May 11, 1953

It had been a busy clinic day for Dr. Joe Jaworski, a former colonel and surgeon in the US Army Medical Corps in WWII. He was preparing to leave his office on the 3rd floor of the Alico building to go do hospital rounds when he looked out the back windows and the sky went dark for a couple minutes at 4:36 pm. When he could see again, the block of Franklin between 4th and 5th had been devastated by an F5 tornado with speeds of nearly 300 mph. He and his wife went out to the street to try to get to their suite at the still-standing Roosevelt Hotel, then realized they would be needed at the hospital. He was able to take his undamaged car to Hillcrest. Some physicians had already arrived for afternoon rounds and knew nothing of the calamity. Others arrived shortly after, and they chose Dr. Jaworski to direct medical efforts there all through the night.

Dr. Walter B. King, a Waco native, had gone to UTMB for medical school and then served as a Battalion surgeon in the South Pacific. When he returned, he finished his surgical residency at UTMB, and was there in 1947 to help with the Texas City industrial accident that killed 581 people. He had only returned to Waco three years previous to this day. He had left his surgical offices at 24th and Columbus to serve at the Baylor infirmary. When he found no one needing care, he left for downtown. Realizing the extreme damage from the tornado, he left for Hillcrest, where he found plenty of docs helping. So he headed over to Providence, where he and many others operated on and treated patients throughout the night.

As it became obvious how severe was the catastrophe, the Waco physicians had a meeting of the minds, and decided that all would see as many as possible, and would not take payment for their services. All monies collected from insurance later were put into a long-lasting charity fund, now part of the Waco Foundation. 114 people died that day, only one after arriving at the hospital, and 597 were injured.

Some material was taken from an oral history project by Katie Michaels and Angela Bagnasco in 2001, and some from a Waco Tornado Script for KWBU/NPR.

Jim Olmsted, M.D.

Jim came to join Waco Radiology summer 1993, just a couple months after watching on TV the disaster at the Branch Davidian compound, having done undergrad at UT, med school at UT San Antonio, and radiology residency at the University of Oklahoma. He is in a 9 member group providing services at Providence Hospital, and practices a wide range of interventional radiology. For the past 20 years, I have constantly learned from him, and continue to collaborate with him on hospital cases every week. He is a high point of collegiality and partnership for my medical experience here, as well as a close friend.

“He cares about patients and goes above and beyond,” says one of his partners, Dr. Kathleen Sorensen. Dr. Nathan Forrest, another partner: “He is steady, consistent, with an incredible work ethic!”  I could sit and tell you countless stories of how much a difference Jim has made in patients’ lives and health. His medical insight, crazy-good knowledge, willingness to step in and help, strong skill set, and great outcomes all are remarkable.

Several years ago, Jim took up cycling, and rides every day, both road and mountain. If he is not found in the hospital, there is a good chance he can be found at a bike race somewhere in the country. He is on the board of directors of TMBRA, Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association, and involved in promotion of bike racing in Texas. Of course, there have been a few injuries inevitable at the level he races.

How do you feel things are in Waco medicine today?

I am happy to see that both hospitals are very strong, and able to expand to meet the needs of the community. We are fortunate in Waco that both radiology groups are able to operate in state of the art facilities, complete with fully digital departments, voice activated dictation with near instant polished reports that are electronically sent to the referring doctors’ computer system.  I do, however, very much regret that we have lost the sense of community that we had in the good old days when so many of the general practitioners would make their rounds to the dark bowels of the radiology department.  I fondly recall the excitement of pulling an X-ray from the film jacket, taking a certain pride in snapping up the film with a spin up onto the clips of the view box, and going over the nuances on the silver film with so many of my primary care colleagues.  I very much enjoyed the free flow of give and take knowledge that occurred during these read out sessions.  Not only did this format serve to educate both the radiologists and the primary care physicians, but there was the bonus of making many friendships that I have still today.  I know that in today’s sterile world of the electronic medical record, and the increasing trend of primary care doctors opting out of hospital admissions, this aspect of radiology is slowly slipping away.

If there is one message you’d give to today’s physician, what would it be? 

I am very proud to have both of my boys in medical school. Ricky is a MS2 in San Antonio and Randy is a MS1 at Baylor College of Medicine. The advice that I have given them is to realize that they have the incredible privilege to be the ultimate scientist of the human body. Never forget that they are entrusted to the health and well-being of their fellow man, and treat their patients with respect and dignity at all times. Remember every patient is loved dearly by someone, and you are responsible to keep them safe and healthy. I have also encouraged my boys to discover a field of medicine that they enjoy. The old adage “do what you like and you never have to work” applies to medicine as well. I am very fortunate to truly enjoy my job. I try to approach each X-ray as a mystery or a puzzle to solve. I try to never forget that behind every X-ray is a real patient that needs and values my expertise.


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