Leading the way
There was never really an “aha moment” for Susan Rudd Bailey, MD, that led her to becoming a physician. Rather, it was a common issue that many in Texas seem to deal with that set her on the path to being an allergist.
“I had terrible allergies and asthma as a child, and our allergists were almost a part of the family,” Bailey said. “I grew up in the shadow of the Texas Medical Center in Houston and had many friends whose fathers (sadly, it was always fathers) were physicians, and that was a comfortable environment for me even though there were none in my family. I was always interested in biology and chemistry, and working at McGovern Allergy Clinic through college and medical school breaks, it was just a natural progression for me.”
Bailey, who is a 1981 graduate of the Texas A&M College of Medicine, is an allergist in private practice in Fort Worth, Texas, and she was a pace-setter from the start. The 1981 class was the charter class for the College of Medicine, and Bailey was the first woman accepted to the college.
She was also the first member of her family to don the maroon and white of Texas A&M, colors in sharp contrast to the purple and white that had long been a staple in her family.
“One of the reasons I applied to Texas A&M as an undergraduate was hearing about the new medical school. There were no Aggies in my family of Texas Christian University Horned Frogs,” Bailey said. “I had great faith in the educational stature and integrity of Texas A&M. The Texas A&M College of Medicine did not open until the end of my junior year, and I had the honor of being the first woman accepted. That’s just because I was the only woman in the first group of five students, but it is still pretty awesome.”
It wasn’t the only time that Bailey would be at the forefront at Texas A&M. In 1999 she was appointed to The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents by then Gov. George W. Bush, marking the first time a female former student had held the position.
Serving as a regent for her alma mater was just the start of a long line of service for the Distinguished Alumnus of Texas A&M and the College of Medicine. Bailey was the 145th president of the Texas Medical Association (TMA), served as speaker and vice speaker of the TMA’s House of Delegates, chaired the TMA’s delegation to the AMA’s House of Delegates, and chaired the TMA Council on Communication and the TMA and AMA Medical Student sections.
She is currently the president-elect of the American Medical Association (AMA), and will officially take office in June 2020. Bailey will be the third consecutive woman to hold the office for one of the largest medical associations in the country.
When asked what advice she had for anyone pondering a career in medicine, Bailey said, “Medicine is a magnificent calling, and anyone—female or male—who hears that calling should not be afraid to pursue it. Never, ever give up. You can have it all—but you probably can’t have it all at the same time.”