David McClary, M.D. ’96, had a unique journey through the Wayne State University School of Medicine. A passionate advocate for LGBTQ+ health, his transformative experience not only shaped his career, it inspired a commitment to giving back to the community that supported him.
Dr. McClary’s entry into the field of medicine was far from traditional. Reminiscing on his childhood aspirations, he shared, “When I was younger, I always wanted to be a doctor. That was my plan all along.” However, life led him down a different path. After college, he ventured into the investment industry, following in his father’s footsteps.
After a number of years in finance, he realized that career was not meant for him. He was in his late 20s when he decided to revisit his childhood dream of becoming a doctor. “I got a job at a hospital working as an aide and did that on the weekends to see if I really wanted to be in health care. I also went to Wayne State and talked to a pre-med counselor, and before you know it, I was taking pre-med classes there too,” he recounted.
What made this career change even more significant was Dr. McClary’s personal journey. In his mid-20s, he came out as gay. “I felt like I was liberated. I thought, ‘Wow, I have a whole new life ahead of me,’” he said. His newfound confidence became a driving force behind his decision to pursue medicine.
Dr. McClary’s recent establishment of the McClary Endowed Scholarship for LGBTQ+ Research and Service is a testament to his commitment to supporting LGBTQ+ students and allies. The scholarship provides financial assistance and, more importantly, sends a powerful message. “The biggest part is providing a scholarship that itself affirms and supports LGBTQ+ students and allies in their endeavors to educate, do research and provide service in regard to LGBTQ+ health,” he said.
He envisions students seeing the scholarship and feeling supported for who they are. “When students look at the list of scholarships that they may apply for, they’re going to see this one and go, ‘Wow, that’s cool, I’m supported for who I am, maybe I should go for that scholarship.’ I just thought it was a fitting way to give back to the university.”
Dr. McClary affirmed that he always felt the Wayne State University School of Medicine was the right choice for him. “I applied to all the Michigan, Chicago and Cleveland schools, and fortunately I got into Wayne State, which was the most important part of this whole process of changing my life and turning it upside down. I was just grateful for the opportunity. I still am grateful for the opportunity that Wayne State gave me.”
Returning to his roots in Detroit, McClary embarked on his medical education at Wayne State University School of Medicine in 1992. Despite being a nontraditional student, Dr. McClary found a welcoming and supportive community at the School of Medicine.
“I knew I was nontraditional. I started medical school when I was 32 years old. When I got accepted, there were only a handful of us that were nontraditional,” he said. Of about 260 students, only a few were of similar age, yet he always felt a strong connection with his classmates.
He established the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Medicine student group, a chapter of the American Medical Student Association, at the School of Medicine. “I took it upon myself to organize the group,” he said, “and we ended up having a really strong organization while I was there. We sponsored events for the whole school, as well as events for just our group and our allies.” He played a pivotal role in organizing activities, hosting educational sessions, creating educational resources and helping cultivate a vibrant LGBTQ+ community in the School of Medicine. The group’s mission, as Dr. McClary described, was “to provide affirmation for the students, but also to educate others about gay, lesbian and bisexual people as patients.”
Dr. McClary's positive experience at the School of Medicine was shaped not only by his peers but also by key people who supported his goals. “We students always knew we had the (faculty and staff) to support us, and (they) really had my back when I was there.”
In addition to his scholarship, Dr. McClary extends his philanthropy to support the QHealth Endowed Postdoctoral Fellowship program. This fellowship is dedicated to training medical professionals to provide excellent care for diverse populations, with a particular emphasis on LGBTQ+ health care. His commitment to the cause stems from his experiences working with the LGBTQ+ community during his residency in Manhattan. His work during the HIV epidemic highlighted the importance of developing a health care workforce with a deep understanding of the unique needs of this population.
“I saw the need for more clinicians to better understand the needs of the LGBTQ+ population,” he explained.
Dr. McClary’s story echoes the belief that education, advocacy and philanthropy can create a more inclusive and compassionate health care landscape for all. Most importantly, he noted, “You are accepted for who you are and there are opportunities because of who you are. If you are working in the LGBTQ+ community, it does not mean you have to be LGBTQ. You can support them by giving back through community service, or by doing research that applies to LGBTQ+ populations.” His sentiments underscore the belief that we should aspire to foster inclusivity.
To learn more about how to support the School of Medicine, or to establish a similar scholarship, contact Kelley Denk in the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.