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Dr. Mary Buchwalder to retire after 30-year career serving student health needs

Dr. Mary Buchwalder will retire at the end of the academic year, capping a 30-year career as a physician attending to students' medical, wellness and social needs, and leading the evolution of the University of Dayton Student Health Center for the last 17 years as medical director.

"Mary's length of service demonstrates her deep commitment to the University's Catholic and Marianist values," said Bill Fischer, vice president for student development. "Mary and the entire Health Center staff embody these values when delivering health care to our students.  Her approach with students is holistic, which includes focusing on the overall development of each student she interacted with. She will be greatly missed." 

Buchwalder's greatest challenge has come in the past year, when her role expanded beyond the student realm of the health center to help lead the coordination of the University's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

"For more than 20 years, there have been pandemic planning documents, but the reality is so much more intense and prolonged," she said of the shift. "It became really clear that the University is really a city inside a city and we had to attend to many, many different aspects and minute details. While I had been used to interacting primarily with students, the past year gave me the opportunity to work with units across campus on their individual and unique needs and challenges."

Robin Oldfield, associate vice president for audit, risk and compliance and chief risk officer, said she has seen how Buchwalder, a Marianist Education Associate, lives out the Marianist mission each day and night through her service to the University. 

"Dr. Mary treats the whole person — mind, body and spirit." Oldfield said. "She believes in educating and empowering students so they can better manage their health and well-being well beyond their graduation date. Dr. Mary's leadership during the pandemic quickly revealed her caring commitment to the entire UD community beyond the students. In addition, she and her staff are serving the larger community by volunteering to support Public Health Dayton Montgomery County at COVID-19 vaccine mass distribution sites."

While the pandemic has given her the opportunity to work on a larger scale, Buchwalder says her greatest pride is how the Student Health Center serves student needs. Located on campus in Gosiger Hall, the center is staffed by a team of board-certified primary care physicians and registered nurses who provide professional, compassionate care to students. 

"It's not just coughs and colds. We see students who have complicated, even rare, histories sometimes," she said. "And part of our role is to help bring them along in the developmental process of becoming an adult. 

"We help educate them in self-care — when should they seek medical attention, how they can care for themselves, even what constitutes a medical emergency. We are helping them learn how to negotiate healthcare needs for themselves as adults. Sometimes that's helping them understand they need to always bring their insurance card, sometimes that's helping them understand that a cough is not an emergency and recognizing a true emergency that requires immediate care." 

She's also proud the health center instituted an electronic record system in 2007, and that financial support from the Division of Student Development enables the medical team to provide student-centered treatment and care without the financial pressures facing many other student health centers and private physicians. 

Buchwalder graduated summa cum laude from UD in 1982 as a pre-med major, graduated from the Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1986, completed a 3 year training in Family Medicine, and started working at the UD student health center in 1991. She is a board-certified family physician and a fellow of the American Academy of Family Practice. 

She says the stresses of the pandemic aren't the reason she's retiring — she and her husband Mark, who recently retired from his dental practice, have a couple of big bucket list items to check off. 

The Buchwalders, who have been married for 37 years, hope to spend more time in Hawaii. They have visited the islands several times. 

"I continue to study the language, culture, history and beauty of the aloha spirit, and would love to find a way to give back to the islands that call to me," she said.

An avid cyclist, Buchwalder has coordinated campus events for national Bike to Work month, which over the years has encouraged hundreds in the Flyer community to take to two wheels.

And the Buchwalders, who have ridden a century (100 miles one day ride) in each of 30 states, have long wanted to ride cross-country across the U.S. With 30 years of student health behind her, she says it's time to take that on, too. 

"Cycling is the perfect way to see the world and connect to people and nature. You can really see the gorgeous natural areas," she said. "When you go to a small town, they see the bikes and the bags and they just open up. You meet so many wonderful people that you wouldn't if you just pulled into town and stopped at the gas station. 

"It's refreshing to the soul to see the good and the joy in humanity — and it's good exercise!"

Fischer said the division will launch a national search shortly and aims to have a new medical director in place before the beginning of the next academic year. 


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