Dr. William W. Turner Jr. and his wife, Rosemary (Toni), recently joined The Heritage Society when they announced a bequest that will establish The William and Rosemary Turner Endowed Fund at Southwestern Medical Foundation. This fund will support medical student scholarships at UT Southwestern Medical School, where Dr. Turner completed his residency in 1977 in general surgery. He has been a member of the faculty for 27 years and, is currently the Master of Sprague College.
Dr. Turner is a Professor in the Division of Gastrointestinal and Acute Care Surgery. He holds the Carla and Paul Bass Professorship in Medical Education Honoring Charles C. Sprague, M.D. and the Alvin Baldwin, Jr. Chair in Surgery.
Choosing UT Southwestern
Dr. Turner and his wife visited and considered three options for general surgery residency before graduation from Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. The last place he visited, UT Southwestern, was by far his first choice.
“I knew within the first 10 minutes that this was the place I wanted to be. There were enormous opportunities for me to grow and to learn.”
Dr. William W. Turner Jr.
After making the decision to come to UT Southwestern, the Turners packed up all their belongings in a small trailer and made their way to Dallas. When the trailer broke down on the road, Mrs. Turner remarked, “I’m sure glad you’re going to be a surgeon – maybe you can fix this trailer too!”
It was Mrs. Turner’s encouragement that guided Dr. Turner to the field of surgery. During medical school, he was interested in becoming an internist and enjoyed its challenges. Dr. Turner said nostalgically, “Luckily my wife was there to say, ‘No, you need to be a surgeon. I’ve never met anyone who likes fixing things as much as you do.’”
During residency, Dr. Turner trained under the late Drs. G. Tom Shires and William J. Fry. Drs. Shires and Robert McClelland, experts in surgery and trauma, were both on duty at Parkland Memorial Hospital when President John F. Kennedy was brought to the hospital.
Falling in Love with Dallas
Following his training, Dr. Turner spent the first 18 years of his academic medical career in Dallas while Mrs. Turner built her career with Delta airlines. Their love for the city’s vibrancy grew over time, and though they moved to Indiana and later to Mississippi accepting new leadership opportunities, they knew that they wanted to someday return to Dallas.
That opportunity to return to Dallas and UT Southwestern came in 2007.
Dr. Turner is an esteemed military veteran, having served in the United States Air Force, Reserve Medical Service Corps five years and in the United States Air Force, Active Duty Medical Service Corps two years. His love for our nation and its educational traditions is evident. Dr. and Mrs. Turner believe deeply in supporting future generations in their pursuit of leading medical education.
“You never know what’s going to excite a medical student or draw them to a certain area of study, and you also cannot identify their potential by socioeconomic status. To us, it’s important that those who work hard have every opportunity possible to join UT Southwestern Medical School. We want the best and the brightest, no matter their circumstances.”
Dr. William W. Turner Jr.
Philanthropy’s Role in Innovation
Dr. Turner remains inspired by the tremendous innovation occurring at UT Southwestern. “We live in a very exciting time. The most impressive step forward I’ve seen is the human genome project, because it helps us understand disease at a very fundamental level. Techniques such as CRISPR Cas9 gene editing technology allow us to unzip a DNA strand, fix an error, and zip it back up. Those are “operations” done as a microscopic level. They are extraordinary.”
He recognizes the unique role that philanthropy has played in enabling innovation in our region. “Southwestern Medical Foundation and its support of endeavors at the medical school enables us to shorten the distance between discovery in the lab and at the bedside to benefit our community,” said Dr. Turner. “I’ve had a sense for a long time that Southwestern Medical Foundation has UT Southwestern’s benefit at its core, and it’s going to take really good care of our investment.”
Within the United States and around the globe, the opportunities to improve our future are plentiful. It is reassuring to find a cause that has great impact and stirs something profound and inspiring. “We have the responsibility to be more than takers from society. I can’t think of a more worthwhile thing than to help people to get educated and to develop their careers in medicine,” said Dr. Turner.
“This beautiful gift is one that signals a commitment to the future. Our community, and UT Southwestern faculty especially, share a deep conviction in the quality and fruit of their investments in education at UT Southwestern. We are honored to partner with Dr. and Mrs. Turner in growing and endowing medical education.
Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO, Southwestern Medical Foundation