NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The American Medical Association on Saturday honored three Texans for their service to the residents of the state and to their physicians.
Beaumont anesthesiologist Ray Callas, MD, received the AMA Medal of Valor for his work on behalf of patients and his community in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Category 4 storm that devastated the Texas coast in 2017. The award recognizes physicians who demonstrate courage under extraordinary circumstances in non-wartime situations.
“Dr. Callas selflessly put the safety and comfort of his patients and neighbors before all else, working with hospitals and emergency response teams to secure transportation to functioning hospitals for struggling patients,” said AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, MD. “But his tireless work extended beyond medicine and logistics as he also spent days cooking and serving food at a local restaurant while homes were evacuated for flooding.”
“I just did what every other physician in this room would do,” Dr. Callas told the AMA House of Delegates, “and that is take off my white coat and put on any gloves that we could find to help support our families, our friends, and our neighbors.”
San Antonio pediatric and transplant surgeon Francisco G. Cigarroa, MD, the former chancellor of The University of Texas (UT) System, received the AMA Foundation’s Award for Health Education. The foundation particularly cited his work overseeing the creation of the UT Austin Dell Medical School and UT Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine.
Dr. Cigarroa’s “expansion of The University of Texas medical system will continue to benefit students and patients for years to come,” said AMA Foundation President Patricia Austin, MD.
A third-generation physician, Dr. Cigarroa said he was particularly motivated to bring a medical school to his native South Texas. “Growing up on the Texas-Mexico border, I had first-hand experience with medically underserved regions, and how important health care and how important education can be,” he said.
Greg Bernica, the longtime CEO of the Harris County Medical Society (HCMS), received the AMA’s Medical Executive Lifetime Achievement Award. The award honors a medical association executive who has contributed substantially to the goals and ideals of the medical profession. The AMA extolled Bernica’s work leading Houston medicine’s response to Hurricane Harvey.
“In times of crisis, natural disaster, and against the constantly changing landscape of medicine, Greg Bernica has been a steady, devoted leader of HCMS — the largest county medical society in the country — for the past 25 years,” Dr. McAneny said. “His unwavering commitment to the mission of HCMS is admired by its members and evidenced by continuous membership growth.”
Speaking to the House of Delegates, Mr. Bernica highlighted how the county society’s services and programs have changed to match the evolution of health care in Houston over the past 25 years. “We are constantly reevaluating our priorities to make sure we are meeting the needs of our members,” he said.
The Texas Delegation to the AMA nominated all three men for the awards they won.
Photos: Ted Grudzinski/AMA