Kelsey-Seybold Co-founder Helps Clinic Celebrate 60th Anniversary

When Dr. Mavis Kelsey returned to Texas in 1949, he brought with him lessons learned as a World War II flight surgeon and as a mayo clinic resident. Those experiences led to the founding of his own practice — Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. Kelsey-Seybold is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Ed Mayberry reports.

Kelsey-Seybold co-founder Dr. Mavis P. Kelsey lives in retirement here in Houston.  He’s now 96.

“When we started here, we weren’t making any money, and we had to make a living.  I had a half-time job at M.D. Anderson Hospital for 16 years.” 

Dr. Kelsey was the grandson of a country doctor in northeast Texas, and learned about house calls as a child.

“And he’d already retired from practice, but he still had a buggy and a horse, and made [an] occasional house call.  And I rode in the buggy with him sometimes!”

Ed: “What’s the hardest thing in medical school?”

“I think it’s the huge amount of stuff you have to learn.  That’s where a lot of people don’t make it.”

Dr. Kelsey opened his first office in the Texas Medical Center in 1949, pioneering the multi-specialty group practice model in Houston.  He had worked at Scott & White in central Texas and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota with Dr. William Seybold. 

“Well, Dr. Seybold and I went to medical school together and got to be good friends, and then he came to the Mayo Clinic.”

Ed: “The clinic concept — both of you? I mean, it was an idea developed together?”

“There’s a lot of advantages to putting a group of doctors together.  You can have different facilities that you couldn’t have by yourself.  Today, it’s nearly all doctors, are joined in some kind of organization for that very reason.”  

The idea behind Kelsey-Seybold is to combine different medical practices under one roof, as the clinic’s Ann Cook explains.

“I can bring my child to see their Kelsey pediatrician.  I can go for my Well Woman exam.  I can get my lab work done there, so I can get my X-rays. I can get my MRI. I can get everything done in one place.”

Dr. Kelsey expanded the concept as Houston grew.

“Every time we tried something new, there was always ‘some wanted it and some didn’t.’  We had knock-down drag-out fights.  And, I’ll have to admit, usually I won!”

Dr. Kelsey stresses the importance of the doctor-patient relationship.

“I think the most enjoyable, the most gratifying part of my whole career was seeing patients.  And I think we lose that when we limit patients to 15-minute office visits when they really need to spend an hour with the doctor.  We used to think that medicine men — like the Indians had medicine men — we thought they didn’t know a damn thing.  But it turns out that they were as smart as they could be, and they — a lot of times — they took better care of people than we’re taking care of them today!”

Ed: “In what way, because there was interaction?”

“Yeah!  Yeah, interaction.  And we began to realize the psychological aspects.”

Dr. Kelsey still keeps up with medical advancements through professional publications. 

“There’s certain things I’m interested in — mainly whether they infect me or not!  I take, still take three or four medical journals.  For example, this DNA role in medicine — it’s coming into use, and I try to read everything I can find on that.” 

Kelsey-Seybold now has more than 320 doctors in more than 40 specialties practicing in 18 clinics. 

Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

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The photograph was taken by Courtney Middleton Pfleger.

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