stepped away from his medical training to work in an ER for a year.

“I worked about 30 hours a week delivering babies, suturing lacerations, and splinting broken bones, but I found the most interesting cases were the neurological ones,” Dr. Wilner shares. “After watching a staff neurologist perform a clinical exam like I’d never seen, I decided the brain was set apart from the rest of human anatomy. It seemed Infinitely interesting to me.”

That experience got the good doctor on his training path toward a career as a clinical neurologist.

Dr. Wilner completed an internal medicine residency at Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center and a neurology residency at McGill University Affiliated Hospitals in Canada. He also completed an epilepsy fellowship at the Montreal Neurological Institute in Montreal, Canada.

Lessons to Share

Welcoming the perpetual juggling act of pursuing dual career paths, the seasoned — but no less energetic — doctor and scribe offers his “Three A’s of Accomplishment” as “Affability, Availability and, Ability.”

No doubt he’s employed all three to manage and achieve everything listed on his 120-page curriculum vitae (CV).

Having chosen the independent route to practice medicine, Dr. Wilner expresses concern that today’s newly minted physicians aren’t always developing their professional networks or directing their own careers — instead exchanging their autonomy for the security of employment.

In fact, on July 1, 2021, Becker’s ASC Review reported that “By the end of 2020, almost 70 percent of physicians reported being employed, and there was a steep acceleration of physicians joining hospitals or corporate entities in the last six months of the year.”

He notes that only about 7% of today’s doctors are still in solo private practice. “When you become an employee you become replaceable,” Dr. Wilner observes. As a ‘fill-in locum tenens physician,’ he’s been the replacement many times.

Dr. Wilner advises physicians who are “burned out” and considering nonclinical careers not to give up too easily. Ever the locum tenens enthusiast, Dr. Wilner encourages fellow physicians not to abandon clinical practice without at least trying the locum tenens employment alternative.

In his most recent book’s first chapter he offers, “Imagine a dream job where you could work when you want, where you want, how you want, ignore local politics, enjoy generous compensation, and bask in appreciation from patients, peers, and even administrators. That’s a quick summary of The Locum Life!”

Dr. Wilner encourages recruiters in both locum tenens agencies and healthcare entities to “Communicate! Don’t go dark on your physician candidates.” However, he urges them not to become “pests,” either. “There’s a balance between the two extremes that makes physician candidates more receptive,” he says.

After all, “balance” is what most people want to achieve in their lives. And that’s exactly what Dr. Wilner continues to enjoy through locum tenens.

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