Aug, 3, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 31



Dr. McFee retires after 34 years

Portrait of Dr. McFee DR. MCFEE

Dr. Arthur S. McFee says if you take $160 million and throw it into a field, you "grow quite an impressive estate." Certainly that's enough money to erect a good set of windows and walls, but to truly build a medical dynasty, you need people like Dr. McFee. He's been with the Health Science Center since its inception. On Aug. 31, he retires.

Dr. McFee arrived at what was the South Texas Medical School in 1967. "There were no students," he said. "The parking lot was full of deer and the occasional rattlesnake. The only thing we could do was grow, and we did."

Dr. McFee began as an assistant professor, eventually working his way to his current position as head of general surgery. He served as chairman of the operating committee for about two decades, and his colleagues say he's been instrumental in facilitating relations between the university, University Hospital and the hospital district.

He also was indispensable to Dr. J. Bradley Aust, former department of surgery chair. The two met at the University of Minnesota. Dr. McFee was completing his residency and Dr. Aust was impressed with his work. When Dr. Aust transferred to San Antonio, he decided to bring Dr. McFee with him. "I followed his development as a resident, and when he was finished I offered him an opportunity," Dr. Aust said. "He's been an outstanding surgical educator and faculty member, and I've been honored to have him as a colleague. He's been my right-hand man."

But Dr. McFee jokes that Dr. Aust wasn't as interested in Dr. McFee's surgical skills as he was in the administrative abilities of his wife. Dr. Aust recruited Iris McFee to serve as his administrator with Dr. McFee on his team. "She was the only one who had significant experience running a clinical department," Dr. McFee says. "She knew what it was all about." Iris retired in 1994 after 27 years in the department of surgery.

Together, the couple helped nurture an idea into reality. "That has been the most fun — building. I expected it to grow, but I didn't expect it to become the economic dynamo that it is," Dr. McFee said.

With his medical service complete, Dr. McFee says he'll visit England with his wife, and spend some time at their vacation home in New Mexico. He also plans to volunteer his time with both patients and students. "It's always fun to teach students," Dr. McFee said. "We train very capable people who have good minds and can think their way through." And that's what a lot of people say about Dr. McFee — a man with a good mind, who saw the Health Science Center through three decades of change.