Garrett Burris, MD

AUGUST 24, 2020

A distinguished neurologist, Garrett Burris, MD, has treated patients in Virginia, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas, but his story began in Louisiana. He was born and raised in Lafayette, on a farm “out in the country.”

Garrett went to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for his undergraduate degree. He always had his eye on medical school, but that didn’t stop him from sneaking into the registrar’s office to sign up for music classes as he had a hard time deciding between music and medicine (at that time advisors frowned upon taking classes outside the “pre-med” core curriculum). His interest in medicine won out and he went to Louisiana State University for medical school, followed by Pediatrics residencies and Pediatric Neurology fellowships at LSU, the Naval Medical Center at Portsmouth, Virginia Commonwealth University, and New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia.

Dr. Burris was able to continue his training in pediatrics thanks to the Berry Plan, which allowed deferral of military service until the completion of medical school or residency training. After serving his country as a pediatrician at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, Dr. Burris continued with additional training in neurology. His plan was to move home and practice in New Orleans, Louisiana, but that wasn’t in the cards. Dr. Burris and his wife, Peggy, settled in St. Louis where he worked in a private practice that affiliated first with St Louis University, then with St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

It was in St. Louis that the Burrises raised their four children and also where Dr. Burris was first introduced to the Southern Clinical Neurological Society. Going back 20 years or more, SCNS used to host regional meetings around the country. Dr. Burris attended one in Big Cedar Lodge, not too far from his home in St Louis. It was there that Dr. Burris met Dr. B.J. Wilder and long-time Executive Director Jim Lowery. They invited him to the upcoming annual meeting in Huatulco, Mexico.

Not expecting to know anyone else at the meeting, Dr. Burris and Peggy packed books on tape and magazines, things to pass the time outside of meeting sessions. They were waiting on their connection in the Mexico City airport when they were surprised to see Marv Zelkowitz. Dr. Burris had trained with Dr. Zelkowitz, but they hadn’t seen each other since. As they caught up on missed years, the gate area filled with other physicians Dr. Burris had not seen in years. Embracing and laughter rang out.

That camaraderie lasted throughout the meeting. For the Burrises, it was the revival of old connections and the start of decades-long friendships. The Burrises have only missed one meeting since and have even made trips in between to visit with other couples in places such as Maryland, Chicago, Indiana, and Florida. Dr. Burris and Peggy believe that the SCNS meetings are unique in that not only are there outstanding CME programs, but they also provide opportunities to develop long lasting friendships that they would not otherwise have known.

In 2012, Dr. Burris and Peggy moved to Houston, Texas, where he became the chief of Pediatric Neurology at Texas Children’s Hospital Woodlands Campus. With a small team, he built the new Neurology division to its present six Pediatric Neurology providers. It was an exciting apex to his career. Earlier this year, Dr. Burris stepped back from his role as chief and started winding down his practice, with plans to retire by 2021.

Dr. Burris looks forward to the end of the COVID-era, when he and Peggy can travel again to visit their children and grandchildren in California, Colorado, and Wyoming. Until then, the weekly Sunday evening family Zoom video chats will continue. So too will wildlife spotting on walks through the neighborhood and watching Investigation Discovery. Dr. Burris’ love of music endures, as does his affinity for SCNS – he intends to remain an active member, even into his retirement.