The Good Doctors: Clinic honors East Texas docs for good work

Published on Friday, 7 February 2014 23:48 - Written by Rebecca Hoeffner

The committee that chooses the recipients of Bethesda Health Clinic’s annual Doctor Luke Award had to be even more discreet to surprise the winners this year; two of the three winners were Bethesda Clinic’s executive director and his wife.

“I was getting nervous because they hadn’t told me they named anybody,” said Dr. John English, executive director, with a laugh.

When Dr. English and his wife, Dr. Grace English, went to the ceremony where the recipients were announced, the committee told Grace that her husband was chosen, but didn’t mention that she was as well.

“At the event, when they said ‘Grace, you are a recipient as well, I was shocked,” she said with a laugh. “I argued with them for about 10 seconds saying ‘No, you’re honoring John!’ … I was surprised and humbled. Of course we want all the glory to go to the Lord.”

Bethesda Health Clinic is a faith-based nonprofit health clinic that served the working uninsured. The ceremony, in which this year’s winners will be inducted into the Doctor Luke Society, will be held at 6:30 Feb. 22 at Willow Brook Country Club. The dinner is by invitation only. For more information, call Diane Thomason at 903-596-8353, extension 106.

The Doctor Luke Awards, named after Luke, the physician in Biblical times who wrote the book of the Gospel bearing his name, have honored more than 30 doctors who the committee considers “pillars of the medical community” in East Texas since the award began in 2004.

“The Doctor Luke Society honors those whose professional and personal lives reflect Saint Luke’s commitment to respect all persons, his concern for the poor and his hope for God’s mercy and forgiveness for all,” according to the Bethesda Clinic website.

The third honoree is Dr. Don Smith, a retired anesthesiologist.

“One of the things I enjoyed most about being a doctor was making lasting friendships with everybody — patients and medical staff,” he said. “It’s important for an anesthesiologists to show compassionate reassurance so that the patient is emotionally and physically comfortable with the procedure.”

Smith has a litany of stories from his practice; he said the most challenging case was keeping a patient under for 17 hours for a complicated procedure.

“My favorite patient was a teenage boy who needed a leg amputation,” he said. “He was a friendly kid with a big grin who refused to let his amputation be a handicap. He later worked on an oil rig. His coworkers didn’t even know he had a prosthetic.” He said he often would have many patients who were part of the same families.

“That was a really rewarding thing in my practice,” he said.

Smith said he is a financial donor to Bethesda, but now spends his time volunteering with the nonprofit Hospice of East Texas to visit patients.

Grace also works part-time as a doctor for the same hospice, and is founder and board member of Christ-Centered Abortion Recovery of East Texas (C.A.R.E.). She and her husband have been involved in the leadership of Bethesda since the beginnings of the clinic, and John also volunteers as a scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts.