History of the Department of Surgery
Scott & White: Surgical Pioneers Along the Rail Line
A medical plan named the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Hospital Association was established in the late 1880’s in Galveston. Railroad employees voluntarily contributed each month to the plan with the assurance that if they became sick or injured, costs for their medical care would be covered. With America’s expanding railways, a vast network of doctors located their care facilities in cities adjacent to the rail line. These “line doctors” received a stipend from the association to care for the workers. In 1891, the Santa Fe Hospital was established in Temple (named after the Santa Fe Railroad Company) and became a very important hospital on the line.
In August 1892, Dr. Arthur Carroll Scott was approached by the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Hospital Association to become the Chief Surgeon in Temple for the system wide medical plan. Dr. Scott accepted the position despite some initial hesitation. At the time, Temple was known as an unsavory, rough railroad town.
One of Dr. Scott’s responsibilities as chief of surgery was hiring physicians for the rail line physician network. He developed a competitive examination for potential candidates. So when 24-year-old, Dr. Raleigh White Jr., came in to take an exam with interest in joining the Santa Fe Hospital dressed in a sloppy cowboy hat, unpressed shirt and boots, Dr. Scott was a bit surprised.
Despite Dr. Scott’s initial impression of Dr. White, Dr. Scott was impressed with his medical knowledge. So impressed, in fact, that he called Dr. White late at night to tell him he had the job. Dr. Scott would later say that his decision to hire Dr. White was “one of the most important and most fortunate” decisions he ever made.
Drs. Scott and White formed a strong partnership, and in 1898, Dr. White became joint chief of surgeons at the Santa Fe Hospital Association. They shared the work, administrative duties, their salary and authority.
Patient Trust a Vital Component
Building trust with patients was of greatest importance to Dr. Scott and Dr. White. Hospitals generally conjured up unpopular images in those days. Most sick people preferred to stay home and refused to go to the hospital. But fears about surgery slowly changed as citizens learned about Dr. Scott and Dr. White’s surgical skills. More patients, both railroad and non-railroaders alike began to put their trust in the surgeons. Patients preferred the surgeons for general medicine care as well. Unable to serve non-railroad patients under the Santa Fe Association contract, Dr. Scott and Dr. White opened a private practice to broaden their services to the community.
Later in 1904, the surgeon team established a private hospital on 212 North Seventh Street, named Temple Sanitarium. As patient loads increased, the team hired medical school graduates as interns and expanded their facilities during this time. The partners’ reputation grew, drawing referrals from doctors in rural areas outside the Temple city limits. Doctors sent all their surgery cases to Temple Sanitarium, unless the patient could not travel, in that case Dr. Scott and Dr. White would travel to the patient. Dr. G.V. Brindley joined Temple Sanitarium in 1911 and made a remarkable impact on what was later renamed Scott & White Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Brindley described the ideals of Drs. Scott and White in this statement:
A physician does not derive much satisfaction from the practice of medicine unless he has learned the art of medicine. The art of medicine is the ability to win and keep the confidence and esteem of the patient. [Dr. Scott and Dr. White] appreciated that this was accomplished by a sympathetic interest, a ready availability, a thoroughness of service, a consistent dependability, a gentle sincere conduct and a practical knowledge of medicine. They knew that if you manifest and exercise these properties, your patient will trust you, and with confidence, will accept your diagnosis and treatment.
— Dr. G.V. Brindley, who worked with Drs. Scott & White in the early 1900s