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What’s in a name? Meet the people behind the streets and buildings in the TMC

Names in the TMC belong to physicians, families and visionaries who have influenced Houston’s medical city


street signs
By Cindy George | December 4, 2019

Most everyone knows that LBJ refers to Texas-born President Lyndon Baines Johnson. In Houston, though, LBJ is also the name of a Harris Health System hospital, part of the vast network of 60-plus institutions that comprise the Texas Medical Center. Of course, there are many other names on the streets and buildings of the TMC—names that belong to the physicians, families and visionaries who have influenced Houston’s medical city.

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MD Anderson | Monroe Dunaway Anderson, a cotton magnate, left his fortune to a foundation that partnered with the state to build the first cancer hospital in Texas. The entity was created by the Texas Legislature in 1941 as part of The University of Texas System. The institution is known today as The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Bertner | Ernst William Bertner, M.D., was a founder of the Texas Medical Center and its first president. He was also the first director of MD Anderson. In his work as a gynecologist, Bertner delivered a baby boy who grew up to become pioneering Houston heart surgeon Denton Cooley, M.D.

Cullen | In 1945, oilman-philanthropist Hugh Roy Cullen bestowed $1 million to several hospitals in Houston—a suite known as the Cullen Gifts—that helped build landmarks of the TMC. Hermann Hospital, the forerunner to Memorial Hermann, was able to construct a new hospital. Houston Methodist also had the resources to build a new hospital in the TMC. In addition, a gift to the Episcopalians enabled that denomination to establish its first hospital in Houston, St. Luke’s, the predecessor to Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. An $800,000 gift from Hugh and Lillie Cullen helped Baylor College of Medicine complete its initial building. The family’s Cullen Foundation, established in 1947, continues to support health and medical causes in Houston. The Cullen name endures through a pavilion at Memorial Hermann, a memorial chapel at Baylor St. Luke’s, an eye institute at Baylor College of Medicine as well as a main thoroughfare and auditorium at the University of Houston.

DeBakey | Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., was a pioneering cardiac surgeon and innovator who invented the Dacron graft, performed the first successful coronary artery bypass and spent decades as a leader in the developing field of heart transplantation. After volunteering for military service in World War II, his work led to the development of mobile army surgical hospitals (MASH units). DeBakey also served as president, chancellor and chancellor emeritus of Baylor College of Medicine. The Houston Independent School District’s Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions and the sprawling Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, both in the TMC, are named for the famous surgeon. DeBakey died in 2008 at age 99.

DePelchin | Kezia Payne DePelchin was a social worker, nurse and teacher who worked as head nurse at Houston’s first city charity hospital, ran an orphanage for boys and founded Houston’s first day care center to support mothers employed outside the home. After her death in 1893, the DePelchin Faith Home was organized and opened as a safe haven for children. For its centennial, the name was changed to DePelchin Children’s Center. The organization became a TMC institution in 2012.

Spurgeon Gray | Spurgeon Nathaniel Gray was a pioneering black pharmacist who finished pharmacy school in Kansas during Reconstruction and provided health care to blacks in Southeast Texas during the first half of the 20th century. He was an early supporter and funder of the Texas Southern University (TSU) College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, a TMC member since 2002. The pharmacy school’s main building, Gray Hall, was named in his honor in 1964. In 2019, the TSU board of regents voted to rename the building for Chicago pharmacist Joan Marie Lafleur, who died in 2016 and willed $3.1 million to TSU—the largest single gift to the university by an alumnus.

Hermann | George Henry Hermann, an oilman, philanthropist and Civil War veteran, used his fortune for public good. Before his death, he donated the land that became Hermann Park and his estate was willed to the city for the erection and maintenance of Hermann Hospital, a public charity hospital that opened in 1925. Today, the institution is part of the vast Memorial Hermann Health System.

George Henry Hermann

Holcombe | Oscar Fitzallen Holcombe, a construction entrepreneur, served as Houston mayor for a total of 22 years, on and off between 1921 and 1958. Holcombe Boulevard, a main thoroughfare of the TMC formerly known as Marlboro Drive, was renamed for Holcombe and extends through the adjacent municipality of West University Place.

Holcombe Boulevard is named for Oscar Fitzallen Holcombe, a construction entrepreneur and former Houston mayor.

McGovern | John P. “Jack” McGovern, M.D., was an allergist and scholar noted for his philanthropy and business acumen. The John P. McGovern Foundation has supported innumerable health causes and medical interests for decades. John P. McGovern is the name of the TMC campus at Almeda and Holcombe, a former Nabisco cookie factory, that is home to the TMC Innovation Institute. The John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science has been a TMC member since 1995, and the John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center is housed at the Texas Medical Center Library, a TMC affiliate since 1949. The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) medical school became the John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern Medical School to honor the physician and his wife following a $75 million gift in 2015—the largest contribution in the institution’s history to that date. John P. McGovern died in 2007 at age 85.

Quentin Mease | Quentin Ronald Mease, a social worker, was instrumental in desegregating public spaces in Houston including the YMCA and the Astrodome. He had an important role in creating Harris Health System and served on its board of managers. The system named a community hospital after him. Quentin Mease Hospital, now a rehabilitation facility on North MacGregor Way, is facing another transformation. The building is now being renovated to become an outpatient care center. Mease died in 2009 at 100.

Menninger | Menninger is the last name of a family of Kansas psychiatrists, a father and two sons, who opened their first clinic for inpatient care in 1925, had the nation’s first group psychiatric practice and established a school of psychiatry in 1946 that became the country’s largest at the time—fueled by returning World War II veterans. A partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and Houston Methodist moved The Menninger Clinic from Topeka, Kansas, to Houston in 2003.

Nora’s Home | When Nora Gaber, 7, died in a 1998 automobile accident, her donated organs saved and impacted many lives. Her parents, Houston physicians Osama and Lillian Gaber, worked to support organ donor research through a foundation and to provide organ transplant patients free lodging while in Houston for care. Nora’s Home on El Rio St. expanded to 32 rooms in 2018.

SHAWN W. CLOONAN, chief operating officer and executive vice president of the TMC, joins Nora’s Home founders LILLIAN GABER, M.D., associate medical director of renal pathology at Houston Methodist Hospital, and her husband, OSAMA GABER, M.D., director of Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center and the J.C. Walter Jr. Presidential Distinguished Chair, at a ribbon cutting ceremony for an expansion of Nora’s Home that doubles its capacity.
SHAWN W. CLOONAN, chief operating officer and executive vice president of the TMC, joins Nora’s Home founders LILLIAN GABER, M.D., associate medical director of renal pathology at Houston Methodist Hospital, and her husband, OSAMA GABER, M.D., director of Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center and the J.C. Walter Jr. Presidential Distinguished Chair, at a ribbon cutting ceremony for an expansion of Nora’s Home that doubles its capacity.

Ben Taub | The medical benefactor was instrumental in convincing Baylor College of Medicine officials to move the medical school from Dallas to the Texas Medical Center in 1943 and in establishing its connection with Houston’s hospital system providing health care for the indigent. Taub is a former director of the Texas Medical Center. In 1963, Harris Health System named its new charity hospital in his honor. Taub also helped run DePelchin Children’s Center when it was known as DePelchin Faith Home and was a popular visitor with the children because of his peppermint candies.

Ben Taub and Michael E. DeBakey, M.D.

Zayed | His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the president of the United Arab Emirates. His name graces MD Anderson’s Zayed Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy after a 2011 gift of $150 million, the largest donation to the cancer research hospital at the time.




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