May 6, 2017
Robert T. Gunby Jr.,
MD, had one concern as he anticipated rising before the Texas
Medical Association’s (TMA’s) House of Delegates to receive the association’s
highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.
“I hope I can stand up
there without fainting,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable. I never thought
about getting an honor like this; I still can’t fathom it.”
TMA presented the award
to the Dallas obstetrician-gynecologist during TexMed, its annual conference,
in Houston. TMA’s Board of Councilors ethical body selected him for the award,
which TMA first presented to a Texas physician in 1964. The Dallas County
Medical Society (DCMS) nominated Dr. Gunby this year.
Dan McCoy, MD, a member
of TMA’s Board of Trustees, introduced the honoree, though most of the hundreds
in the audience already knew the TMA leader. “Dr. Bob Gunby is a well-respected
man of integrity,” Dr. McCoy said of the one-time TMA president. “When he
speaks, people listen. It’s been an honor to witness his never-ending
compassion and selflessness over the years.”
At 73 years of age, Dr.
Gunby’s service to medicine and patients remains strong. “I’m working every day
of the week, long hours, and delivering more babies than I’ve delivered in 15
years,” he said.
After ushering more
than 6,200 infants into the world, he still is motivated by a love for his work
and his patients — doing what he calls a privilege.
“I’m still enjoying every
day of it, having a great time. In fact I’m not planning on quitting; I can’t
imagine stopping,” he said.
He said every
experience — every patient — is a little bit different. For example, he once had
to deliver a premature baby to save the mother’s life, even though the baby weighed
much less than a pound. The baby survived.
“This is the smallest
baby I’ve delivered that lived,” Dr. Gunby said. After months in neonatal
intensive care, the growing infant was ready to go home. But first, her parents
called him to come say goodbye, and take a picture with him.
“I’m sure she’s going
to have some developmental problems. I would expect her to,” he said. “They’re
aware of that. But they were still so happy to have this little miracle. Seeing
them go through the depression, and the hope, it truly is a miracle. I still
get emotional over some of my — some people I work with — because they were so
excited about this. It’s just unbelievable.”
That strong bond with
patients is what Dr. Gunby treasures most. He is passionate about his job
because he doesn’t really see it as work. He recommends medical students and
young physicians select their specialty wisely.
“Choose an area of
specialization that you are excited about and enthralled with, so you never
have to go to work and you have fun every single day of your life,” he said. “That’s
what’s enjoyable and what’s made my life so thrilling; every single day, I
enjoy what I do.”
Dr. Gunby started
seeing patients first, then truly immersed himself in organized medicine
several years into his career. He joined TMA, DCMS, and the American Medical
Association (AMA) in 1977, but he became more actively involved in the 1990s. He
chaired the TMA Council on Socioeconomics, and the TMA Political Action
Committee (TEXPAC) Board of Directors. He also served on the TMA Committee on
Access to Health Care. He served as TMA’s president in 2005-06.
Still active in the TMA
House of Delegates, Dr. Gunby also serves on the Texas Delegation to the AMA
House of Delegates. He also has held several leadership roles at DCMS,
including as its president.
“Dr. Gunby has devoted
a great deal of his career to organized medicine,” the county society’s
nominating letter reads. “He is greatly respected by physicians in our
community, across Texas, and our nation.”
He is the medical
director of labor and delivery and assistant chief of the Department of
Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. He has
served as medical staff president and chair of the Medical Board at Baylor,
where he completed his internship and residency.
Dr. Gunby received his
medical degree in 1971 from the Medical College of Georgia, where he was
elected into Alpha Omega Alpha, the national honor medical society. He received
a master’s degree in biology from Georgia State College and a bachelor of arts
degree in political science from Emory University.
Dr. Gunby has received
many awards for his work on behalf of patients and physicians. In July 2004, he
received the Texas Academy of Family Physicians Patient Advocacy Award, presented
annually to an individual who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to
protecting and advancing the welfare of patients in Texas. The American
Obstetrical Association inducted him into its Honor Society.
His motivation always circles
back to the patient and that connection. “It’s kind of like I become part of their
family,” he said. “It’s just a unique experience. You get to enjoy their joy
and thrill; it’s almost like it’s happening to you.” His phone has a recent picture
of himself with another patient and her daughter. The woman is the first
liver-transplant patient in the region to deliver a baby, and Dr. Gunby attended
the birth, more than 20 years ago. The mother recently returned to the hospital
for another transplant surgery, and the daughter he delivered was there, too.
They asked him to visit. “She wants a picture of the doctor who delivered her,”
the mother said.
Although people in
their 70s might retire, Dr. Gunby instead went to Sweden to study physicians
who delivered a baby from a woman who gave birth with a transplanted uterus.
Five such successful deliveries have occurred — none in the United States — but
he hopes to have the opportunity to perform such a delivery one day. “If you’d
told me this 10 years ago, I’d say ‘get real; that’s absurd,’ ” he said.
He has witnessed
countless health care advancements since starting his medical practice 40 years
“I started this before
they ever started doing sonograms. You were flying by the seat of your pants,”
he said. “Now you do so much — sonograms, genetic testing, all this chromosomal
and genetic work with patients — where 10 weeks along you can tell whether you
have chromosomal abnormalities or genetic problems. It’s just amazing at what
all has taken place.”
Regardless of the technological advancements, Dr. Gunby always cares for
his patients with compassion and selflessness. “At the end of the day,” said Dr. McCoy, “that is
the driving force behind his ability to always put the patient first.”
TMA presented the first
Distinguished Service Award more than five decades ago, and Dr. Gunby has
witnessed many of his valued predecessors receive the honor — which makes this day
even greater for him.
“Those people did so
much, I don’t feel like I’m in their league,” he said. “It’s just such an honor
to be placed in the same category as some of the ones who were my mentors and
who I respect so much.”
Dr. Gunby and Elizabeth,
his wife of 49 years, have two children: Kathryn E. Gunby Cline and Robert T.
Gunby III. They have twin teenage grandchildren by Kathryn, and three younger
grandchildren by Robert.
As he humbly accepted
the standing ovation of admiring colleagues, he stood strong, hoping he
wouldn’t faint, and knowing there would be more babies to deliver tomorrow.
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing
more than 50,000 physician and medical student members.
It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around
the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.
Contact: Brent Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear[at]texmed[dot]org
Marcus Cooper (512)
370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper[at]texmed[dot]org
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