Anchored in medicine and neurology, in addition to psychiatry, Mary E. Swigar, MD, initially wanted to be a neurosurgeon, but it was a field that few women were in at the time. Still interested in the functions of the brain, she found psychiatry to be as equally exciting a field. She was grateful that psychiatry afforded her a broad range of opportunities, which would include research ethics and the broad diagnostic aspect in relation to brain-body function. Since 2013, Dr. Swigar has been recognized as a professor emerita in psychiatry and neuropsychiatry of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey. She began her career as an associate professor of psychiatry and neuropsychiatry at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1977, remaining in this position for 11 years before joining Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as an associate professor from 1988 to 2000.
In addition to this tenure, Dr. Swigar served Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital on the medical board and credentials committee from 1988 to 2000, geriatrics providers group from 1990 to 1991 and institutional review board from 1990 to 2010. Likewise, she chaired the institutional review board from 1993 to 2010, in which role she helped to make sure research was done ethically and in compliance with federal guidelines, and the executive committee and institutional board from 2004 to 2010. She was also an ex-officio of the conductor research committee from 1993 to 2010, among other committees. Dr. Swigar spent many years treating patients and preparing future generations of mental health professionals.
Prior to the start of her professional career, Dr. Swigar pursued a professional career at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, earning a Bachelor of Science in 1962 and later a Lifetime Achievement Award. She then matriculated at Temple University in Philadelphia, where she obtained an MD in 1966. Additionally, Dr. Swigar is a retired registered psychiatrist in the state of New Jersey.
A contributor of myriad articles to professional journals, Dr. Swigar has also been affiliated with numerous organizations related to her field throughout her expansive career. A fellow of the International College of Psychosomatic Medicine, she has maintained involvement with the Royal Society of Medicine, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Medical History Society of New Jersey and Retired Faculty Association. Today, Dr. Swigar continues to keep in touch with the universities she has taught at, as well as colleagues at various levels, and attends many conferences. She has been known to enjoy hiking, listening to classical music, attending plays and hunting for mushrooms in her spare time.
The mentors who motivated and inspired Dr. Swigar were Dr. Steven Fleck, Dr. Ruth Willmanns Lidz, Dr. Curtland Brown, Dr. Jules Coleman, Dr. Thomas Detre and Dr. Gary Tucker. The factors or attributes that she feels have played a role in her success is having four professional forbearers, her family and good mentoring at Yale University. In addition, her personal definition of success is getting pleasure and satisfaction in whatever one is doing. What Dr. Swigar has learned over the course of her career that has most benefited her in her professional growth is to look at data and facts and not take what appears to be obvious for granted. In other words, she did some research, but even to take that perspective, as she used to tell medical students and residents, you will have problems with things that you don’t know much more than that you do. Moving forward, she would like to be remembered by her peers as someone who improved people’s lives, whether it be patients, students or colleagues.