The making of a doctor took from 1864-2009
One hundred and forty five years ago Dr. Stephen Dunn was killed during the Civil War at a battle against the North that took place between present day Corpus Christi and Brownsville. All of my Dunn relatives are gone now but when I was young and they were still around I heard many stories about Dr. Dunn from Searcy, Ark., what became of his family. His widowed wife, sister and 8-year-old son Allen, my grandfather, made their way to Rising Star, Texas by covered wagon. Allen, at age 18, met and married Laura Dunn from the neighboring county. They raised eight children, two girls and six boys, with one of them being my father Clay.
I have the distinction of being one of the few people whose grandfather was alive during the Civil War. Allen was 8 years of age when Dr. Dunn died. The Dunns of Rising Star all went on to be successful in their field. Some of the brothers started a company they called Dunn Brothers and transported oil by barrel, in mule drawn wagons, in west Texas. They later became the country’s largest pipeline stringers. Their motto was “Around the Nation It Must Be Dunn.”
My dad, a black sheep, went his separate way but his accomplishments were many. All of that wealth and success didn’t impact or help my mom or I in any way however, we still lived a dirt-poor life in the Cajun country. I was always impressed with the stories about Dr. Dunn though, and how he had left his practice in rural Arkansas to join the Confederacy. Like many doctors of that era he made house calls on horseback and took most of his fees in staples or trade-outs. They told of how he would ride for miles and be gone for days to care for the sick. Even though as a boy I was shoeless and had very little to look forward to I took pride in being a descendant of a real doctor. I often retold the doctor stories to my granddaughter Amber. “We once had a doctor in our family and it would be nice to have another,” I would say. I once said I had started working on her to become a doctor when she was in eighth grade. She corrected me and said I started when she was eight-years-old. Amber was a good student; school seemed to be effortless to her. I learned she had what made others successful; she had retention, she could recall everything she read and had excellent study habits.
We had no idea what she was going to do with her life, but as time drew near for her to graduate from high school she announced that she was going to be a medical doctor. I felt she had not prepared herself enough and had not taken the needed subjects to obtain her goal but wished her luck.
It was a proud day for us when she graduated from the University of Texas with a BA degree. Most medical students would have had a bachelor of science degree, she chose a bachelor of arts because she wanted to master foreign languages. She thought it would serve her well in the medical field.
She entered Texas Tech Medical School four years ago, two years in Lubbock and a couple in El Paso. Those were hard years for her, being away from home and family and also putting in long hours of work and study. Her only companion was her dog Chloe, a small Maltese she purchased while at UT. Little Chloe went to college and medical school and they were both happy to greet each other at the end of the day. Until last week they were constant companions but when Amber shipped her belonging to Cleveland, Ohio, where she will be starting her anesthesiology residency at Case Western, she had to say goodbye to her friend. Working up to 80 hours a week at the hospital she knew her dog could not be cared for properly. She left her in the care of her uncle, Allen Clay, named after my grandfather and dad. If Amber ever has a son, maybe she will name him Stephen after the original doctor
I knew that Amber had the determination to make it through medical school but it was sure a long shot. Saturday, May 15, as Amber’s proud family sat in the audience, the dean announced, as she was given her diploma, “Dr. Amber Lee Dunn.” That’s when it struck me that our little girl had really done what she had set out to do.
Texas’ First Lady, Anita Thigpen Perry, who the Texas Tech School of Nursing is named for gave the commencement address. Chancellor Kent Hance, whom I have known since he served in the Texas House with Wayne Peveto, introduced Mrs. Perry. In all, 902 were in the graduation class, mostly nurses, 135 became doctors. Out of 2,500 applications for medical school, 700 were interviewed and 137 were accepted. Amber was one of them.
Most of the graduates were the children of doctors. Today she is an MD, the first Dunn in our family since the Civil War. If it’s true that time repeats itself, it sure took a long time. Amber will be a great doctor; one this poor Cajun kid would never had imagined would come along to make new doctors stories that can be handed down.
Phyl and I are thankful that we were still around to witness this great accomplishment. We are extremely proud grandparents.
ON A SAD NOTE: Amber’s other grandfather, Bob Lewis, was ill and knew he was dying. Grandpa Lewis was very proud of her and aware of her graduation. He was determined to live beyond the ceremony so as not to interfere with daughter Kerrie’s attending Amber’s big day. Bob passed away the day Kerrie returned home.
For the 28 years I had known this good man he attended Mass every morning. Amber was flying out of El Paso Wednesday to attend his funeral Friday. Sharon Dunn also attended to represent the Dunn family. I have never known a better, more compassionate man than Robert “Bob” Lewis. May 19th would have been his 78th birthday.