Alumni Feature

A Moment with Mary McIlroy, MD

When it was time to decide where they would want to complete their residencies, Dr. Mary McIlroy and her husband Scott both knew they wanted to stay in Columbus. He wanted to train for OB/Gyn and she wanted a wide variety of experiences in both adult and pediatric care. They both entered flexible residencies through Mt. Carmel, hers allowing for four months of the year to be spent at what was then called Columbus Children’s Hospital.

McIlroy describes her residency days during the 1970s as a time of vast opportunities, responsibilities and lasting friendships. Many of the pediatric subspecialty areas were still early in their development, the faculty numbered about 40, and residents were the primary medical staff in the ER, NICU and ICU. She remembers a taxing summer enterovirus meningitis epidemic with over 700 cases, and the long hours caring for gravely ill children during a peak in the prevalence of Reye syndrome. One of McIlroy’s most memorable experiences was when she called on Dr. Danny Moore, a neurosurgery resident, to place an intra-cranial monitoring bolt on a Reye syndrome patient at nearly midnight on New Year’s Eve. They then celebrated the success of the procedure, the improved status of the patient, and the arrival of the New Year. The resident groups were smaller then, but the friendships formed have been lasting.

The group of faculty mentors was also small in the 1970s, but McIlroy shares that the gifts the mentors offered were immeasurable – helping the residents understand how to work with families and to diagnose and treat a wide variety of conditions with confidence. Dr. Kati Koranyi provided exceptional advice for challenges in patient care and resident education during McIlroy’s early years in the Primary Care Clinic. Drs. Grant Morrow, Bruce Meyer and Toni Eaton encouraged her to expand her responsibilities and her career into education leadership, which became the focus of much of her professional work. Following her residency training, McIlroy pursued a 40-year career at Nationwide Children's Hospital and The Ohio State University, caring for families, teaching residents and students in the ambulatory clinics, and administering medical student education programs. During those years, she participated in the evolution of teaching and learning in pediatrics as she assumed the role of pediatric clerkship director at Children’s and Med 3-4 Program Director at OSU. While the responsibilities were extensive, McIlroy describes the opportunity to work with students, residents, faculty, curricula, technology and patient care, all while expanding knowledge, as stimulating, rewarding and great fun.

When asked what today’s retired Mary McIlroy, MD, would say to the 1970s resident McIlroy, the response was inspiring.

“I would tell my earlier self, and any young entrant into pediatrics, that they have entered the most magnificent and varied field of medicine and that, despite what they think their future will be, they have no idea what is coming and must remain open and receptive to new thoughts and ideas. The love affair with medicine, and pediatrics in specific, is very real, strong, and long lasting. In many currently inconceivable ways, it will fulfill and enrich their lives and offer abundant meaning and invaluable relationships. Like any relationship, it will also bring challenges, and sometimes heartbreak, to their person, to their beliefs, and to their plans. The constant need to learn and relearn, to part with old ways of behaving and doing things, and to embrace change and adapt to new knowledge, new processes, new rules, and new people is beyond imagination. At the same time, the possibilities of the future are so very enticing and will, in the long run, bring much gratification and happiness.”