Solid Foundation: Michael E. Speer, MD, Leads TMA Foundation
By Sean Price Texas Medicine August 2021

August_21_TM_ Speer2

Houston neonatologist Michael E. Speer, MD, will be leading the Texas Medical Association Foundation for the next two years with plenty of experience under his belt.

Dr. Speer has been active in organized medicine throughout his 53-year career as a physician. His leadership positions include serving as president of TMA (2012-13), the Houston Pediatric Society (1990-91), the Texas Perinatal Association (1993-95), and the Texas Pediatric Society-American Academy of Pediatrics Texas Chapter (2003-05).

Those and similar positions have taught him the ins and outs of representing an organization – making decisions and dealing with the media. But it’s also taught him the importance of being ready to adapt quickly to new information and to expect the unexpected.

“You cannot predict what the challenge will be,” he said. “You’d better just be prepared for facing the challenge.”

Having served as TMA president and on the TMA Board of Trustees, he’s become intimately familiar with the TMA Foundation’s work (

“It seems to me that this is an entity that tries to do good,” he said. “And the more you can do good, the more support you can derive not only from TMA members and [TMA] Alliance members but also the general public.”

The initiatives funded by this tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization enable physicians and their families to give back to their communities and take a visible leadership role.

Those activities include:

  • The TMA Diversity in Medicine Scholarship Program, which provides 15 minority students entering Texas medical schools each fall with a $10,000 scholarship. TMA has awarded 163 scholarships totaling $1.1 million since the program’s inception in 1998.
  • The Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching, which recognize and reward teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Teachers receive awards ranging from $2,000 to $20,000 each year – as well as resource grants – to help share their energy and enthusiasm for science.
  • A variety of grants to TMA county medical societies and TMA Alliance chapters for health outreach, as well as the TMA Foundation’s John P. McGovern Champion of Health Award, which focuses on exceptional projects that address urgent threats to the public’s health and on TMA science and public health priorities.
  • Hard Hats for Little Heads, a bicycle helmet giveaway program created to help reduce head injury among Texas children.
  • Walk With a Doc Texas, part of a grassroots international movement designed to encourage healthy physical activity and help reverse the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.

Dr. Speer is an avid fan of all the TMA Foundation projects, which is why he regularly donates. One of his favorite foundation-funded programs is TMA’s Vaccines Defend What Matters campaign (formerly, Be Wise – Immunize). This integrated, multimedia public health education and advocacy effort is designed to help Texans overcome vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccination rates (

His enthusiasm for vaccines began while he was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s – an era during which many of the important vaccines used today were not available.

“We didn’t have polio vaccine,” said Dr. Speer, a 1968 graduate of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “We didn’t have measles and mumps [vaccines]. We didn’t have the Haemophilus influenzae b vaccine. We didn’t have meningococcal vaccines. We didn’t have chickenpox vaccines. Before we had those vaccines, we had a lot of children dying of those diseases … and it struck home. I had friends who were in iron lungs [after contracting polio]. I was fortunate.”

Most people at that time welcomed vaccines because almost everyone had either faced a deadly childhood disease personally or knew someone who had, he says.

“The public was much more accepting because they had gone without the vaccines,” he said.

Vaccines Defend What Matters’ focus on traditional childhood vaccines and COVID-19 shots for those 12 and older will likely be augmented by the need to educate parents about the need for COVID-19 vaccines for young children, he says.

“Once the vaccines for COVID are approved for children [under age 12], I can see the foundation undertaking some new educational opportunities for the public working through our TMA physician offices to enhance that vaccination program,” he said.

Dr. Speer logged more than 58,000 miles of travel as TMA president, and though his travel schedule will be much lighter as TMA Foundation president, it will be vital to educate physicians about the importance of the foundation’s work.

A lot of physicians don’t realize how easy it can be to contribute, he says. For instance, many older physicians still get income from working but their individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are required to distribute a minimum amount every year, he says (

Tex Med. 2021;117(8):8-10
August 2021 Texas Medicine 
Texas Medicine  Main Page  

Last Updated On

October 23, 2023

Originally Published On

August 01, 2021

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