Changing the Face of Anesthesiology
● By Jacqueline Gonzalez
Did you know the president of a prestigious national medical society, American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), lives and works right here in the Coastal Bend? As a young girl, Mary Dale Peterson, MD, MSHCS, watched her mother break barriers as a physicist, and became interested in the fields of math and science. Although not many women sought careers in medicine at the time, Mary had her heart set and her mind focused.
After all those years of hard work and dedication, she not only is the President of ASA, but the recently-appointed Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of Driscoll Health System.
Dr. Peterson earned the valedictorian spot of her high school class. She then enrolled at Texas A&M University when it opened up to women, where she earned her Bachelor of Science. She completed her Doctor of Medicine and anesthesiology residency at the University of Texas in Galveston. She later went on to receive a Master of Science in Health Care Administration at Trinity University in San Antonio.
Although her initial field of specialty was pediatrics, she quickly fell in love with anesthesiology and arranged with the chairperson from each department to work in both areas. Upon completion of her residency, Dr. Peterson began a career in pediatric anesthesia, where she was the second full-time female pediatric anesthesiologist. She was also asked to run the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, where she became certified in critical care medicine and directed the unit for 12 years.
During her leadership in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, she also served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Driscoll Health Plan, where she worked diligently to ensure tremendous growth in membership, services, and population health in South Texas. Her new leadership role entails care of system-wide clinical operations, hospital support systems, clinics, and physician groups, as well as the Driscoll Health Plan. “This position will enable me to ensure that we work together to provide the best care to the families we serve,” says Dr. Peterson.
Her position with ASA allows her to travel around the country to visit with the various state component societies, supporting members in education, advocacy, patient safety, and research. She values the importance of the role anesthesiologists play in the life and death situations that occur in the operating room, as well as labor and delivery, so she strives to ensure that policy makers and lawmakers understand this valuable role.
Dr. Peterson is not only a powerful woman and pillar in the community, she is also a mother to three boys. Her devotion to her family and passion for her career gave her the strength to persevere through the demands of her education and residency while juggling the struggles of pregnancy. She was also able to develop a work-life balance that allowed her to spend ample time with her growing children and husband, while still advancing in her career.
That is just one example as to how incredible this woman is. Dr. Peterson has undoubtedly become one of the key players in our health and medical world here in the Coastal Bend and her achievements prove the type of talent our local community has to offer.