When Gary Russell, MD, fell ill at age 12, a local physician made a house call and cared for him with exceptional compassion and genuine empathy. As a provider, Dr. Russell aims to emulate those qualities in the care he delivers to his patients and families every day.
What inspired you to go into medicine?
The father of my best friend in 4th grade was a physician. When I was in their home, I saw how often he was called on the phone and left to care for a patient. When I was ill, he made a house call to see me and he brought medication to make me well again. I was impressed by his knowledge, skill and compassion for me. I have also always been fascinated by biological sciences and research. Becoming a physician became my goal because I could combine my interest in biological research and personal care of people.
During pediatric residency, I bonded closely with children affected by inflammatory bowel disease, functional abdominal pain and cancer. Pediatric gastroenterology was an easy and natural career choice for me. I could have a close and personal long-term relationship with patients managing medical care but also being a small part of their goals of sports, hobbies, school decisions and life/career choices. During residency and fellowship, long-term relationship meant 2-3 years. Now, long-term means up to 15 years when care must be transferred to an adult provider.
What do you do as a provider at MGHfC?
As a pediatric gastroenterologist, I see patients from newborn to 22 years of age with gastrointestinal, nutritional and hepatobiliary (liver) disorders. My specialty interests are inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, food allergy and eosinophilic esophagitis. Three days a week, I see patients at MassGeneral for Children at the Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care. I also do endoscopic procedures there and on the main campus in Boston.
I am also the fellowship program director in Pediatric Gastroenterology at MGHfC. We have six fellows. The first year of fellowship is clinical training in patient care and endoscopic procedures and two years are primarily research experience. Being the program director and mentor of our fellows has been a wonderful part of my career for more than 10 years.
What gives you the greatest joy in your profession?
What is most rewarding in my career is finding a way to connect and gain the trust of my patients and the continuity of care that may extend for many years. I am also very privileged to mentor our fellows during and after their training to become independent pediatric gastroenterologists.