The Setting of Waco in 1866

George Erath and Neil McLennan founded Waco Village in 1849. The first recorded physicians in Waco were Dr. J.L. Boykin and Dr. John Jones in 1851, based on their purchases of quinine, opium, ipecac, morphine and rhubarb, logged in the day book of George Barnard’s store.

Waco’s first newspaper, the Waco Era, was started in 1854, and population grew to 749 by 1859. In 1861, 2200 citizens of greater area Waco, including most of its physicians, left to serve in the Confederate Army in the Civil War. At war’s end in 1865, everyone began to return and rebuild, and the hard process of Reconstruction in Texas was going on. Texas had fared better than most states in the South, and had less destruction and more money. As a result, many thousands throughout the South migrated to Texas to build anew, and Waco’s population grew from 800 in 1860 to 1200-1500 in 1866 to 3618 in 1870.

In 1866, there was cautious excitement about building a future. A charter was made for a toll suspension bridge across the Brazos, though not finished until 1870. The local physicians now in Waco had all served as surgeons and/or officers in the war, had lost most everything they had, and were ready to start afresh. Ten physicians met to organize medicine standards for the community, to set general ranges for fees, set standards for medical training and moral character, report deaths and important illnesses, and to promote continual learning by having each member prepare regular essays on medical subjects to be read to the other members at their weekly meetings. The physicians of that day were one-man clinics, all prepared to deliver a baby, perform a surgery, manage an illness (no antibiotics yet), do an autopsy, or respond to any emergency, usually by horseback. The new association developed standards that set the stage for a strong and authentic medical climate in Waco.

Russell McClellan, M.D.

Russell came to Waco in 1998. He attended Texas A&M, then UTMB medical school in Galveston, did his radiology residency at LSU Medical Center Shreveport, and a neuroradiology fellowship at UAB Birmingham. He then returned to LSU to serve as faculty and professor for some time before he came to join the Hillcrest Radiology team in Waco, which he has never regretted.

When he was president of the county medical society in 2007, Russell showed strong leadership for Waco medicine by initiating meetings with local leaders and politicians to discuss the possibility of developing a county hospital district, a conversation which I and others continued through 2008 until it was tabled when it appeared the Accountable Care Act would address many concerns of specialty care for the uninsured and underserved. He served on the board of the Family Health Center, and has also been involved in the Waco Symphony and CareNet Waco. He is married to Marie, and is a co-owner of Practically Pikasso.

How do you feel things are in Waco medicine today?

Waco medicine is fantastic!  The quality of the medicine practiced in our community is outstanding. I have great respect for the physicians, technologists, nurses and other medical personnel that serve our excellent hospitals and clinics. The Family Health Center is a wonderful and integral part of our medical community that is under-appreciated. Yay Roland Goertz!

What do you see as our challenge?

I think that modern medicine is a victim of its own success. We have become so adept at keeping people alive that often too much is expected of us. People demand perfect medical care, right now, at a cheap price. Medicine is trending toward a 24 hour a day on demand grind as more and more patients visit emergency rooms at every hour of the day and night. The drive for perfection of medical practice has led to over-regulation and an insatiable demand for more and more documentation imposed on us by government, regulatory agencies and even our own specialty societies. It becomes hard to practice the human side of medicine with all of the demands upon our time.

What is a message you would give to young people choosing medicine?

Pursue your dream. Keep on grinding, but remember to enjoy your family and friends. Most of all thank God for what He has given to you!

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