Dr. Diana Perry Named to Board of Directors

Gifford School names Marshfield’s Dr. Diana Perry to Board of Directors
Posted on 01/09/2023
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Gifford School names Marshfield’s 

Dr. Diana Perry to Board of Directors

Children’s/South Shore Hospital physician is mother of 2021 graduate of Weston MA therapeutic school

MARSHFIELD, Mass., January, 2023—Dr. Diana V. Perry brings an extraordinary set of credentials to her new position as a member of the board of directors at The Gifford School, an approved therapeutic special education school educating students with complex social, emotional, and learning challenges located in Weston, Mass.

She’s a Physician in Pediatrics in the Division of Newborn Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and South Shore Hospital, a part-time Instructor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and besides her medical degree, she also holds a master’s in public health and has run 16 marathons—including completing the Boston Marathon 10 times.

Dr. Perry was the ninth child of two physicians; her father was one of our country’s first African American interventional cardiologists, and six of her nine siblings are also physicians. While her own personal history and professional accomplishments make for a good story, this is the story of a mother and son. That’s because Diana is the proud parent of Will Gilson, who graduated from the Gifford School in the Class of 2021. Will came to Gifford as an unhappy, anxious, disruptive second grader who’d been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, and a decade later graduated from Gifford and enrolled in college.

“After all that I have been through with Will and all that Gifford School has helped him to achieve and to become, I truly feel that it is the honor of my lifetime to join Gifford’s board,’’ Dr. Perry said. “I feel as if my life has come full circle with this very important new role.”

Many people would look at Dr. Perry’s accomplishments and believe there’s almost nothing that could intimidate this highly capable woman. But as she acknowledges, trying to find help for her son was one of the most difficult challenges she has ever faced. 

She remembers feeling sad, exhausted, and frightened the day she brought her young, anxious son to Gifford, located on the Boston Post Road in Weston, for the first time. She had just learned from a neighborhood friend that a group of local parents had met with the principal of her son’s public elementary school “to see if something could be done about Will'', who was anxious, struggling, and isolated by his peers. And the more he struggled, the more disruptive he became in school. 

She had tried everything from therapy visits with top autism psychiatrists at Massachusetts General Hospital to nutrition specialists to multiple medications to try to help her son fit into the mainstream education system. “Here I am, a pediatrician,’’ Dr. Perry recalled, “and I was at a complete loss on how to help my own son.’’ 

Coming to Gifford for the first time, she said, gave her real hope. She realized that she had to “step back and allow herself to trust in the process”—not the easiest thing to do for a physician who is used to being the one to have the answers. “Gifford’s team worked their magic, teaching my son how to use his words, how to manage his anger at being different, how to accept who he is, how to be comfortable inside of himself, and how to learn new things in the right classroom setting,’’ Dr. Perry said. “Most importantly, they taught him to recognize the gifts that he brings, and for the first time in his life, he began to make friends.” 

Today, Will is thriving at a local New England college, something he credits to his education at and support from Gifford. “I will never forget what the Gifford staff taught me about myself,’’ Will said. “That despite my differences, I can become the person I want to be.”

Gifford Executive Director Wil Fredian said he and his colleagues are “tremendously enthusiastic about and grateful for the perspective that Diana will bring to the Board. She has personal experience with our program and a wealth of professional experience to share. We look forward to her insight and leadership.” 

A Massachusetts-approved special education school that primarily serves students referred by public school districts, the Gifford School community is committed to helping its 100 students increase their self-esteem, gain academic knowledge, and develop social skills. The Gifford School provides all students with equal access to services, facilities, and activities regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or homelessness.

Dr. Perry is joining the 14-person Gifford board at the same time as Dr. Daniel B. Chonde, M.D., PhD, a radiology resident at Mass. General Hospital, and Rebecca (Becky) Lloyd Desroches, PhD., a member of the psychology faculty at Regis College in Weston. 

“My son Will is just one of the many students who, at Gifford, finally found a place where they were able to succeed, make friends, and maximize their potential and opportunities,’’ Dr. Perry said. “I am so thankful for the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ to other students and families by serving on the board of this extraordinary institution.’’