Meet Your New Alumni Association President
It doesn’t seem like it but it has been 42 years since I began my ophthalmology residency at Baylor College of Medicine in July of 1975. I am a fifth-generation Texan and I have often said I never strayed far from the Texas Gulf Coast. I was born in Galveston when my father was a medical student at University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and grew up in Victoria, Texas. I received my undergraduate degree from The University of Texas in Austin and returned to Galveston to attend medical school where my father went. I am a third-generation graduate of UTMB and proud of my medical school education but feel incredibly fortunate that I was able to migrate up I-45 for my residency.
I never considered Baylor for medical school, and I am not sure why not except for the strong ties I had with UTMB. However, during my third year in medical when I started to look for a residency position, I thought it was time to spread my wings and started to look at different programs around the country. I was fortunate to be in a competitive position and interviewed at three out-of-state, well-respected programs. Baylor was fourth and last on my list, and I drove up I-45 from Galveston on a Saturday morning to interview with Dr. David Paton who had taken over the chairship of the ophthalmology program only a few years previously.
Anyone who knows Dr. Paton knows what a visionary he was and is. I really thought I wanted to leave Texas for a residency program but after interviewing with Dr. Paton I realized what an incredible opportunity Baylor presented. I returned to Galveston that day and told my wife we were going to be moving to Houston in a couple of years.
I have made some not so smart decisions in my life, but choosing Baylor for my residency was probably the smartest decision I ever made. Dr. Paton had recruited one of the top faculties in the country. In 1982 Dr. Paton left Baylor to establish the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital in Saudi Arabia, and Dr. Dan B. Jones took over the helm as chair of the ophthalmology department. Dr. Jones had been head of residency training while I was a resident, so I had a well established relationship with Dr. Jones and this allowed me to keep in touch with the department. I always found the department to be an invaluable resource for referrals and continuing education.
Later in my career, I took a two-year sabbatical from private practice, and Dr. Jones gave me a job as part-time faculty staffing a residents’ clinic at the Michael E. DeBakey Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center one day a week and this allowed me to observe the continued high quality of residency training at Baylor.
It was through my relationship with Dr. Jones that I was offered the opportunity to become a member of the Alumni Association Executive Committee. This again is one of those sentinel experiences in life as it has afforded me the opportunity to become more aware of the exceptional education Baylor provides. This is true not only for medical students but also for the Ph.D. programs and the Health Professions programs.
It also has allowed me to develop a relationship with some of Baylor’s exceptional faculty outside the Department of Ophthalmology. As president of the Alumni Association Executive Committee, I hope to continue the fine leadership that has been provided by Dennis O’Brien over the past year.
Thanks for the opportunity to represent you this year,
Robert Gilliam, M.D.