The Texas Medical Association's House of Delegates last week gave the association's highest award to the late Don Read, MD, a Dallas colon and rectal surgeon who had served as the organization's 151st president. Dr. Read died in March after a year-and-a-half-long battle with cancer, so the award was given posthumously.
"I must say that when I was elected TMA president last year, I didn’t realize there was any higher honor," Dr. Read said in a video interview before his death that was shown to the House of Delegates at TexMed 2019 in Dallas. "Now I realize there is, and I'm very humbled and honored to receive this award."
Dr. Read's wife, Roberta, and his daughters Alison Read and Sarah Read Gehrenbeck accepted the Distinguished Service Award on his behalf.
Mrs. Read said her husband loved to tour the state as president. He was especially encouraged by visits with residents and medical school students, saying the future of medicine was "in good hands."
"He loved the TMA," Mrs. Read said. "He loved the staff.… He loved all of his physician friends. He loved everything you stand for."
Born in Fort Worth in 1942, Dr. Read graduated from Austin College in Sherman in 1964 and The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1968. After an externship in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), where he helped deliver medical care in remote areas, Dr. Read served as a U.S. Navy surgeon in a mobile surgical hospital unit in Vietnam with front-line Marines. He was awarded a Bronze Star.
Dr. Read worked in Illinois before returning to Texas in 1978. He helped co-found Texas Colon and Rectal Surgeons in Dallas, which became one of the largest colorectal practices in the United States. He quickly became immersed in the Dallas County Medical Society (DCMS) governance.
Likewise, Dr. Read’s TMA presidency from 2016 to 2017 was just one of many leadership roles. He was chair of the TMA Board of Trustees, the founding chair of the TMA PracticeEdge Board of Managers, and chair of TMA's Patient-Physician Advocacy Committee. Dr. Read also was president of the Dallas County Medical Society and the Texas Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.
One of Dr. Read’s defining moments in medicine came as a patient. In 2005, he contracted neuro-invasive West Nile virus, with encephalitis, meningitis, and polio-like paralysis. He later created a West Nile Support Group in Dallas in 2006, one of the few in the country.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to survive,” he later said. “When you’re that sick, you realize how dependent you are on the people taking care of you. And you find out how much you need a patient advocate. I gained a new appreciation of the need for advocacy from the individual patient’s standpoint.”