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Alumni Profile: Mary Laird Warner, MD’90

Posted by on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Alumni News, Alumni Profile, Spring 2022, Vanderbilt Community .


Photo by Don Eastburn

Clinician Leader

In 1993, Mary Laird Warner, MD’90, president-elect of the Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association, moved to Denver for a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine following her internship and residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins. A lover of the outdoors and the mountains, the move to Colorado was one she was excited about.

Her life plan, after her fellowship, was to return to Nashville and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine to join the faculty. But while in Denver she met her husband, Russell Stewart, and Denver became home. “That was a bit unscripted, but it’s a good thing,” she said. And it turns out, her career has flourished there.

Warner, a physician administrator, medical staff leader and critical care and pulmonary medicine specialist, was recently named associate chief medical officer at Swedish Medical Center in Denver, a part-time position designed for a clinician interested in transitioning to administration. The two-year training program will prepare her to become a chief medical officer.

The VUSM roots run deep for the Warner family. She was the third generation of her family to graduate from VUSM — a family that will soon include five graduates. Her grandfather, Robert Warner, an ophthalmologist, was a member of the Class of 1920. Her father, John Sloan Warner Sr., a neurologist and professor emeritus at VUSM, graduated in 1956. Her brother, John Sloan Warner Jr., a vascular surgeon, was a member of the Class of 1988; and her son, Russell Stewart Jr., will be a first-year medical student this fall. “We’re all proud of our family ties to Vanderbilt,” she said.

“Like now, VUSM was incredibly supportive of the students when I was there. We had a close class of 100 students, and I’ve maintained ties with many of them over the years.”

Her mentor, John Newman, MD, gave her valued career advice during different academic transitions, she said.  “He combined being a good teacher, clinician and bench work researcher. I chose to go into pulmonology because I wanted to be just like him. All of the (VUSM) faculty were very supportive in terms of contacts, mentorship and career placement.”

After her fellowship in Colorado, Warner entered into private practice with a pulmonary/critical care group at Swedish Medical Center before the practice was acquired by National Jewish Health in 2008. They asked Warner to establish Swedish Medical Center’s first closed critical care unit, where she remains on staff.

Over the years at Swedish Medical Center, she has served as medical director of Respiratory Therapy, chief of Pulmonary Medicine and chief of Critical Care. She helped establish the medical intensivist program and recruited a staff of critical care specialists, increasing the size of the critical care unit from 42 to 68 beds.

Warner said she is proud of how she has helped the medical center grow during her tenure.

“In the time I’ve been here, it’s changed from a strong community hospital to a leading referral center for eight states in trauma, stroke and critical care. Just to watch that growth and be part of it has been a rewarding experience.”