Memory of longtime TCOM faculty member honored with endowed scholarship
By Steven Bartolotta
UNT Health Science Center recently celebrated the Dr. T. Eugene Zachary Endowed Scholarship with family and friends of the longtime Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine faculty member.
The scholarship will be used to assist third and fourth-year students in the Rural Osteopathic Medicine Education Program, better known as ROME, a program that Dr. Zachary was instrumental in getting off the ground and running.
A native Texan
A native of West Texas, Dr. Zachary graduated from North Texas State University before earning his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from the Kansas City College of Osteopathy and Surgery. After a year as an intern in Dallas, he moved to Richardson, Texas, just outside the city.
In 1960, Richardson was a small rural community, and Dr. Zachary was the town’s doctor. As team physician for Richardson High School, he took care of student-athletes from the football team, basketball, baseball, softball and more.
He flourished in Richardson until 1980 when he joined the faculty at TCOM, which was beginning to outgrow the darkened bowling alley image that had served as its home for the first few years of the college.
Dr. Zachary worked in the Department of Family Medicine and became the Dean in 1984, a position he would hold until 1990. In 1988, Dr. John Bowling, a rural physician from southern Ohio, arrived at TCOM. Together, the men would later serve integral roles to birth of the ROME program.
A Mesquite forest
Dr. Zachary was an active member of the Texas Osteopathic Medical Association (TOMA) and rose to be the President of the organization. He held numerous leadership positions in the osteopathic field, including Speaker of the American Osteopathic Association House of Delegates, Speaker of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians Congress of Delegates and the Texas Osteopathic Medical Association House of Delegates. Hous
“He was one of the most passionate people I’ve ever known about osteopathic medicine,” Dr. Bowling said. “He always believed in the profession.”
In time, Dr. Zachary left the Dean’s position and returned to family medicine within TCOM. In the mid-1990s Dr. Bowling was developing a rural track program for third-year students to do their rotations. There was a shortage of family physicians in rural Texas, and TCOM wanted to fill the gap.
It was then that Dr. Zachary, Dr. Bowling and their wives jumped into a car and headed west. Their mission was simple. Recruit DO physicians in outlying rural communities to accept students for their third-year rotations. With Dr. Zachary’s connections throughout Texas, their journey began in Sweetwater, wound its way to Eden and all towns in between.
“It was a strangely beautiful drive, and it was my first glimpse of a true mesquite forest,” Dr. Bowling said with a laugh. The bond was formed and Dr. Zachary’s support for the initiative gave Dr. Bowling the access he needed to recruit doctors to be a part of the new program.
The Family Medicine Rural Track program was created in 1996. Students would do three-month rotations in their third-year in small communities that desperately needed physicians.
“My job would have been a lot harder if Gene wasn’t a facilitator,” Dr. Bowling. “He opened doors and gave the program so much verbal support to everyone he came in contact with in the profession. You couldn’t put value on it. He believed in the program and what we were doing.”
The program was widely successful as more and more communities saw the its benefits. The program morphed into the present day ROME program, which began in 2006. Dr. Bowling was still very much involved, but Dr. Zachary had retired.
Eventually, the growth of the ROME program prompted TCOM to coax Dr. Zachary to return on a part-time basis to the rural faculty, a position he held until his death in 2012.
When he died, the family suggested donations to TCOM in his memory. Those donations formed the seed money when a rural scholarship fund was developed. Dr. Bowling made the final gift to put the fund over the top and create the endowment in his old partner’s name.
Recently, Dr. Zachary’s family, friends and colleagues gathered at UNT Health Science Center to celebrate his life and contributions to rural family medicine and inaugurate the scholarship endowment. His wife of 57 years, Nancy, spoke about his passion for rural medicine and how much he loved the profession he gave so much of his life to. Those who lead ROME today know how much Dr. Zachary contributed to its success.
“It’s an honor for me to be here and have this position,” said Dr. John Gibson, Assistant Dean for Rural Medical Education. “Dr. Zachary did so much for this program, and being in this position is the best way I know how to be involved and give back.”
Dr. Bowling, who also was honored at the celebration, said he considered Dr. Zachary a mentor.
“He meant so much to me personally,” he said. “He was great with the students, and he did so much for the program. It would be one of the biggest honors he could have received in the profession to have his legacy linked to rural family practice.”