Outstanding Faculty Member and Accomplished Alumna an Advocate for Quality Sleep as an Essential Component of Overall Health

By Heidi Saliba

UF Sleep CenterDr. Mary Wagner, known to family, friends, and co-workers as “Abby,” could be described as a homegrown success story from right here in the heart of Gainesville. As a leader before and throughout her days at UF, Dr. Wagner has become known for her ambitious pursuit of quality patient care and her equal commitment to family interests.

Dr. Wagner’s educational career, which was completed entirely at UF, is marked by a Bachelor of Science degree in 1976, a medical degree in 1980, and completion of both pediatric residency and a pediatric pulmonary fellowship. She also served as chief resident for one year. She went to Johns Hopkins for about four years then came back to UF.

“There were a lot of great mentors,” Dr. Wagner said. “Dr. Scheibler was one of them. He taught me you must always do what’s best for the child. As a pediatrics advocate and a pediatrician, he taught me that if you stick with that you’re heading in the right direction.”

In reflection of her work at UF, Dr. Schiebler (lifelong child advocate and retired Chair of Pediatrics) offered a nod for her focus and determination.

“Abby Wagner was an outstanding student in pediatrics. She is known for her stability and judgment…She gets along with people, she is well organized, and has mastered the mother-wife-professional triad which is very difficult to achieve,” he said.

Dr. John Nackashi, Chief of General Pediatrics, also sees Dr. Wagner as successful on many fronts. “She’s a very dedicated mother of two children and is talented in balancing all that she does,” he said.

Dr. Wagner’s husband, Barry, also completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at UF; numerous family members have educational and employment ties to the university. “I love Gainesville and UF, and want my children to go to UF. Gainesville is a great place to have a family,” she said. “I enjoy working at the University of Florida. There is a lot to do here for people of various ages. I like the college town versus the city atmosphere; the quality of life is better.”

Another of her other mentors in the field of sleep medicine is Dr. Richard Berry, who according to Dr. Wagner made the establishment of The Shands HealthCare Sleep Disorders Center possible. He also helped her pursue training and certification in sleep medicine. The two worked together for more than 10 years developing the center, and it was ultimately designed to meet their specifications for holding a clinic. They work closely with the UF College of Medicine personnel who run the lab through Shands. “This allows us to make sure patients get care they need,” Dr. Wagner said.

The lab is important because it is one of few in the region that can accommodate both children and adults. The sleep clinic which operates within the lab allows patients to receive a variety of sleep-related health services in the same setting. Drs. Wagner and Berry collaborate with physicians and sleep professionals in the management of patients’ health. According to its website, The Shands HealthCare Sleep Disorders Center is a 16-bed facility operating in Magnolia Parke, and it’s the only center in north central Florida to be accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

“Sleep is an emerging issue, and people need to realize it’s not just a medical issue but a public health issue. What I want everyone to understand is that a lot of issues are linked to sleep and it needs to get a bit more attention. We need to educate everyone about the aspects of good sleep. It’s not a luxury but an essential for good health,” she said.