The Pro Bene Meritis Award is the highest honor bestowed by the College of Liberal Arts. It is given each spring to alumni, faculty and friends of the college who are committed to the liberal arts, who have made outstanding contributions in professional or philanthropic pursuits, or who have participated in service related to the college.
Dr. Frazier is an internationally acclaimed cardiovascular surgeon whose work in developing heart assist devices and cardiac transplants has transformed cardiovascular care. He was the first to implant each of the six heart assist devices most often used in patients today, all of which were developed in his research lab. He has now implanted more heart devices than anyone else in the world and done more heart transplants than anyone in history — nearly 1,300. He holds concurrent leadership positions at the Texas Heart Institute and St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital.
FULL NAME: O. Howard Frazier
B.A., History, 1963
HOMETOWN: Stephenville, Texas
CUTTING IT CLOSE: By the time I was a senior, I still hadn’t decided on which direction I wanted to go for my career. By process of elimination (and through the influence of Anton Chekov who was a doctor and wrote often about doctors) I decided on medicine, but because my history major hadn’t required any of the prerequisites for medical school I had to take them all in a year. One semester I had to take over 33 hours, but I made it.
APPLY YOURSELF: I was interviewed for entrance into the Baylor College of Medicine by the head of the admissions committee, a famous physiologist named Hebbel Hoff. And rather than asking me about my motivations for going to medical school, he asked me what other important events had occurred on July 4th. I responded, “Well, it’s a historical accident that Presidents Jefferson and Adams, both of whom were important in drafting the Declaration of Independence, died on the same July 4th, 50 years after the Declaration was signed. And everyone thinks the Battle of Gettysburg ended on July 3rd, but it was really July 4th when General Lee left the field—the same day Pemberton surrendered at Vicksburg.” Dr. Hoff then shut my folder and said, “If you want to come to Baylor, you can.”
LIBERAL ARTS ADVANTAGE: Medicine is a soft art at best. It’s best described as an applied art. It is born by the metaphysical need of man to care for his infirmed and disabled fellows. It’s still based on statistics and conjecture. And I think that my training in history and English helped me to develop the passion to become a physician and helped me to define the passion to do something meaningful with my life.