By Peter Carrels
Mark T. Garry, M.D., Rapid City, assistant professor of psychiatry at USD’s Sanford School of Medicine, has been awarded the 2018 Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award. This prestigious award, presented to only one of the nation’s medical school faculty each year since 1999 and considered one of the most distinguished recognitions of medical school faculty at the nation’s 151 accredited medical schools, acknowledges a physician who productively mentors, instructs and influences medical students.
Providing psychiatric counseling to children and their families is a relatively unique profession. In fact, there is only one practicing full-time child psychiatrist in all of western South Dakota. His name is Dr. Mark Garry, and his primary clinic is located in a Rapid City elementary school, a setting that is at once unusual, appropriate and inviting. This is one of the few small cities in the Midwest, Garry explained, that has a school-based mental health clinic.
According to Garry, some of his young patients attend the attached school, General Beadle Elementary, but many others journey from across western South Dakota to consult with him. This part of South Dakota is a vast, rural landscape Garry is familiar with, for Garry began his career as a psychiatrist in this part of South Dakota, spending nine years at the Sioux San Indian Hospital in Rapid City, and providing mental health services to a large and needy Native American population that visits that institution from reservations and communities scattered over an expansive region. Children were always a special interest for Dr. Garry, and much of that interest stems from his upbringing, as he blends the avocational attributes of his parents in his professional pursuits.
Garry's father was a middle school counselor serving elementary age students in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and the son deeply respected and paid close attention to his father. "My dad was gifted with socialization skills, and I learned from that," said Garry. "His presence and influence is always there in some capacity as I practice as a psychiatrists. He taught me subtle techniques that help me encourage young people to open up to me."
Garry remembered being shy as a young man, and he explained how participation in the oral interpretation program at Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls helped him overcome his timidity as well as learn body language. "I became keenly observant about body language, and that now helps me in my practice," Garry noted. "I also try to find out what excites and interests a young person. Discovering that and knowing that helps me unlock more about them."
In addition to successes and work as a psychiatrist, Garry devotes considerable time to teaching medical students. The same proficiency and compassion that characterizes his counseling defines his teaching. Teaching, he offers, is in his genes. Garry’s mother taught school, his only brother is an elementary school teacher and his one sister is a dietary educator. “I came by my passion to teach as a result of my family’s interest in teaching,” Garry explained. “Empathy – a critical aspect of good teaching – is a family virtue, it seems.”
Hanna Distel, fourth-year medical student, authored a compelling letter highlighting Dr. Garry’s abilities as a psychiatrist, teacher and mentor. That letter – aided by contributions by other medical students – served as a critical component in Garry’s nomination as a candidate for the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award.
“[Dr. Garry] is a compassionate, hardworking, patient-oriented teacher who toils each and every day to ensure the people he listens to feel validated and understood,” Distel wrote. “He inspires his students to hold psychiatry in special regard, to view the patient as a whole and not as a review of systems. Under Dr. Garry’s tutelage, we appreciate how diseases of the mind can affect diseases of the body, and regardless of the type of doctor we become we learn how to validate our patient’s thoughts and emotions. We learn how to spread our grace and kindness throughout our community and how to become authentic humans and doctors.”
Her impressive, lengthy tribute included fellow student Jeremy Kudrna’s description of Dr. Garry making significant progress with a young patient.
“The way [Dr. Garry] interacted with patients is still with me all these years later,” explained Kudrna. He has a special gift of aspect of good teaching making others feel important. The way he approaches each patient is tailored to the unique personality and life situation of that patient. To this day, I find myself recalling specific techniques that Dr. Garry used to connect with patients. One time, he was working with a shy child, who had been bullied extensively. Because of this, the patient had very little social support in the school community. Dr. Garry noticed the patient out in the waiting room had his socks tucked in outside his pant legs. Dr. Garry went back into his office before the patient entered and tucked his pants into his socks in a similar fashion; I will admit, as the student, I did the same. The patient's face magically lit up when he noticed his medical providers dressing like him. He opened up in ways, which the patient's mother informed us, she had never seen. Dr. Garry shows his compassion in little ways – by fighting for a patient's right to remain in a safe place until they get on a road to healing, by recognizing warning signs in his students and reaching out them, and by wearing socks outside his pants to see a little boy smile."
