He could have gone to Yale, but there was something about UT Southwestern Medical Center that drew Dr. Jack Pritchard to Dallas in 1955. A native of Ohio, Dr. Pritchard became the youngest Chair of an Obstetrics and Gynecology Department in the nation. His insistence on dignity and excellence in clinical care, eye for detail, and honest, straightforward approach earned him the respect of those he mentored and inspired generations of physicians.
During the Great Depression, Dr. Pritchard and his family struggled. In 1938, he entered Ohio Northern University to study pharmacy, which was one of the few professions where jobs were still available. Although his studies did not include formal premedical coursework, Dr. Pritchard fatefully chose to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). A registrar at Case Western Reserve University was unwilling to accept an applicant who did not have premed training, but the Dean of the medical school saw Dr. Pritchard’s MCAT scores and insisted the young man be admitted.
Following military service during World War II, Dr. Pritchard began an obstetrics and gynecology residency at University Hospitals of Cleveland. During this time, he noticed blood drawn from a pregnant woman with eclampsia had hemolyzed. It was the first step in his research that ultimately led him to use magnesium sulfate instead of morphine to treat eclamptic convulsions. This method would be adopted worldwide and save the lives of countless women and their babies.
Less than a year after completing his residency, Dr. Pritchard joined the UT Southwestern faculty as Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1955. He established standardized care for every pregnant woman at Parkland Memorial Hospital and began creating a coordinated network of community-based prenatal and family planning clinics in the underserved areas of the city. His efforts became known as “The Parkland Way.” He became the first UT Southwestern faculty member to hold the Gillette Professorship of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
At the end of the 1960s, he was asked to become the senior author/editor of the seminal Williams Obstetrics and eventually moved the obstetrical textbook from Johns Hopkins to UT Southwestern. For many years he wrote and edited the textbook, making a significant impact on the way women’s health care was practiced worldwide. Dr. Pritchard also trained several UT Southwestern physicians who became his co-authors and also served as authors and editors on later editions. One of them was Dr. Gary Cunningham who succeeded Dr. Pritchard as senior author and editor in 1985.
After 15 years as Chair, Dr. Pritchard resigned in 1970. He continued to be Chief of Obstetrics at Parkland, where he delivered the first set of surviving Texas quintuplets in 1975. That same year an Endowed Professorship in Obstetrics and Gynecology (now an Endowed Chair) was established in his name. Although Dr. Pritchard retired as a full-time faculty member in 1985, he continued to work at Parkland until 1990. During Dr. Pritchard’s final month at the hospital, a new intern, Dr. Steven Bloom, was assigned to his service. Dr. Bloom went on to become Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Upon his official retirement, Dr. Pritchard became a Professor Emeritus at UT Southwestern and an Ashbel Smith Professor Emeritus of the University of Texas System. Today his legacy lives on with one of the six academic colleges at UT Southwestern Medical School being named after him.
Steven Bloom, M.D., holds the Jack A. Pritchard, M.D. Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Gary Cunningham, M.D. holds the Beatrice and Miguel Elias Distinguished Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology.