TMA Honors Abilene Physician With Distinguished Service Award

For Immediate Release 
May 19, 2012 

Contact: Pam Udall
phone: (512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807 

Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320

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At Louisiana State University School of Medicine in 1933, Virginia Boyd and her two female classmates were told point-blank by a male physician that only one of them would graduate. Little did he know that Virginia Boyd Connally, MD, would one day receive Texas’ highest physician honor.

Today the Texas Medical Association (TMA) presented Dr. Connally, a retired ophthalmologist and otolaryngologist, the 2012 Distinguished Service Award. The 99-year old physician received the recognition at TMA’s annual TexMed conference in Dallas.

Dr. Connally admits she was shocked and humbled to receive the award. “To think I am chosen to represent the multitude in the medical field who have nurtured, encouraged, and supported me in a century of medicine in Texas … this is such a great honor,” said Dr. Connally. “It must be shared with those who made it happen.”

The Taylor-Jones-Haskell-Callahan (TJHC) County Medical Society nominated Dr. Connally for the honor. Paul Thames, MD, said to a packed room of physicians in Dallas, “Dr. Connally is the embodiment of the lifelong learner and encourager, with a vibrant personality and keen intellect, intent on sharing her discoveries and her faith with all those fortunate enough to have been in her trailblazing path.”

Dr. Connally’s interest in medicine began early. Growing up in Temple, Texas, her family lived in the shadow of Scott and White Memorial Hospital. “We knew the doctors there. They were leaders who were respected, loved, and trusted. They represented ‘the best,’ ” said Dr. Connally.

While attending Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Dr. Connally lived with her physician uncle, William R. Snow, MD, and his wife, Mae. Watching her uncle care for his patients added to Dr. Connally’s interest in medicine. “My uncle inspired and encouraged me to become a doctor. I saw the commitment that he and his wife gave to all patients.”

Dr. Connally has been a TMA member since 1941, one year after she opened an ear, nose, and throat practice in Abilene. She was that city’s first female physician. “Sometimes little children would approach me as ‘nurse doctor,’ because they did not see many women wearing a doctor’s coat,” she said.

Dr. Connally was a trailblazer in medicine, paving the way for many women after her. She was the first female chief of staff at Hendrick Medical Center, the first chair of the staff at St. Ann Hospital, and the first female president of the TJHC County Medical Society.

“Virginia was a great pioneer and leader for women in our community and across the state,” said Austin King, MD, an Abilene physician colleague and member of TMA’s Board of Trustees. “At 99 years old, she is still reaching out to impact her community.”

During her nearly half-century of caring for Texans she witnessed significant change in medicine that saved countless lives. “In 1940, polio was raging,” recalled Dr. Connally. “Soon after I began practicing medicine, penicillin was introduced. Think of all the diseases that have been eradicated since then. It’s almost inconceivable what’s happened in my lifetime.”

Dr. Connally has a strong commitment to her alma mater, Hardin-Simmons University. She served on its board of trustees, was the medical director of the school’s Fairleigh Dickenson Science Research Center, and endowed the Connally Chair of Missions. The university honored her with its Distinguished Alumna Award in 1973 and the Keeter Alumni Award in 1981. It established the Connally Missions Center in 2000 and elected Dr. Connally to the Hall of Leaders in 2004. She also received the Virtue Award from the university’s Round Table in 2011.

Besides practicing medicine in Abilene for 42 years, Dr. Connally traveled the world on many medical missions. In addition, she and her late husband, Ed Connally, were active in Texas politics. Mr. Connally was elected chair of the Texas Democratic Party in 1959, which led to a long personal relationship between the Connallys and the late President Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird.

Her many honors also include the Pioneer in Medicine Award from the TJHC County Medical Society, the Special Friend Award from The University of Texas School of Nursing Advisory Council, the Pathfinder Award from the Abilene Reporter-News and the YWCA, and the Abilene Woman’s Club Legacy Award. Gov. Rick Perry proclaimed her a “Yellow Rose of Texas” in 2007.

Dr. Connally’s legacy in health care continues through two of her grandsons, Sidney Roberts, MD, and Matthew Roberts, MD. “She was an amazing, articulate, elegant ambassador for Texas medicine,” said Dr. Sidney Roberts. “She was certainly my inspiration when it came to entering the medical profession.”

Dr. Connally says, “Being a doctor is rewarding in more ways than I realized. It opened doors to a lifetime of learning. It opened doors to service. It is a mission.”

NOTE: The story of her life is told in the 2011 biography, Virginia Connally, MD: Trailblazing Physician, Woman of Faith by Loretta Fulton.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing nearly 46,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 120 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. TMA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the association and raises funds to support the public health and science priority initiatives of TMA and the family of medicine.

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