Dr. Mary Willy, DO
Dr. Mary Willy is a third-generation physician with a heart of gold. Her father, a geriatrician, practiced family medicine in Montrose, Colorado, and then returned to medical education in the Midwest. As comfortable in the nursing home as in the classroom, Mary grew up surrounded by medicine. Her father’s integrative model of treatment was ahead-of-it’s time for the 1970s and ’80s and continues to inspire Mary to offer holistic treatment. She keeps a photo of her dad’s team—a physician, social worker, and nurse—on her desk for daily inspiration of the kind of care she aspires to give: “Good, whole-hearted medicine with a kind heart and strong team-based care.”
Her father’s influence is not the only factor that shaped Mary’s compassionate heart. While in medical school, she spent time in rural Kenya, where her Kenyan friend, Ben, was working towards his childhood dream of opening a free-standing medical clinic. Over the next years, Mary helped bring in teams of short-term volunteers to provide basic care at the clinic and serve in the community. She’s never forgotten that experience and has carried a love of Africa with her ever since.
Following her medical residency, Mary’s first position was in West Virginia, where her father had originally taught medicine. Working alongside some of his former colleagues—people she’d known from childhood–Mary gained “a lot of under-the-wing mentorship.” But after her father passed away, Mary’s mom moved back to Montrose—a move Mary herself had been desiring for some time. And so, fifteen years ago, she decided it was time to return to the Western Slope too, acknowledging the easy-going, laidback culture of the west as “much more me.”
One of Mary’s most recent career challenges has been the launching of Altitude Pediatrics—Grand Junction’s newest pediatric clinic, which opened in the fall of 2021. Alongside her are three other pediatricians—Katie Joy, Paula Lopez, and Shannon Murphy—have started what promises to be a thriving medical practice.
The team at Altitude Pediatrics shares similar values and styles of practicing medicine. “Each one of us are altruistic to the heart,” Mary says. “We all want to serve the underserved. It’s part of who we are and how we practice. We want to make sure underprivileged families and kids have medical access and we strive to make that happen in an innovative way.”
“Each one of us are altruistic to the heart,” Mary says. “We all want to serve the underserved. It’s part of who we are and how we practice. We want to make sure underprivileged families and kids have medical access and we strive to make that happen in an innovative way.”
The photo Dr. Willy keeps on her desk of her father and his team.
In their brand-new practice, a driving desire of the team is to listen well to the needs of the community and to mold or support programs to serve individual and family needs. “It’s not our job to come to the table with an agenda,” says Willy, “it’s our job to hear families out and help them figure out what their options are. Where do they want to go? What are their goals?” For example, explains Dr. Willy, “if someone wants to lead a group, let’s lead a group and we’ll support them…if it’s their change, it’s going to happen.”
Mary is an established champion supporting foster families and desires to remove obstacles that prevent families from receiving good healthcare. Helping families access resources is a huge key to their health and wellbeing, as is the need for community collaboration. Dr. Willy lights up when describing Altitude Pediatrics developing “a stronger integration with the schools, child welfare, and the mental health systems within our community.” She longs for Altitude to establish a strong community presence and become a central hub for providing good resources and getting families “channeled to the right people with a warm handoff” in order that they might better navigate some of the strong programs and systems already in place.
Mary is a rich well of knowledge and fresh thought. Whether it’s working as a liaison with child welfare to assess the needs of foster children, advocating for the well-being of families through Mesa Valley’s How are the Children? or educating herself on the ins-and-outs of running a new business, Mary is not one to shy away from risk and ingenuity. “I’m always looking for the next challenge. I’ve never been satisfied with the status quo,” she states confidently, crediting amazing local and national mentors for passing on their wisdom.
Each year, Mary interfaces with the Global Studies course at Grand Junction High School, teaching about disparities in third-world medicine. She uses Kenya as the starting point of the conversation, prompting students to fundraise sponsorship for a child from the village where her doctor and friend, Ben, is still working. She hopes to someday visit Africa with her now 18-year-old daughter. For now, Mary’s family enjoys being the vacation hub for her four brothers who live all over the country and enjoy visiting Colorado.
Dr. Mary Willy is accepting new patients at her newly established pediatric clinic, Altitude Pediatrics. To schedule an appointment or inquire, please call (970) 609-7337 or visit their website.