by J.B. Hyppolite
Shyrelle Gardner, M.D., practices family medicine in Mt. Airy  and so much more. After growing up in the Bronx with 12 siblings she eventually moved to Mt. Airy, where she opened a practice and treated patients who have adored her skill, compassion and dedication for almost 30 years.

Shyrelle Gardner, M.D., has been treating patients in Mt. Airy who have adored her skill, compassion and dedication for almost 30 years. (Photo by Kevin McCarthy)

“I believe it was my freshman year in college,” she recalled. “I did some work with Hanhneman Hospital as a ‘candy striper’ (hospital volunteer). I enjoyed being in the hospital environment and helping patients. I initially was planning on majoring in secondary education, but I switched majors and went into medicine because I like working with the sick.” Gardner also took summer classes and did volunteer work in poor neighborhoods to help get her into medical school.

Dr. Gardner graduated from Temple University with an undergraduate degree in biology. She then earned an M.D. from Temple U. Medical School, followed by a residency training program at the University of Southern California, specializing in internal medicine. “In some situations I was the only female,” she said. “At that time medicine was quite a male-dominated profession. It was more that I was a female, as opposed to the fact I was an African American.”

Though the African American student population for Temple had hit an all time high when she was there, Dr. Gardner was one of the only African American medical students. But she never let race or gender issues get in the way of accomplishing her goals.

“I guess some females felt that they had to be more aggressive to succeed in a male-dominated profession,” she said. “Many of them changed their approach to practicing medicine, but that just wasn’t my character.”

Today Dr. Gardner practices internal, aesthetic and anti-aging medicine along with non-surgical procedures for skin-tightening, slenderizing or body-shaping. In today’s world of Photoshop, ubiquitous images of beach bodies, airbrushed movie stars and other celebrities, it’s no wonder that the medicine Dr. Gardner practices is so popular. However, that’s not the reason she does it.

“It’s happy medicine. It’s fun. People enjoy it. I like making people look beautiful; not only making them healthier, but I like to help them feel more youthful. It makes me feel good when people like the way they look. It builds their self-esteem. I call that ‘happy medicine,’ said Dr. Gardner, who firmly believes in the term, considering all the sadness and angst that is so often associated with medical care.

“If you look at the baby boomers today, they’re very youthful individuals,” she said. “What is 70 today looks very much like 50, so individuals realize not only do they look younger, but they feel young, too.  Most people are very interested in doing whatever they can do to stay not only looking young, but feeling young as well.”

Dr. Gardner places emphasis on preventive medicine, i.e., educating patients to take control of their health through proper diet and exercise. She has patients who come from as far away as Maryland to be treated. And many of her patients were neighbors she grew up with, along with churchgoers and people she regularly sees at the supermarket and shops in Mt. Airy.

Dr. Gardner has also considered forming a “Med Spa” where proper medical treatment and aesthetic care would be provided, i.e., massages, facials, skin-tightening, laser treatments for wrinkle reduction, etc. ‘“Med Spas’ are the new face of medicine today,” she said. It’s popular on the west coast, and it’s starting to grow slowly on the east coast.” Chestnut Hill College is evn going to provide Dr. Gardner with a physician/helper so that she can spend more time to create her dream.

Nowadays Dr. Gardner feels medicine has become more business-oriented and that patients perhaps don’t respect their physicians as much has they used too. “I think sometimes the public is encouraged to look at physicians as the cause of the rising cost of healthcare when it’s really the insurance companies that control the cost of healthcare.”

Regarding preventive health care, she insists, “The most important thing is too keep your weight down.  With most individuals, as you get old you start gaining weight, you stretch the skin, and you get more sagging and wrinkling of the skin, so it’s very important to keep your body weight and body fat down. Exercise regularly, and getting eight hours of sleep is very important in controlling your weight. A lot of studies have proved that. Exercise, eating healthy and getting sleep are the most important things one can do to stay healthy and young.”

Shyrelle Gardner attended Girls High School when she lived in the Bronx.  Along with going to Temple University for her undergraduate work and medical school, Dr. Gardner did her post-graduate studies in internal medicine at the University of Southern California. She describes Mt. Airy as a wonderful social-economic neighborhood of community-oriented people as opposed to New York City, which was too fast-paced for her liking.

Dr. Gardner, who is in her 50s, is single, has no children and is thoroughly enjoying her life. Her practice is located at 333 West Mt. Pleasant Ave., although she lives in Oreland. Her phone number is 215-247-3300, and her practice is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Dr. Gardner is living proof that it’s possible to achieve whatever one wants to achieve if the required effort is forthcoming. “You can be anything you want,” she insists. “It’s all determination and sacrifice.  If you’re willing to sacrifice and succeed at any career, you can do it!”