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Nancy Gary; Pioneering Dean of Medical Schools

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By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 15, 2006

Nancy E. Gary, 69, who was one of the first women to lead a medical school and was considered a "powerhouse" in academic medicine, died of pulmonary hypertension May 31 at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. She was a Washington resident for 20 years.

At a time when it was uncommon for a woman to head a medical school, Dr. Gary was appointed the dean of Albany Medical College in New York in 1988. She later served as the executive vice president of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and was dean of its F. Edward H├ębert School of Medicine in Bethesda.

Dr. Gary became well known for her expertise in medical education, research, medical practices and government affairs. She was considered a mentor and role model for many women and was honored recently by the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Program for Women.

"She was the third woman dean of a U.S. medical school in the 20th century and the first woman in the U.S. to serve as dean at more than one medical school," the group noted in presenting Dr. Gary with its Mentorship Award.

Most recently, Dr. Gary retired from her position as president and chief executive of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, which provides certification for entry into U.S. medical graduate programs.

While at the commission from 1995 to 2001, Dr. Gary enhanced the licensing process by adding a fourth examination. The clinical skills test requires students to interview mock patients, getting the medical history and doing up to a dozen exams a day. Each process is monitored by a camera and recorded.

Dr. Richard MacDonald, dean of students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, said that before Dr. Gary's use of the fourth clinical exam, no one knew how well the foreign students spoke English or interacted with patients.

About three years ago, the National Board of Medical Examiners decided to use the clinical exams for U.S. medical graduates as well, MacDonald said.

"She was important in adding" that vital step, said MacDonald, who called Dr. Gary "a powerhouse woman in academic medicine."

Dr. Gary was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up in Manhasset, N.Y. She graduated cum laude from Springfield College in Massachusetts in 1958 and from the Woman's Medical College of the Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel University College of Medicine) in 1962.

She began her medical career as an assistant medical resident at the old Meadowbrook Hospital in New York and was a research fellow in kidney diseases at Georgetown University.

Over the years, Dr. Gary held professorships at colleges in New York, New Jersey and Washington. In the 1980s and 1990s, she held several prominent positions. Among them, she worked with the U.S. House of Representative's health and environment subcommittee and was executive associate dean at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

She also was a senior medical adviser to the Department of Health and Human Services agency that operates Medicare.

In 1995, Dr. Gary, who was certified in internal medicine and nephrology, received a Meritorious Service Award from George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, where she had been a clinical professor of medicine.

Survivors include four brothers, Peter Q. Gary of Springfield, Walter Gary of Walla Walla, Wash., Thomas Gary of Manhasset, and Father Paul Gary of Charlotte.

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