The next best thing to being great, it’s been said, is walking next to someone great. I am grateful to have had the chance to meet and get to know the late Dr. Don R. Read, who passed away on March 21, 2019. He was one of our local colorectal surgeons in Dallas, and a great man in many ways.
Dr. Read made his (unfortunate) acquaintance with entomology in 2005 when he was bitten by a mosquito infected with the west Nile virus. He told his story of getting sick, and nearly dying, from the disease many times to the West Nile Virus Survivor’s group he organized and sponsored at the Dallas Medical Center.
In reading his obituary I was struck by how a man who led such an active and productive life could be slowed so dramatically by such a little insect. Shortly after receiving his MD, Dr. Don served an externship with doctors in the bush in Zaire (Congo), bringing medical care to remote and primitive villages. As a young man he served as U.S. Navy surgeon in a forward M.A.S.H. unit in Vietnam, for which he received a Bronze Star. Besides bravery, he demonstrated a big heart for people in need. As president of the Dallas County Medical Society he helped organize Project Access to assist and serve the working poor, and was a local pioneer in programs to treat and rehabilitate medical professionals addicted to drugs or alcohol. His life was marked by a remarkable willingness to serve and engage tirelessly with his profession and his community.
I learned a lot from Dr. Don about the human side of west Nile virus. For me, he became the face of WNV survivors. He also showed me how it’s possible to turn illness and disability into something positive. He talked about the long recovery for everyone who suffered from the neuro-invasive form of the west Nile virus disease. He excelled at encouraging others to share their stories of illness and recovery. After attending many of his survivor group meetings, the inspiration he and his wife Roberta instilled in other survivors was apparent.
Dallas has lost a remarkable man; and I am grateful to have had the chance to know him, even if just a limited acquaintance. In my encounters with him he was always positive and humble, and had a way of making others feel important.
The Dallas County Medical Society notes that “Dr. Read’s outstanding dedication to the practice of medicine and the patients of Texas will be honored by the Texas Medical Association as he receives, posthumously, the TMA Distinguished Service Award at the upcoming TEXMED conference in Dallas in May. He received the Charles Max Cole, MD Leadership Award from the Dallas County Medical Society in 2010.
“He is survived by his adoring wife of 50 years, Roberta, daughters Alison, and Sarah Read (Bob) Gehrenbeck and two grandchildren Henry Read and Theo Don Gehrenbeck. He is also survived by his brother, Nat (Linda) Read. Visitation is scheduled for Friday evening, March 29 at Restland Funeral Home, 13005 Greenville Ave., Dallas. Services will be at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 30 at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church.”
Godspeed Dr. Read.