Deborah Dyett Desir, MD, vividly remembers her first day as an undergraduate student at Harvard University, Boston. When her parents helped her move into the dorm, her mother, Betty, handed her a beautiful begonia.
“My response was, ‘What on earth am I going to do with this plant?’” she says, recalling how she examined the plant from all angles. “I started off with this one plant and ended up with seven in my dorm room. My roommate didn’t mind my plants, and I didn’t mind her cat.”
Throughout college, Dr. Desir’s love for plants blossomed. So did her education. After graduating from Harvard in 1976, she moved on to medical school at Yale University, graduating in 1980, and then completed her internship, residency, and fellowship at Yale between 1982 and 1987. During her fellowship, her mentor was Stephen Malawista, MD, a former ACR president. She is the founder of the Arthritis & Osteoporosis Center PC, which supports three locations in Connecticut (Hamden, Branford and Milford).
Looking back, she believes her mother planted a seed that day, passing along a genetic family trait of caring for all things green. As an award-winning gardener of both indoor and outdoor plants, Dr. Desir doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty and says there’s virtually nothing she wouldn’t do to help any patient or plant grow strong and healthy.
Sharing & Caring
Dr. Desir doesn’t exactly know how many plants live in her house. Maybe 150, she says. Her favorites include jade, philodendrons and African violets. She even carved out an intensive care unit in a sitting room, where she temporarily places sick plants for additional care.
“I have an actual section in my house that I call the plant hospital,” she says, adding that the recovery rate of her plants rivals that of the Mayo Clinic. “If a plant is ill, has fungus, for example, I don’t throw it out. I bring it to this room and nurse it back to health by putting it under a grow light and keeping an eye on it.”
She also grows fruits and vegetables in her backyard in raised beds built by her husband, Gary V. Desir, MD, chair, Department of Medicine, at Yale Medical School. Lettuce, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, melons and peppers are just some of her crops.