Maggie Gradison, M.D., MHS-CL, Reflects on Her ‘Colorful Career’

Monday, April 26, 2021
By Lauren Westbrook
Maggie Gradison,
Maggie Gradison, M.D, MHS-CL

After 27 years at Duke and a long career working in family medicine and occupational medicine, Maggie Gradison, M.D, MHS-CL, is ready to celebrate her retirement by driving to the Southwest with her husband.

“I wanted to travel when I retire and visit friends around the country and the world,” Gradison says. “But it will have to wait until it’s safe to travel.”

Gradison will stay on as a consulting professor working with Duke Employee Occupational Health & Wellness, as needed. And in her retirement, she plans to volunteer in a local clinic once COVID is less prevalent in the community, which is a natural continuation of the advocacy and volunteer work she began when she was a teenager as a candy striper on the OB ward at a Cincinnati, Ohio, hospital.

Since living in North Carolina, she has been an active participant in many "Moral Monday" rallies and activities in support of vulnerable populations in the state. She was the board chair of Senior PharmAssist, a Durham nonprofit organization that assists low-income Durham seniors with access to medications and medication management. She also worked seeing patients and teaching students in the medical clinic at TROSA, a Durham-based residential drug treatment program.

Gradison bikingThe past few months she has enjoyed spending time at home with her husband cooking, gardening, watching movies and reading—when they are not biking or hiking.

“My husband and I bicycle a lot. We ride our tandem bike 50 miles three or four days a week, weather permitting.” Gradison says.

She also regularly visits her 91-year-old mother—who lives in a retirement community in Durham—her daughter who lives locally, and has weekly Zoom check-ins with her son who lives in Brooklyn. But she looks forward to the day she can make those travel plans.

“The truth is, things are fine staying here,” Gradison says. “But I’m looking forward to a time when I can travel and visit safely. If it’s another year, then so be it. The time will come.”

The Journey from Colorado

Gradison received her M.D. from the University of Cincinnati in 1981, and completed residency at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 1984. During her residency, she worked in New Mexico on the Navaho Indian Reservation and helped with outreach within the community.

She then started her career in a small town in Colorado, an hour outside of Denver. In addition to seeing patients, she precepted and taught family medicine residents.In Denver, she was the medical director of a women's clinic that cared for uninsured and often homeless women. In addition, her partner and she were the physician directors of the volunteer rescue squad in a rural county west of Denver.

“Health care has changed so much from when I first became a physician. I’ve done a variety of things during my career.” Gradison says. “In the early 1980s, my practice was more about full services. Family medicine is very diverse, and you can still make it as diverse as you want. When I started, I was delivering babies and was taking care of people in the ICU.”  

She says former patients in Colorado—whom she delivered—now have babies of their own, and  some still keep in touch with her.

For family reasons, Gradison moved from Colorado to Indianapolis where she worked in academic family medicine before moving to Durham.

Her Duke Career

In almost three decades at Duke, Gradison left her footprint on almost all areas of the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health.

“Throughout her career Dr. Gradison was able to use her talents to make important contributions to nearly every aspect of our department.  We all wish her the best on this next phase of her journey," says Anthony Viera, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health.

Gradison came to Duke in 1994 to teach and see patients, and became the director of the Duke Family Medicine Residency in 1998. She then was named chief of the Division of Family Medicine in 2002, holding that position until 2006. 

In addition to seeing patients at Duke Family Medicine Center, she worked at Duke Diet and Fitness Center, Duke Integrative Medicine, and did outpatient gynecology procedures at Duke Student Health and Duke Primary Care. In 2011, she began working at Duke Employee Occupational Health and Wellness.

Gradison with a PA studentIn 2007, she was named medical director of the Duke Physician Assistant Program, stepping down from that role in December 2019. She also took advantage of the educational opportunities offered in the department, earning her MHS in Clinical Leadership in 2006. Additionally in 2008, she completed an Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona.

“I’ve done a lot of different things, all of which I really enjoyed.” Gradison says. “I’ve had a very colorful career.”

Gradison also partnered with colleagues on research projects through the years, and would be open to discussing research projects while in retirement.

“I am not trained as a researcher, but I’ve been involved in several areas of research such as women’s health, chronic illness and medical education. I have found it to be relevant in everything I’ve done,” Gradison says.

Gradison looks back fondly on her time at Duke, especially because of her colleagues and the difference they have made for patients and learners. She emphasizes the importance of teamwork in health care.

“We can’t do it alone,” she says. “The whole team provides the best care for our patients because we all have different skills and areas of expertise. Non-physician colleagues have skills and experience that I don’t have and are integral to the care of our patients.”

“If nothing else, I’ve learned so much from my patients. I’ve enjoyed my roles so much,” Gradison says. “I love learning. I love patients. I love teaching. It’s a great mix and suits me so well.”

Lauren Westbrook is a communications intern with the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health. She is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, majoring in public relations.