“So many people have said, ‘You changed my life.’ That’s what I’ll miss the most,” Dr. Mary Harder says as her voice cracks, all the while glancing around at her nearly empty office at The South Bend Clinic. She has been practicing at The South Bend Clinic for 25 years, since first becoming a dermatologist and it’s clearly not easy for her to retire. “I’ll miss the patients and helping people whose condition made them miserable. And, I’ll miss the medical challenge.”
Dr. Harder is retiring earlier than she expected. It was a health-related decision several years in the making. She has joint issues that are getting worse and excruciating pain that is now affecting her neck. While there’s a misperception that dermatology is a less physically demanding job, Dr. Harder says it’s like a full contact sport. A doctor has to contort themselves to look at every area of the body, move people and their limbs around, perform surgery on less accessible areas of the body, look down and chart on a computer and repeat this 30 to 35 times a day. Her doctors told her, the longer she worked, the more likely she would have pain that was irreversible and she knew this was the right time.
Originally from Minnesota, Dr. Harder came to the area to attend to Goshen College where she met her husband, Wesley Mark D.D.S., on the very first day. He was her biology lab assistant, his family lived in Elkhart County, and as she says, the rest is history. Mark went on to become a periodontist. Mary was drawn to dermatology and her passion for her work shows she made the right decision.
“I really love rashes and the advances in diagnosis and treatment have increased that enjoyment,” Dr. Harder says. “I never really liked cosmetic dermatology. I focused on medical dermatology. You have to be a detective, putting together the visual patterns with history, and solving the mystery.”
Over her more than two decades in practice, she’s seen a lot of changes including the need for more clinical documentation and higher priced prescriptions. One thing that hasn’t changed is the Clinic. “What drew me here is the same,” she says. “It’s the camaraderie among the doctors, the honesty. I feel like I can trust administration to do the right thing. And, I think the doctors are superb. And, to have so many in one setting is just superb. The doctors here are just good people.”
As she sets her sights on the future, much of it is up in the air. In a couple of months, she and her husband are traveling to Africa. After that they are thinking about loading up their dogs in an RV and traveling all over the United States. And while she will be missed by her colleagues and patients here at The South Bend Clinic, we know this “detective” in dermatology will excel at unraveling the mystery of her next chapter.
We can’t thank you enough, Dr. Mary Harder, for your 25 years of service! We wish you the best!
Posted on June 20, 2017