The First President of the Waco Medical Association

Timeline: March 1, 1849 Waco Village is founded; August 29, 1856 the City of Waco incorporates; April-May 1865 the Civil War is over. In 1866, the year before construction began on the Suspension Bridge, the Waco Medical Association was founded.

John Sears was born in Virginia in 1826, went to the University of Virginia, then medical school at South Carolina Medical College, graduating in 1852. He moved to Texas, opening his Waco medical practice in 1854. When the War began, he joined the Confederate Army as a surgeon with the 32nd Texas Cavalry and rose to the rank of Major. On war’s end in 1865, he returned to his Waco practice and partnered with Dr. D.R. Wallace, and over the next year, they and eight other physicians organized the Waco Medical Association, with Dr. Sears the first president at age 40 in 1866, as well as in 1868, 1869, 1884, and 1898.

Dr. Sears was a charter member of the Texas Medical Association in 1869, served as TMA president in 1893, and helped bring the 5th annual meeting of the TMA (the first time outside of Houston) to Waco April 8, 1873. That meeting was called to order in the offices of Dr. Sears and Dr. Wallace on the north side of the Square.

Dr. Sears was known as an essayist, a proponent of novel ideas on fever, and a strong worker for organized medicine. All of Dr. Sears’ prescriptions were filled at Jim Sears’ drug store across the Square, as he was the only one who could read Dr. Sears’ writing, including Dr. Sears! He continued his practice of medicine and state and local leadership until his death at 75 in 1901. The work he did set the stage for physicians with vision leading their medical community to greater cooperation and patient health.

Charlie Stern, M.D.

Charlie, a longtime Waco medical leader and past president of the county medical society, was born and raised in Houston. His father was a Jewish German refugee who escaped at 16 and came to the US and went on to serve in the US army in WW II. This experience cultivated in their family a strong respect and compassion for all people, regardless of background, which still permeates Charlie’s commitment to his patients today. Dr. Stern went to UT undergrad, UT SA for med school, then SW Memorial in Houston for residency. After his chief resident year, he taught as faculty for three years in the program there before he chose to come to Waco in 1992 to join the Scott and White clinic.

The lead trumpeter in the Waco Jazz Orchestra, Charlie is married to Dr. Sharon Stern, the medical director of the Baylor University Health Center. In addition to his daily work as a family physician, he is the Quality and Safety Director for the BSW Family Medicine Department, and focuses on implementing team-based person-centered care best practices in their clinics that enhance the patient experience and the quality and cost-effectiveness of the care, and also developing and integrating primary care redesign innovations that enhance the joy of the practice environment for physicians and care team members.

What do you hope to see happen in the future in Waco?

We need to build on a strong foundation. I would like us to develop collaborative integrated initiatives that promote community wellness and disease prevention, foster better medication safety, help patients navigate the complexities of the medical system and support whole person value-based comprehensive care.

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

“A good physician treats the disease the patient has. A great physician treats the patient who has the disease.” – Sir Willam Osler. Honor and enjoy the relationships that you have with your patients and your colleagues while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

If you would like more background on Charlie’s dad, you can go to You Tube and search for the “The Life and Times of Herb Stern.” Part of his story was published in “Tattooed on My Soul,” a book by Baylor Oral History Professor Dr. Sloan. 

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