Interview with Department of Social Work Scholarship Donor: Dr. Lee Garrett


Dr. Garrett and his wife are the establishers of the Leland E. and Nancy Garrett Scholarship Endowment. This scholarship was created to offer students in the Department of Social Work’s MSW program with financial support based on their intentions to enter into Renal Social Work. In Spring of 2015, Dr. Garrett generously agreed to a phone interview with Newsletter Editor and Staff Writer, Paige Moore.

What can you tell me about yourself?

I am originally from Greenville, South Carolina. I attended NC State university from 1967 – 1971 on an ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) scholarship. There I studied Chemical Engineering with a minor in Zoology. After graduating, I was in the U.S. Air Force for a year when I was selected by the Air Force for a Medical School Program at the Medical University of South Carolina. I graduated from there with my MD in 1976 and then moved to the San Antonio Wilford Hall U.S. Air Force Medical Center for my residency. I then attended Duke University from 1979 – 1981 for my Fellowship in Nephrology and then returned to Wilford Hall. By 1986 I was Chief of Nephrology and Nephrology Fellowship Director and worked extensively on an Electronic Medical Record Project. After Wilford Hall, I moved to Scott Air Force Base to serve as the Chairman of Medicine. I served in that role until 1988 when I became the Chief Consultant for Internal the office of the Air Force Surgeon General In 1991 I retired from the U.S. Air Force and moved to Raleigh to work in a private practice, Wake Nephrology Associates. After settling back in the Triangle, I joined the Humanities and Social Sciences Board of Advisors where I have served multiple terms since 1994. I retired from private practice in 2010 and in 2011 became a Medical Director at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. I am currently the Medical Director of the Special Investigations Unit.

Why does this cause matter to you?

Well, when I had first started in the U.S. Air Force I worked in a dialysis unit where there was a social worker in that unit. Though social workers were not required in dialysis units at the time, I quickly realized that the social worker was a great benefit to the patients in the dialysis unit. They helped assist with issues that Doctors and other staff were not and could not have been prepared for. I later pushed for the need for social workers in all units in the Air Force. That was until 1987 HCFA (which later became CMS) passed a regulation requiring the presence of a social worker in all dialysis units. Confirming what I had always felt that social workers were an important part of the dialysis team.

Why did you start this scholarship?

Well, social workers who have received their Master’s of Social Work Degree (MSW) are required in the dialysis unit now. My wife and I put together this scholarship for Renal social workers. Social workers have helped numerous patients in many matters some of which can be very personal matters. They become very involved with their patients and they are essential to the care and potential recovery or adjustments of patients. What is the most rewarding aspect of giving the gift of this scholarship? The most rewarding aspect is seeing individuals going into renal social work. It is a very specialized field and this scholarship exposes students to a field that they would not previously have been exposed to. This scholarship is designed to foster interest in this specific field and through the student’s rotations through dialysis units, I believe that it does exactly that which it was intended to do.

What would you say is you charitable philosophy?

I would say that my philosophy is that I would like to see the money used in a manner that I believe is appropriate for that specific cause.

What would you tell someone considering starting a scholarship?

I would tell them to decide why they are offering the scholarship. That they need to make sure that their scholarship is designated as such for specific development. That they need to know what they want. The Department of Social Work helped implement the scholarship my wife and I started in the desired way.

What would you like to see for this scholarship in the future?

I would like to see the scholarship increase. My wife and I have established a legacy fund for it after our passing. The Department of Social Work would like to take this opportunity to Thank Dr. Garrett and his wife for their generous donation and for ensuring that the next generation of social workers is exposed to the renal social work field. Student recipients like Spring 2015 Graduate Brett Dye, could not have achieved their dreams without your charitable donation.

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