When Dr. Edward Cary came to Dallas in 1890, no one could have predicted the immense impact he would have on both the city and modern medicine. His sheer determination that Dallas should have a top-tier medical school made UT Southwestern Medical Center possible.
Dr. Cary’s life started in Alabama, where he attended Union Springs Academy. He began experiencing eye trouble as a young man and became fearful he might go blind. At age 18, Dr. Cary came to Dallas to work for his brother who ran a medical and dental supply business. But his dream was to become an ophthalmologist. Frustrated by the quality of Texas medicine, Dr. Cary left to study at Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City. It was there that he was fit with glasses that, for the first time, corrected his troubling eye condition.
After graduating in 1898, Dr. Cary planned to permanently settle in New York. However, the death of his brother caused a return to Dallas in 1901 so he could care for his elderly mother. Dr. Cary believed the stay would be short-term, but his practice flourished because there were few qualified ophthalmologists in the city.
Soon he was invited to teach at the new University of Dallas Medical Department (the chosen name of the fledgling medical school, though at the time a University of Dallas had not been established). Six months later Dr. Cary was appointed Dean. At an American Medical Association (AMA) meeting, he heard a presentation that predicted any medical school not associated with a university would perish. This encouraged him to approach Baylor University and from that partnership Baylor University College of Medicine was established in 1903. Dr. Cary retained his position as Dean and received an honorary LL.D. degree from Baylor in 1916.
Following World War I, he stepped down as Dean to pursue building the first skyscraper in Dallas. The 18-story Medical Arts Building was completed in 1923 and contained 300 physicians’ offices, a small hospital, and operating rooms. Several years later, Dr. Cary was elected President of the AMA.
Even with these accomplishments, he never gave up his vision that Dallas should have an exceptional medical school. In 1939, Dr. Cary, Karl Hoblitzelle, and other civic leaders founded the Southwestern Medical Foundation. Today, it remains the most significant philanthropic partner of UT Southwestern.
When Baylor University College of Medicine moved to Houston, Dr. Cary and other Foundation trustees became determined Dallas would continue to have a medical school. Southwestern Medical College was formed in 1943. Although the medical school emerged during World War II, its first class graduated in 1944. Five years later, under Dr. Cary’s leadership, Southwestern Medical College became part of the University of Texas system.
In addition to founding UT Southwestern, Dr. Cary was one of the founders of the Dallas Historical Society. He also helped found and led the National Physicians Committee. In 1945, Dr. Cary was presented the Linz award as an outstanding citizen of Dallas. In 1947, on his 75th birthday, a scholarship fund was established in his name at UT Southwestern.
The Medical Center’s first permanent building, Basic Science Hall, was renamed the Edward H. Cary Building in his honor. One of the six academic colleges at UT Southwestern Medical School also is named in his honor. Additionally, the Southwestern Medical Foundation established the Cary Council, which is dedicated to creating a greater awareness of the mission of the Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern.