TMA President Don Read, MD: Installation Address

April 30, 2016

Thank you for your support and for the confidence you have shown in me by electing me to be your President this year.

I would like to introduce my guests. First and foremost, my best friend and the love of my life, my wife, Roberta. Together we have two wonderful daughters. My older daughter, Sarah Gehrenbeck, is music director and church organist in Whitewater, WI. She has completed her studies for a Doctor of Music in organ performance from Indiana University. Sarah shared my name with her two sons: Henry READ Gehrenbeck and Theo DON Gehrenbeck. Sarah’s husband, BOB, was unable to be here this weekend because he is conducting a concert at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. My younger daughter, Alison Read, who provided the beautiful music for the TMA/TMAA presidential reception last night, lives here in Dallas. She is a professional harpist who performs nationally and internationally. My brother, Nat, and his wife Linda Read are here from Glendale, California. Nat has retired from government relations and is an author. He is one of less than 200 people who have been to both the North Pole and the South Pole, making him officially “bipolar.” Linda owns a string of Auntie Anne’s Pretzel shops across the country. I appreciate our cousins, Tom and Kathy Goetzinger and Debbie and Jake Krocheski being here.

It would not be possible to devote the time to do this job without the help of my partners. Several of them are here this morning. I appreciate my long-time anesthesiologist, Bryan Perry, being here.

I would not be in this position today without the constant support and backing of my colleagues in the Dallas County Medical Society and our CEO, Michael Darrouzett.

In 1853, before there were railroads connecting cities in Texas, and almost 40 years before our first medical school was established in Galveston, 35 physicians met in Austin and formed what would become the Texas Medical Association. Although they used different words, they had the same goal as our vision statement – “To improve the health of all Texans”. Six years later, Darwin published On the Origin of Species. Twenty years later, Levi Strauss manufactured the first pair of blue jeans. Therefore, the Texas Medical Association predates evolution but continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of Texas physicians and our patients. The TMA is also 20 years older than blue jeans and twice as strong.

We ARE the best medical association in the country, not because I am president, but because of all you out there who take time out of your busy schedules to serve on committees, councils, and the House of Delegates. Our organization is truly a grass-roots organization. As your President, I do NOT MAKE policy; I carry out the policies that YOU have established here in the House of Delegates.

Today, the business practice of medicine is changing rapidly. It’s like swimming in shark-infested waters. I won’t enumerate all the challenges that we face – we all know what they are. Challenges can either be anchors around our necks that sink us, or they can be opportunities for us to be leaders in fashioning the new paradigm of health care. Toward that end, I was proud to have been the first Chairman of the Board of Managers of TMA PracticeEdge. This new entity was formed to try to help Texas physicians stay independent from the hospital and yet still be able to compete in the new era of ACOs. It is off to a good start. 

Your TMA does a lot of things for you that many of you may not be aware of. Our staff combs through new regulations that affect us and fight to keep unreasonable rules from being enacted. We have hassle factor logs and wonderful educational resources. But for most TMA members, the thing we value most about our membership is the advocacy that we do with the legislature. There are about 2,000 bills submitted every session that affect medicine. Some of those are tacked on at 10 PM before a vote the next day. Our advocacy staff and our Council on Legislation do a great job of fending off attacks on medicine. However, if we elect legislators who believe that parents shouldn’t be required to vaccinate their children, and who believe that hospital ethics committees are death panels, and who believe that anyone should be able to practice medicine without having gone to medical school, then we will have real problems protecting our patients. That is why your participation in TEXPAC is so important. It is shameful that only 11 percent of our members contribute to TEXPAC! Now I realize that most of that 11 percent are sitting here today, so I’m preaching to the choir. If we don’t get more of our colleagues involved in the political process and get OUR candidates elected, then we can’t complain when our proposals get voted down in the legislature. So, I urge you to talk to your colleagues and get more members signed up for TEXPAC. My group, Texas Colon and Rectal Surgeons, has 100-percent membership in TEXPAC. I challenge those of you who belong to groups to try to make YOUR group a 100% TEXPAC membership group too.

For those who don’t know me, let me briefly tell you about myself. I was born in Fort Worth and grew up in Dallas. I knew I wanted to be a doctor from childhood. I appreciate my parents’ sacrifices to pay my way through Austin College in Sherman and the UTMB in Galveston in order to make my dream come true. After my training at Northwestern University and Cook County Hospital in Chicago, I stayed on the staff at Cook County Hospital for a while before returning to Dallas to enter the private practice of colon and rectal surgery. After 12 years in private practice, three of us formed a group. Our group of three has grown to 14 surgeons, soon to be more. Texas Colon and Rectal Surgeons is now one of the largest groups of colon and rectal surgeons in the country. 

On a personal note, I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Rotary Club of Dallas, and I have sung in my church choir for over 30 years.

In the TMA, I started out as a delegate to the House of Delegates. I have had the honor to serve as the Chairman of the Patient-Physician Advocacy Committee and as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

I served as a Navy doctor with the Marines in Viet Nam. Although I had been shot at in Viet Nam, my toughest challenge in life came from a mosquito bite. In 2005, I came down with West Nile Virus meningitis, encephalitis and polio-like paralysis. My legs were paralyzed and my arms were partially paralyzed. I had to learn how to walk, learn how to talk, and learn how to write again. I was out of work for 7 months before I could go back to work and see patients for one hour a day before going home and going back to bed. It was a year before I could work a full schedule again. Since then my stamina has continued to get better every year. I now run one of the few support groups for West Nile Virus survivors in the country.

I had to work hard and fight hard to recover from West Nile Virus. I pledge that as your president, I will work just as hard for you!

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Last Updated On

May 17, 2017

Originally Published On

April 28, 2016