Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

The Exemplary Career of Dr. Ciro V. Sumaya

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

The Exemplary Career of Dr. Ciro V. Sumaya

Article excerpt

Below the complimentary close of his e-mails, Dr. Ciro V. Sumaya offers a saying that he himself coined: "The health of one is admirable; the health of all, supreme." Sumaya believes that while a common physician performs an important service when healing an individual who is ill, it is the physician who is equipped with public health skills and principles who can protect the health of the masses.

Sumaya has been protecting the health of a large portion of the U.S. population for his entire professional life, from a stint as a general medical officer during the Vietnam War to his time serving under President Bill Clinton at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Currently he is protecting health at the School of Rural Public Health at Texas A&M University System Health Science Center.

Born and raised in Brownsville, Texas, Sumaya was always fascinated by books. He spent countless hours reading in the library, especially topics related to history and biographies. Moreover, his parents had a sizable collection of books at his childhood home. He attended public schools and graduated as class valedictorian from Brownsville High School in 1959.

"In high school," he said, "I won the Texas Interscholastic League competition in typing - a skill that has been very useful, and I was elected president of the senior class."

Sumaya attended Texas Southmost College in Brownsville for three semesters before transferring to the University of Texas-Austin in the fall of I960, where he graduated, in 1962, Phi Beta Kappa and with high honors. After graduation, he entered the University of Texas Medical Branch throu an accelerated three-year program, earning his medical degree in 1966.

He immediately went into family medicine, taking a rotating internship at Los Angeles County General Hospital, affiliated with the University of Southern California. After completing that internship, he was drafted and served in the U.S. Air Force as a general medical officer at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri for two years, during the Vietnam War.

For reasons he does not understand to this day, Sumaya was always interested in becoming a physician. But his health as a child may have played a small role in his choice to practice pediatrics.

"I was considered a sickly child and was taken to the physician often because I was pretty thin back then," he says. His choice to care for children as a physician was cemented during his stint in the Air Force, where he was assigned to the pediatrie department of the air base medical unit.

"There I met Dr. George Segal, an individual who helped broaden my -vision of my future professional life. Segal fostered my interest in pediatrics. He had just finished his residency at a children's hospital, and he steered me into competing for a pediatrie residency position at his alma mater, St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania," he says.

St. Christopher's, long considered a prestigious institution by the medical community, selected Sumaya for the residency. And it was during that residency that he developed a strong desire to seek more specialized training as a pediatrie infectious disease subspecialist. He received that training through a fellowship in pediatrie infectious diseases at the Tulane University School of Medicine, under the tutelage of Dr. Margaret H.D. Smith.

"This fellowship required that I obtain a concurrent public health degree at the Tülane University School of Public Health. I questioned the need for this additional public health degree without realizing how important public health would be later in my professional fife," he says.

Sumaya ended up putting that public health degree he questioned to good use, first at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) and then for the federal government. At UTHSCSA, he established some vital programs - the South Texas Health Research Center, the Area Health Education Center of South Texas and the Medical Treatment Effectiveness Research Center. …

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