William H. Fleming III, MD, was about 4 years old when he first dreamed of being a physician.
“My desire to help people is really where it came from,” he said. “I had excellent role models throughout my childhood: my pediatrician, my family doctor. It’s these guys who steered me along, and I emulated.”
The Houston neurologist went on to serve as Texas Medical Association president in 2009-10, speaker of the House of Delegates, and president of the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, and in too many other noteworthy roles to fit in this story.
It’s for such a “long and illustrious career,” as Harris County Medical Society President Gary Sheppard, MD, described it, that TMA recognized Dr. Fleming with its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. The House of Delegates announced the award during Friday’s virtual TexMed meeting originating in Austin.
“I’m truly, truly, truly honored to receive this award,” Dr. Fleming said.
He is the first Black physician to receive TMA’s highest honor in the 59-year history of the association’s award and credits many predecessors who helped pave his way.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that a kid who grew up poor in the Jim Crow South could become the leader of and receive the highest honor from the greatest medical society in the country,” he said Friday.
In addition to TMA’s Distinguished Service Award, Dr. Fleming has been honored with the National Medical Fellowships Champions of Health Distinguished Alumni Award, the Houston Medical Forum Lifetime Achievement Award, the Texas Neurological Society Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States’ Distinguished Service Award.
He still sees patients at age 75.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I look forward to going to see patients every day in the office. I love the interaction with my patients. You have to embrace medicine as a profession. It’s a way of life to me.”
Read more about Dr. Fleming’s long and illustrious career.