Remembering Mary Guerriero Austrom, PhD

October 24, 2019

Mary Guerriero Austrom, PhD, whose passionate advocacy for diversity at IU School of Medicine helped create a more inclusive and welcoming environment, passed away on October 23 surrounded by her loved ones. She will be remembered for her empathy, tenacity and dedication.

As the school’s associate dean for diversity affairs, Austrom left an indelible mark on the culture of the school as she transformed the approach to diversity. She was committed to creating an inclusive environment where everyone could flourish. A key part of her vision was to integrate a focus on diversity and inclusion across every department of the school through the development of department diversity plans, and under her leadership, multiple new programs were developed for both learners and faculty.

“Dr. Austrom has had an enormous impact on the climate of the school,” said Mary E. Dankoski, PhD, executive associate dean for faculty affairs, professional development and diversity. “Fundamentally, Mary wanted everyone to feel cared for. This was the focus of her research; it’s how she approached her diversity work; and it was the drive behind her knitting—she was always making a handmade gift for someone she cared about. Her generous heart will be sorely missed.” 

Austrom was also the Wesley P. Martin Professor of Alzheimer’s Education and professor of clinical psychology in the Department of Psychiatry. She played a critical leadership role within the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center over nearly three decades, leading its outreach and recruitment core. She focused intensely on easing caregiver stress and bringing underrepresented communities to participate in Alzheimer’s disease research, forming an exceptional Community Advisory Board to guide and facilitate these efforts. She will be widely remembered for her influence on improving dementia caregiver education locally, nationally and internationally and will be greatly missed in the Alzheimer’s disease research community.

Tom McAllister, MD, Albert Eugene Sterne Professor and chair, Department of Psychiatry, remembers the impact Austrom had on the department.

“Dr. Austrom was a pillar of our department for over 30 years. She was a major force in the development of our Geriatric Psychiatry and Alzheimer’s disease programs, and a major contributor to high impact research in these areas. In addition to her academic accomplishments, she was a dynamic force in helping and mentoring junior faculty colleagues and a leader in fostering diversity in recruitment and faculty composition. Perhaps most significantly, she has been a wise, supportive and kind friend and colleague to many of us, myself included,” McAllister said.

To honor Austrom’s legacy, the Department of Psychiatry will rename their annual Women in Psychiatry lecture to the Mary Guerriero Austrom, PhD, Women in Psychiatry Lecture. The School of Medicine has also established the Mary Guerriero Austrom, PhD, Outstanding Faculty Commitment to Diversity Award, which will be given annually to a faculty member who advances the school’s diversity goals.

Dean Jay Hess said in a statement to faculty, staff and learners: “As we reflect on all of Mary’s accomplishments, there is no better way to honor her than to all do our part to make the school welcoming and inclusive for everyone.”

A celebration of Austrom’s life will be held on campus in the weeks ahead. In lieu of flowers, Austrom’s family has asked that donations be made to the IU School of Medicine Diversity Recruitment scholarship and Village of Merici.