A Giant in Houston's Medical Community Dies

John P. McGovern
Houston's medical community is mourning the loss of a legend. Dr. John P. McGovern died Thursday of complications from pneumonia. As Houston Public Radio's Paul Pendergraft reports, those who worked with Dr. McGovern during his long career, held him in high esteem.

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"A truly great man…not only a superlative physician and scholar and philanthropist and a person of enormous vision and industry."

That's Dr. Richard Wainerdi, the President and CEO of the Texas Medical Center and that comment is typical of those who worked with Dr. McGovern since his arrival to Houston in 1956. At the time, he was pursuing a little understood medical specialty of allergy and immunology. In 1961, he opened The McGovern Allergy Clinic….a small walk-in practice that grew to become the largest allergy clinic in the world. That same year, McGovern started his foundation and today, The McGovern Foundation is valued in excess of 200 million dollars and is one of the largest supporters of medical education. John P. McGovern has been called Houston's Invisible Benefactor but in a recent interview, he bristled when referred to as a philanthropist.

"It's a wonderful word….it means love of mankind. I just didn't particularly like the word. I didn't really want to be labeled a philanthropist, which I got labeled. I wanted to be thought of as a physician, researcher and teacher."

McGovern said he lived by a simple motto. To Serve and To Love and was pleased that his foundation would continue with his mission after his death.

Paul Pendergraft, Houston Public Radio News

John McGovern, M.D.

John McGovern, M.D., is a distinguished American and an internationally noted physician who has been lauded by numerous professional societies, governmental agencies, universities, and foreign countries for his significant medical and scientific contributions. He is the founder of the McGovern Allergy and Asthma Clinic and the President of the Board of the John P. McGovern Foundation. When Dr. McGovern arrived in Houston in 1956, the medical specialty of Allergy and Immunology was little known. McGovern opened his small clinic in 1961 and it grew to become the largest Allergy and Immunology Clinic in the world. He retired in 1986 and began a second career, managing the John P. McGovern Foundation, which has become the largest financial supporter of medical education. The John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center of the Houston Academy of Medicine is recognized as a medical treasure and is sought by medical students and scholars from all around the world. Dozens of buildings bear his name as does a special award given each year by The Harris County Medical Society. The award is called the "John P. McGovern Compleat Physician Award". The first award was given to the namesake and during the presentation, Dr. McGovern was described as a "Renaissance Man in the truest sense of the word." His vision and energy was also noted when the presenter said "McGovern has rekindled the Osler flame locally, nationally and internationally." It is the embodiment of the tradition of Sir William Osler through service that is recognized with this award, as Osler epitomized the harmonious union of science, the humanities and the art of medicine.

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Paul Pendergraft

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Paul Pendergraft is KUHF-Houston Public Radio’s Senior Producer for News & Public Affairs...