Dallas Physician Receives TMA 2017 Distinguished Service Award

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 ago.

“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.  

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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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Last Updated On

May 20, 2019