How does a medical center that started in Dallas almost eight decades ago become a globally renowned institution? Thanks to the visionaries and families who supported our mission, Southwestern Medical Foundation has helped establish a standard of medical excellence in our region, a transformation that would not have been possible without the unwavering support of our donors and advocates.

As we enter this season of giving, our hearts are full of gratitude for those who have invested in sustaining and inspiring medicine in the Southwestern U.S.

Our story began in Dallas in the late 1800s. While the fledgling city was a booming center of commerce, it was still struggling to establish a legitimate medical community.

Science-based medicine was in its infancy. Without prominent research to inform medical treatment, the average life expectancy was just 47 years and infections such as pneumonia, influenza, and tuberculosis were leading causes of death. While there were several doctors practicing, many lacked proper training medical licenses, leading to the region being called a “medical wilderness.”

The year 1890 marked a turning point for Dallas, as eighteen-year-old Edward H. Cary arrived in the city to work with his brother in the medical supply business. He quickly fell in love with the vibrance of Dallas, but due to his poor eyesight, he moved to New York to pursue a medical education in ophthalmology at Bellevue Hospital Medical College. While he was away, Dallas was rapidly growing its medical facilities with the establishment of Parkland Hospital and its first medical school, the University of Dallas Medical Department, was formed.

In 1901, Dr. Cary returned to Dallas; an unexpected visit that would change the course of the city’s history forever. Soon, the city’s future became intertwined with the career of Dr. Edward Cary, whose success and vision would foster the basis for a bold new direction in medical education and research.

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Upon arrival in Dallas, Dr. Cary was asked to teach at the University of Dallas Medical Department. After six short months, he was named dean.

Beyond reforming the medical school’s processes and enforcing a stricter, quality-focused methodology, Dr. Cary improved Dallas’ medical landscape by leading the city in several milestones such as establishing the Medical Arts Building and hospital and opening the second Parkland Hospital.

Dr. Cary was led by his vision: “Why not a great medical center in the Southwestern U.S.?”

This vision became compelling to others in the community, who shared this dream and drove the success of a new medical center which would not only improve, but also transform the city’s health.

In 1939, with the support of leading philanthropist Karl Hoblitzelle, the charter for Southwestern Medical Foundation was created, allowing for the ownership and facilitation of a new medical center benefitting the Southwest region.

“…this is but the seed of a visionary ideal. From it, in time, will spring the steel, concrete and stone of a great city of mercy where haven may be found by all.”

-Karl Hoblitzelle, Co-founder of Southwestern Medical Foundation, upon signing the charter

However, this was but the beginning of an uphill battle to acquire and sustain funding for the Foundation. Dr. Cary and Mr. Hoblitzelle estimated that as much as $25 million would need to be raised for the center. Against the backdrop of World War II and rapidly growing health care needs of the region, the quest to establish a world-class medical center seemed daunting.

Despite setbacks and hurdles, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees and community leaders accepted the challenge to fundraise to bring their vision to life. In 1943, Southwestern Medical College was established.

“Gentlemen, we have succeeded. Southwestern Medical College is now a reality. All that remains is to make the school the finest in the country, and that job is up to all of us.”

-Edward H. Cary, M.D., Founder of Southwestern Medical Foundation and Southwestern Medical College

Today, Southwestern Medical College, now UT Southwestern Medical Center, enjoys an international reputation for discovering the basis for disease through research, applying those discoveries to the clinical care of patients, and educating the next generation of health care professionals.

Through the efforts of our community’s leading philanthropists and visionaries, the Foundation helped transform the Southwest region from a “medical wilderness” to one of the leading medical regions in the world.

“It is especially remarkable that so much of what was imagined many years ago has come to pass: A sprawling medical campus designed for research, education and clinical care. It all started with a vision. Vision matters.”

-Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D., President of UT Southwestern

With guidance from trustees, donors, and innovative leaders, the Foundation continues to connect the vision of donors with highly innovative programs, serving as a sustainable funding source for leading-edge research, medical education, and patient care.

Today, an historical marker stands on the site of Southwestern Medical College, as a reminder of the extraordinary journey that it took to build medicine and in doing so, the economy of the Southwestern U.S.


Southwestern Medical Foundation and Southwestern Medical College (now UT Southwestern Medical Center) were recognized with an historical marker placed by the Texas Historical Commission on Wednesday, December 12, 2018.


“Southwestern Medical Foundation represents a remarkable journey that began with a grand vision to build a great medical center. We work each day to steward and inspire this vision forward.”

-Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation

During this season of thanks, we pause to remember visionaries and leaders who saw the opportunity for their vision and took action. We remain grateful for each of the generous hearts who have invested in this worthy vision.

Thank you for inspiring our progress and joining with us for the journey ahead.