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Newsletter | Spring 2024 Article 1 | South Central MIRECC

Farewell Interview with Dr. Mark Kunik

Dr. Mark Kunik
Dr. Mark Kunik

Q. Congratulations on your retirement! You’ve been Director of the SC MIRECC since 2014 and have had a lead role in many organizations and Centers throughout your career. How does it feel to retire from all of this amazing work you’ve done?

Bittersweet, but mostly sweet! As I retire, I reflect on a fulfilling career. I’ve mentored, researched, and planned successions. The SC MIRECC and IQueST teams, full of talented investigators, will continue their impactful work. Personally, I anticipate flexibility, leisure, and family time in Austin. I love the idea of aging among family where everyone helps to care for one another. Also, my son’s medical journey begins as mine ends. It feels right for one Dr. Kunik to enter medicine and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) while another ends a satisfying medical career.

Q. Who would you like to recognize for impacting your career?

My grandparents and parents were enthusiastic about my career in medicine. I had educators through school, residency and fellowship who inspired my desire for academic medicine. Carol Ashton and Greer Sullivan influenced the past 25 years. Before meeting them, I directed geriatric psychiatry clinical services at Michael E. DeBakey VAMC. They took a chance on me, helping me secure a successful VA Career Development Award. Their confidence in my leadership skills led to opportunities in the SC MIRECC and Houston VA Health Services Research Center of Excellence. Administrative support from Brenda Schubert and Kristin Ward enhanced my work, while my wife, Mardi, kept home life organized and loving.

Joy and fulfillment have come from nurturing generations of mentees who’ve gone on to become mentors themselves. I’ve cherished co-leading throughout my journey. Early on, Victor Molinari and Lynn Snow were my partners. Melinda Stanley and I laid the groundwork for the current behavioral health program. My incredible friendship and collaboration with Laura Petersen has been a true gift. And my lunch buddy, Chris Williams, has shared nearly 25 years of life and laughter with me.

Q. Do you have any fond memories from working with this group that you can share?

I am a prankster. Recently, I left a herd of miniature elephants on desks at the Center. It was fun for faculty and staff to be surprised and wonder “who done it.” Not sure how I will fill this urge in retirement. My wife will not be amused.

Q. What are you planning to do in your upcoming free time?

I will spend more time with family and travel. I will also fish, listen to live music, garden, read and exercise. After volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association for 20 years, I’m seeking new non-profits to work with. I hope to find volunteer work in nursing home reform (need to treat our older adults better!) and cemetery rehabilitation (honor our ancestors and create green spaces).

Q. What advice might you give to professionals entering academic medicine?

Embrace the privilege of combining clinical work with teaching and/or research and find employers that provide time for and reward each academic pursuit.

Q. How have you maintained balance between your professional and personal lives?

I have many joys outside of medicine. I regularly self-monitor whether I am balancing work joy and non-work joys. Mardi augments my self-monitoring.

Q. What is a professional endeavor you wish had succeeded?

I tried several times to obtain donor funding to support an endowed chair in geriatric psychiatry or mental health services research.

Q. What songs/artists will you be listening to on your last drive home from work?

  • Spirit in the Night Springsteen
  • Born to Run Springsteen
  • The Promised Land Springsteen
  • Fade Away Springsteen
  • No Surrender Springsteen
  • Better Days Springsteen
  • The Rising Springsteen
  • The Wrestler Springsteen
  • Dream Baby Dream Springsteen
  • The Ties that Bind Springsteen

Q. Austin claims to be weird, but Houston has its share of the eclectic. What are three of your favorite activities/places in Houston that are off the beaten path?

  • Mahatma Gandi District
  • Houston and Katy Asia towns
  • Fiesta Mart on corner of Bellaire and Hillcroft

Q. Would you like to share a photo of special meaning?

Drs. Mark Kunik, Anthony Ecker, Derrecka Boykin, Jan Lindsay, and Jeff Cully
Drs. Mark Kunik, Anthony Ecker, Derrecka Boykin, Jan Lindsay, and Jeff Cully take a fun photo with the 2021 SC MIRECC Awards.

Q. Thanks for your interview! Is there anything you want our readers to know that I haven’t asked you?

I had negative experiences at the VA in medical school and residency; swearing I would never return. I have grown to love the mission of VHA and appreciate the sacrifice and service of our Veterans. I owe them a great debt for their commitment and a wonderful career.


Last updated: April 17, 2024