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John P. McGovern, MD

A Lifetime of Stories

Bryant Boutwell

Publication Year: 2014

John P. McGovern held seventeen professorships, received twenty-nine honorary doctorates, and established the nation’s largest privately owned allergy and immunology clinic. He authored 252 professional publications including twenty-six books in the medical sciences and humanities, and served as president or chief elected officer of fifteen professional societies in medicine. In addition, the McGovern Foundation has given millions of dollars to various local and national health charities, and many Houston landmarks bear the McGovern name, including the McGovern Lake and McGovern Children’s Zoo (at Houston’s Hermann Park), the McGovern Health and Science Museum, and the McGovern Campus of the Texas Medical Center.

Bryant Boutwell, a long-time friend and colleague, has captured the influential life of this visionary Texas physician in John P. McGovern, MD: A Lifetime of Stories. In captivating narrative, interlaced with revealing personal and family stories, Boutwell chronicles McGovern’s holistic approach to medicine, which transcended the traditional boundaries of institutional identities and medical specialties. McGovern worked tirelessly to bring together big institutions, the health professions, bold interdisciplinary ideas, and a team approach to healthcare that, though prescient at the time, is recognized today as imperative. This commitment led to his founding role in the American Osler Society, which promotes humanistic and ethical dimensions of the practice of medicine, and his establishment of humanities programs at the UT Health Science Center at Houston and the UT Medical Branch at Galveston.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Many of us recoil at the thought of mixing idealism and money in medicine. Surely our best students go into medicine to help people, not to get rich. Surely medicine is a vocation, a calling. Its greatest reward is the satisfaction that comes from having served the sick, or, for a researcher...

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pp. xi-xiv

I am profoundly grateful to many people for helping me bring this book to life. At the Houston Academy of Medicine–Texas Medical Center Library and its Historic Research Center, Dr. Maximilian Buja and Deborah Halsted kindly provided me an office in the archives and unlimited...

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pp. 1-9

In 1980 John Philip McGovern, MD, was honored for his thirty-five years as a physician with the publication of a 680-page festschrift called Appreciations, Reminiscences, and Tributes Honoring John P. McGovern.1 The “big blue book,” as it became known, was a collection of tributes...

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Chapter One. Growing Up in DC

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pp. 10-41

The year 1921 was a good year to be born. World War I had ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. For the first time in years, America’s focus on the war was receding into the past, and many Americans felt that the Great War was the last war. The 1920s, comfortably positioned between the two...

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Chapter Two. The Osler/Davison Connection

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pp. 42-80

To understand John P. McGovern is to know Wilburt Cornell Davison (1892–1972) and Sir William Osler (1849–1919). Davison, a Rhodes scholar, trained with Osler at Oxford during the years 1913–1916, then returned to the United States to complete a medical degree at Johns Hopkins and join...

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Chapter Three. Pediatrician and Allergist

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pp. 81-116

During Osler’s day more than a century ago, physicians were typically generalists; today’s many specialties had not yet come into being. Osler was known as “The Chief ” at Johns Hopkins, and his responsibilities encompassed all medicine.1 William Halsted led surgery, Dean Welch...

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Chapter Four. The Texas Medical Center of Houston

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pp. 117-133

The creation of the Texas Medical Center during the early 1940s is an interesting story in itself—one that frames Jack McGovern’s life from the day he arrived in Houston in the spring of 1956 until he died. Long before McGovern went to Houston, men like George Hermann and...

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Chapter Five. Building the Future

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pp. 134-171

Jack was no sooner in Houston than he wrote Lottie to report on his progress and invite her down: March 6, 1956 Dear Mother: Please pardon the fact that this letter is typewritten, but you might have gathered from our recent telephone conversation that I am really “snowed under.” I arrived in Houston Thursday morning and now have my temporary...

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Chapter Six. Legacies

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pp. 172-190

On the evening of September 13, 2001, just two days after the fall of the twin towers in New York City, Houston stopped for a brief moment to honor John P. McGovern in an extraordinary way. On that night more than twelve hundred Houstonians, including the mayor and state and...

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Chapter Seven. Last Glimpses

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pp. 191-204

The stories of John McGovern’s life tell us much about the man, but do they answer the question whether we really know him or know only what we want to know? Even the great Osler was no saint. From time to time he was criticized by the media, even battered in the popular press.2 William Bean, a lifelong...

Appendix A. Awards and Honors

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pp. 205-212

Appendix B. Editorial Appointments

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pp. 213-214

Appendix C. Professorships, Facilities, and Endowed Programs Named for McGovern

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pp. 215-222


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pp. 223-246

Bibliography of Books by John P. McGovern, MD

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pp. 247-248


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pp. 249-266

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781623491642
E-ISBN-10: 1623491649
Print-ISBN-13: 9781623491222

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Pediatricians -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Allergists -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Houston (Tex.) -- Biography.
  • McGovern, John P., 1921-2007.
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