Distel described Garry's devotion to serving challenging demographics with special needs. "It would be easy for Dr. Garry to take his talents somewhere with more prestige but he chooses to spread his gifts in some of the highest need areas of Rapid City," she wrote. "He works with some of the highest need children with autism in the community, and he worked for many years with the Indian Health Service, and he works with organizations in Rapid City laboring for everyone from troubled teens to those with brain damage."
I admire Dr. Garry's special ability to recall details about all his medical students, myself included. I appreciate that Dr. Garry knows me as more than medical student, including details of my family, hobbies and dreams. His selfless, unique teaching style effectively fosters a safe learning environment for both patients and students. I always feel my thoughts are valued as important input, even if there is significant room for education."
Another medical student, Cory Hewitt, offered this appreciative appraisal of Dr. Garry: "Dr. Garry is one of the more compassionate and considerate physicians I have had the pleasure of working with. He takes the time out of his busy schedule to not only go to the extra mile with each of his patients, but to also educate his students on the finer aspects of being a high quality provider. Each and every time we work together, he asks me about my interests and makes an attempt to get to know me as a person and to understand my aspirations, which I think demonstrates how truly invested he is in seeing each one of us succeed."
Dr. Timothy Soundy, a Sioux Falls psychiatrist and psychiatry department chair for the University of South Dakota's Sanford School of Medicine, has long admired the skills and dedication shown by Dr. Garry. "Having Mark receive the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in Medicine Award is not surprising," said Soundy. "Dr. Garry became the Rapid City psychiatric clerkship coordinator in 2013, and this is not the first award the students have nominated him for. In 2016 he was selected by the graduating class of 2016 as the Anton Hyde Distinguished Professor Award for his outstanding teaching. Since Mark has been on our faculty I cannot recall a time that Rapid City campus students didn't volunteer high accolades for his teaching style and for taking a personal interest in their education."
Indeed, Garry's numerous honors reflect a career that is formidable in its intellectual and humane depth, and busy with community spirit and activism. In addition to spending nine years at Sioux San Indian Hospital, Dr. Garry served as a member of Rapid City's Suicide Prevention Committee, and also on the Governor's Task Force of State Suicide Prevention. In that capacity he helped develop protocols for reducing the suicide rate among Native Americans. He has also worked nationally to enhance access to child and adolescent psychiatry through telemedicine, for which he received the Secretary's Ward for Distinguished Service from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2006.
Dr. Garry earned his M.D. from the Emory university School of Medicine, where he was a Robert W. Woodruff Fellow in Medicine and an Alpha Omega (AOA) Honor Medical Society inductee. He completed his residency in psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine, and was also a Laughlin Fellow of the American College of Psychiatry. While at Baylor he represented psychiatry residents on the administrative board of the Association of American Medical College's (AAMC) Organization of Resident Representatives.
Not only does Garry maintain a clinic at General Beadle Elementary, he also sees patients at Regional Health hospital in Rapid City. In addition to serving as an assistant professor at the USD Sanford School of Medicine, Garry is head of psychiatric education for USD medical students in western South Dakota for residents at Regional Health.
Though his life is crowded with medical and teaching responsibilities, Garry finds time to moonlight as a disc jockey (spinning tunes at special events) and to volunteer at his wife's holistic healing clinic.
To select a single faculty member from the many thousands who effectively and wholeheartedly instruct and guide the nation's medical students is a daunting task. That's what those who designate each annual winner of the Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award must do. Dr. Mark Garry is deserving, uniquely gifted recipient, a physician and teacher who is dedicated to lifting up his patients and students.