December 01, 2016
On Dec. 6, please join me as we celebrate our first McGovern Day—a day to honor Dr. John P. and Mrs. Kathrine McGovern for their many contributions to our city and our school. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend UTHealth’s Constellation Gala at the Hilton Americas honoring Mrs. McGovern and her late husband, Dr. John P. McGovern (1921-2007). A video tribute to the McGoverns was one of many highlights of the night and well worth watching.
Thanks to a very generous gift from the McGovern Foundation in 2015, our medical school and the McGovern name are forever linked. I can tell you it is one thing to see the McGovern name each day on our white coats and letterhead and yet another to have the honor of sitting across from Kathy McGovern to hear directly how much John P. McGovern loved our Texas Medical Center and UTHealth.
For starters, he held faculty appointments at each of our schools. Moreover, he was instrumental in the development of our Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and worked closely with numerous faculty throughout UTHealth over the years – co-authoring publications and mentoring young faculty.
He was a Duke-trained pediatrician who came to Houston in 1956 from Tulane. Once here he established one of the world’s largest privately owned allergy clinics while holding faculty appointments with both UT and Baylor. His love of medical history and the patient-centered principles of Sir William Osler led him to found the American Osler Society in 1969 and champion medical humanities programs like our McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics and UTMB’s McGovern Academy for Oslerian Medicine.
Few may know that on May 5, 1981, the Texas Medical Center and leaders of each of the academic institutions, including M.D. Anderson, Baylor, and UTHealth, gathered to honor John P. McGovern for his broad contributions. That individual honor, involving the collective voice of TMC’s academic institutions, hasn’t happened since and speaks to McGovern’s unparalleled reach and vision.
He started his foundation in 1961 with the plan to grow $10,000 in investments into a fortune that would allow him to give back to others. On both fronts he was successful. One major Wall Street brokerage firm in New York is said to have called Houston more than once to find out what McGovern was doing.
Dr. McGovern’s biographer, Dr. Bryant Boutwell, is one of our faculty and reminded me of a quote Dr. McGovern’s beloved grandmother in Washington D.C. once gave him – a quote that shaped his outlook on life: “What one earns, he spends; what he wins, he loses; and what he gives, he keeps forever.” For more personal memories see ‘Bout Time.
Today Kathy McGovern carries the McGovern legacy forward in a seamless fashion. She is a kind, caring, and a proud Houstonian. You may not know she is also a native Houstonian born right here at Memorial Hermann. In more ways than one the McGovern name is family.
Spend a few minutes with Kathy McGovern and you’ll learn of Dr. McGovern’s love of academic medicine. Ask the board of the McGovern Foundation what one of his pet peeves was and you’ll get a unanimous answer: he never liked being called a philanthropist. He was a physician/scientist first who loved his patients, had a long list of publications, authored 27 books, edited numerous journals, chaired the National Library of Medicine in the mid-1970s, and served as president of major professional organizations in his field.
I was honored to spend an evening with Kathy McGovern and her board members last month, extending in person a school-wide thank you. Take a moment to look again at the advice John P. McGovern’s grandmother gave him so many years ago –advice in this season of giving that is good food for thought. As we look to the upcoming holidays and new year, I wish you each the very best and share a special pride looking forward that we are the McGovern Medical School, part of UTHealth. That to me is a winning combination.