The Last Stitch

Born in a log cabin near Houston, Mississippi in 1873, William L. Crosthwait studied medicine at Hospital College of Medicine of Central University in Louisville, Kentucky with a tuition of $100/year. He moved to Texas to practice in Holland, and then moved his practice to Waco in 1911. When he was 83, he and Ernest Fischer wrote a book called “The Last Stitch” in 1956 reviewing his life and 56 years of medical practice, mostly in Waco. The title was based on a threat that it would be his last stitch if his surgical skills failed to save the life of a beloved woman shortly after he began his medical career in Texas. Instead, for saving Aunt Bess, he was paid with a horse named Buck.

Dr. Crosthwait had many adventures, bookended by his leadership of a medical rescue train (financed by William Randolph Hearst) to Galveston in 1900 after the hurricane killed 6-8,000 people, and later serving to help in the Waco tornado disaster May 11, 1953 that killed 114 and injured 597. He served in the military in the Great War in 1917, worked as team physician for the Waco High School Tigers for 35 years, taught medical jurisprudence at Baylor University, was appointed to the State Board of Health, pioneered typhoid vaccination in Texas, treated bubonic plague in the 1920s, and worked for the State Board of Medical Examiners.

He began a family legacy in Waco that continued with his son, Wilson Crosthwait, who attended Baylor Med school, then returned and joined practice with his father as a surgeon. His grandson, Bobby Crosthwait, also attended Baylor for medical school, then returned to Waco and founded Waco’s heart surgery program in 1972 that still is going strong saving lives. Bobby continued the Crosthwait medical legacy until his death in 2005.

John Speckmiear MD

His newest partner, Bill McCunniff (last year’s chief resident at FHC), says “Dr. Speckmiear is one of the most intelligent physicians I have ever met. His ability to balance years of examination skills and experience while staying cutting edge on the newest discoveries and recommendations amazes me. We often have discussions about rare disease entities mentioned once during an immunology or infectious disease lecture which he remembers in vivid detail.”

Roland Goertz (John helped recruit Roland to Waco in 1997) gives a bit of background on John: “John and I go back a long way.  His dad was my great uncle.  He and his dad would deer hunt on our farm and they would come and stay for a week or so each season. John graduated from high school in San Antonio at age 15 or 16, blazed through Trinity University and then completed Baylor Medical College in the three year sequence they once offered.”

John did his residency at UT San Antonio, finishing in 1979. He did an elective at Waco Cardiology in his third year “so that I could learn the lay of the land,” John says. After coming to Waco, he founded the Midway Clinic, which later joined the Hillcrest Family Health Center in 1996. He has been President of Providence medical staff, the MCMERF governing board of the FHC, and a board member of Baylor Scott and White Hillcrest. John also used his background at San Antonio to recruit Shelley Roaten, one of his old faculty at UT San Antonio med school, to come serve as a successful director of the FHC until he was recruited away to be chair of family medicine at UT Southwestern.  I benefited from John’s volunteer teaching at FHC when I did my residency there. He continued to be an effective mentor to me as I built my practice, including sending me patients, and being available to me at a moment’s notice. Through the years, I cannot count the times I have heard his patients and colleagues sing the praises of his humanity, his medical skills, and his friendship.

What do you hope to see happen in the future?

My dream is an impossible delusion – that federal requirements will lessen so I can look patients in the eye for a conversation instead of a computer screen and address their concerns instead of some mandate from the government.

What is one message you’d give to today’s physician?

Keep your body, your soul, and your family relationship healthy. You will need that health to practice effectively. When the practice is over, you will need that health to carry you to the next stage of life.

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