President’s Perspective

The Texas Medical Center is an enigma

The Texas Medical Center turns 75 in 2020


William F. McKeon is the president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center. William F. McKeon is president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center (photo: Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle)
By William F. McKeon | August 2, 2019

The Texas Medical Center’s name alone cannot capture the unique scope of what we accomplish every day in the world’s largest medical city.

We’re home to 120,000 highly talented individuals who perform work here at a scale that exists nowhere else on Earth. We provide more advanced care to patients and conduct more cutting-edge research than anywhere else.

As we approach the Texas Medical Center’s 75th anniversary, it’s worth reflecting on the confluence of events that led to the formation of this vital place.

Monroe Dunaway Anderson, a banker and cotton trader, in partnership with his brother and brother-in-law, built the world’s largest cotton company. Anderson, who never married, formed the MD Anderson Foundation. At the time of Anderson’s death in 1939, the foundation held more than $19 million.

Then, in 1941, the Texas Legislature appropriated $500,000 to build a cancer hospital and research center. The MD Anderson Foundation agreed to match the state funds if the cancer center would be built in Houston.

Ernst William Bertner, M.D., a physician and surgeon, returned to Houston after serving in World War I and recognized that Houston needed more care providers to serve one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. As a physician, he treated many of Houston’s business leaders, and he garnered their support to form the Texas Medical Center in 1945. Dr. Bertner and several business leaders orchestrated the purchase of the original 134 acres of land from the City of Houston that formed the genesis of the Texas Medical Center. He served as the organization’s first president and CEO.

Baylor College of Medicine was initially based in Dallas. Discussions were underway to potentially merge Baylor College of Medicine with UT Southwestern in the 1940s when the Texas Medical Center offered Baylor free land, leading to the medical school’s relocation to Houston.

Next year, all of us here in the Texas Medical Center will celebrate our 75th anniversary. Over that time, we’ve grown from 134 acres to 1,400 acres. Of course, our founders couldn’t have predicted exactly what our campus would look like after 75 years—but they did have the foresight to take the early steps that ultimately allowed us to become a world leader in clinical care and research. We are forever indebted to them.

As we approach our 75th anniversary, we aren’t just reflecting on where we’ve come from. We’re thinking about where we’re going. Just as our predecessors set us up for years of success, today we must continue to be stewards of this extraordinary place for future generations. We continue to take bold, strategic steps that will allow the Texas Medical Center to remain a global leader. Our next 75 years will be even more exciting.

 

William McKeon
President and CEO
Texas Medical Center




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