Gladys McGarey, M.D., M.D.H.

Living Legacy 2017

The daughter of two medical doctors, Gladys Taylor McGarey was born in India in 1920. As a child she travelled through the Indian outback on medical safaris with her parents. In 1935 she came to the United States to attend college and medical school. Today, she is internationally recognized as the Mother of Holistic Medicine.  Dr. Gladys, as she is affectionately known, is board certified in Holistic and Integrated Medicine and has had a family practice for more than sixty years.  She is the co-founder of the American Holistic Medical Association, as well as the co-founder of the Academy of Parapsychology and Medicine.  She has been making a difference since the 1940s.

During her medical training she thought that medical school would be her biggest challenge. After graduation she was able to intern at Deaconess Hospital, at that time the only woman to do so. She soon discovered that the senior staff felt it was their responsibility to make her life miserable and to give up medicine. She said of this experience, “They didn’t understand that medicine was something I had to do. I turned to the advice my father used to give me, ‘Never give up.’ It became my mantra. I try to instill this drive to continue to every female health provider I meet. The drive to be a trailblazer. If you see an injustice, fight for it, research it, prove the efficacy of your beliefs.”

Once she began the practice of medicine, Dr. Gladys felt the emphasis on disease and pharmaceutical intervention was wrong. In their zeal to combat infection and disease, doctors often overlooked the most important aspect of the patient—how they heal. She believed doctors should focus on the whole person with treatment that emphasized prevention and wellness through life-style changes. For her, holistic medicine means the art and science of healing that addresses care of the whole person, recognizing the interconnectedness of all aspects – body, mind, emotions, spirit – and the centrality of compassionate care in the healing relationship.

While raising six children she continued her medical practice, her research, and the advancement of birthing practices. She promoted natural childbirth and pioneered efforts that allow fathers to be in the delivery room during the birth of their children. She spoke, taught and wrote books on the subject. She provided natural birthing for celebrities, dignitaries and rural women around the world. At the age of 84 she travelled to Afghanistan to teach rural women safer birthing practices, resulting in a 47% decrease in infant mortality rates in the area.

In 1978 she co-founded the American Holistic Medical Association with the goal of uniting licensed physicians who practiced holistic medicine and helping to transform conventional healthcare into a more holistic model, creating a safe harbor for the early physician pioneers and students of integrative and holistic medicine.

She was the first medical doctor to utilize acupuncture in the U.S. and trained other physicians how to use it.  She championed efforts nationally for the licensing of acupuncture to provide a high standard of care for the practice. She founded the Gladys Taylor McGarey Foundation to bridge the gap between holistic and traditional medicine and has helped expand the knowledge and application of holistic principles through scientific research and education.

Her humanitarian efforts in the health field have extended world-wide. She defines her mission as “First listening carefully to the wisdom and healing traditions of rural village people, then offering education, training and treatment that support and augment their practices.” She has visited orphanages in India, worked with women in Tibet and many other countries, served as President of the Arizona Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners and President of the American Holistic Medical Association.

She has received numerous honors and awards including: the Humanities Award for Outstanding Service to Mankind, presented by the National Committee for the Advancement of Parapsychology and Medicine; the David Stackhouse award for pioneering excellence in Homeopathy; the YWCA “Tribute to Women” award in the healer category; one of the Top Ten Arizona Women of 1993; the 2001 Lifetime Distinguished Service Award from Muskingum College in Ohio; the Native American Elder Award from the Phoenix Area of Indian Health Services; and in 2003 was honored by the American Holistic Medical Association as a Pioneer of Holistic Medicine.