Longtime Wichita Falls doctor awarded bachelor’s degree

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Wichita Falls Times Record News

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (AP) — As a subspecialist in infectious diseases, Dr. Robert McBroom Jr. has wrangled and wrestled and communed via microscope with tiny living things.

But, absorbed by his study of little living things, one big thing got past him.

The Wichita Falls Times Record News (http://bit.ly/2hsqkAd ) reports he was at Kell West Regional Hospital when one of the nurses congratulated him on getting his bachelor’s degree.

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“What are you talking about?” he said. “I didn’t know anything about it. . How did you know about it?”

As it turns out, Midwestern State University’s board of regents in August approved a petition for a bachelor’s degree in science submitted on McBroom’s behalf. He received that degree Dec. 17 at Kay Yeager Coliseum during MSU’s winter commencement ceremony.

It’s an honor being bestowed upon McBroom more than four decades after he might have walked the stage with his fellow MSU Indians, now called MSU Mustangs after a mascot change several years ago.

“Bridgette must have had something to with this,” McBroom said of his wife getting the petition process started. “… I never would have.”

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Applying for the degree now just seemed like serendipity.

It was in 2015 when McBroom saw MSU president finalist Suzanne Shipley’s photograph on the television screen, along with an invitation to the community to attend a forum to meet her.

“She looked familiar,” he said and wondered if she was the same Suzanne Shipley he knew back in Lubbock, when his dad, a professor of world literature at MSU, was there working on his doctorate.

“Her brother was my best friend in high school,” he said.

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That’s when McBroom decided to attend the forum and stood up and asked Shipley, who is now the MSU president, “Do you have a brother named Wesley?”

“Oh no! You’re Bob McBroom! This was my first boyfriend . What are you doing now?” she said with a laugh.

It was back in his days at MSU, when the soft-spoken, unassuming doctor was barely 20, that his academic counselors suggested he not finish his bachelor’s degree in science.

“I had done well for two years. My faculty adviser suggested I try and apply (to medical school); I had another year to go. . I never completed my degree at Midwestern and just went on to medical school.”

Four years later, without a bachelor’s degree in hand, McBroom graduated with his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

Not having a bachelor’s degree never seemed to stop McBroom, who went on to specialize in internal medicine, though it’s his subspecialty of infectious diseases that has been of particular interest in the media.

“Even at MSU, I was always fascinated by microbiology,” McBroom said. “I thought about doing a fellowship in infectious diseases.”

It was when the human immunodeficiency virus crisis was building in the 1980s, and when the first cases were emerging in Wichita Falls, that McBroom really started to follow that path to infectious disease specialist.

“No one here wanted to do it,” he said of delving more into HIV. “I devoured everything I could find in the literature. Little by little, I trained myself.”

He ended up writing a monograph — a small, dedicated textbook — on HIV, which was reviewed by Texas Tech.

“They were willing to sponsor a conference here. . It was one of the first conferences of this kind,” he said.

A week later and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center contacted him and offered him a fellowship in its research department.

In his 35 years in infectious medicine, he has seen a little of everything, from the loa loa nematode worm, which causes skin and eye diseases, to malaria cases and dengue, a mosquito-borne tropical disease.

He sees many of those cases of infectious diseases in Sheppard Air Force Base personnel who have traveled overseas to endemic regions.

McBroom has worked for many years with the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District, including on grant-funded HIV studies.

In all those years as a physician, McBroom said other people have suggested he apply to finally receive his bachelor’s degree — something he didn’t think much about.

But not having a bachelor’s degree all these years, he said, has been hard to explain to people.

He won’t have to explain much anymore.

“I was a little bit shy and didn’t want to walk the stage — the oldest guy around a lot of young graduates,” said McBroom.

But with so many years in medicine, it seems time he did just that — walk the stage, receive that degree and continue to make strides studying little living things in the big picture of his life.