Graduate Fulfills Heart’s Desire by Helping Others in Need

William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, president of UT Health San Antonio; Ruth Berggren, M.D., director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics; Robert Rodriguez, M.D., Ph.D., interim dean of the Long School of Medicine; Marvin Forland, M.D., founding faculty member and former associate dean for clinical affairs; and Carlos R. Jaén, M.D., Ph.D., chair and professor of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, honor James L. Holly, M.D., (third from right) as a founding member of the school’s Aesculapian Laureate Society.

By Salwa Choucair

As any good storyteller knows, every story should both teach and motivate. The life story of Dr. James L. Holly, 1973 UT Health San Antonio alumnus, is riddled with lessons from which everyone can learn.

“I’m a storyteller,” says Dr. Holly, founder and CEO of Southeast Texas Medical Associates, L.L.P., (SETMA) a multispecialty group in Beaumont. “For whatever reason, God placed in my heart the desire to help people and to look for opportunities to help them in the most humble circumstances.”

With four decades of experience, Dr. Holly continues to see his role as a physician student, servant and advocate for health care transformation. Never one to shy away from controversy, he has been a vocal proponent of civil justice and equal rights.

Dr. James L. and Carolyn Holly

“I want to change how health care is delivered in America,” said the father of two and the grandfather of eight. “I want people who have nothing to be able to have everything they need. I believe health care is not a civil right or a right of citizenship. It is a human right. I would give health care to anyone, anywhere, at any time.”

Dr. Holly spent 22 years in private medical practice before founding SETMA. The practice has grown to six locations and 45 health care providers. He and his colleagues have been on the forefront of health care transformation when it comes to electronic patient records, electronic patient management, population health, analytics and systems development.

Born in Louisiana, Dr. Holly learned to be compassionate by watching his father who he remembers paying a stranger’s electricity bill. At age 18 as a college student, he paid the dental expenses of a fellow student with severely decayed teeth.

At 72, Dr. Holly met a hotel clerk 750 miles from Beaumont. Dr. and Mrs. Holly paid $19,000 to restore her dental health which has changed her life.
“These are the bookends of a life that has been spent looking for opportunities to help other people,” said Dr. Holly. “I hope my stories motivate others to think about helping others, even and maybe especially strangers. In learning the discipline of giving, I have learned the value of a gift is not its monetary value; it’s what it cost you. If you can only give $5, give $5. Learn the discipline of giving and you will spend a lifetime changing the lives of others.”

Married to Carolyn Bellue for 52 years, Dr. Holly was honored by the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine in 2012 as the Distinguished Alumnus, and in 2016, he was honored by his undergraduate alma mater, Northwestern State University, as its Distinguished Alumnus as well.

This year Dr. Holly was named one of two founding members of the Long School of Medicine’s Aesculapian Laureate Society. The new society recognizes alumni who have given more than $1 million to the medical school.

While he encourages fellow alumni to give back to the schools and faculty that have made such a difference in their lives, he leads by example.

“We all have a debt of gratitude to those who have made a difference in our lives. No matter how much you paid for your education, the economic value, the return on your investment, is so much more than what you paid. You have a debt of gratitude to your professors, your school and even to your fellow alumni.

“You exercise the gift of giving and you learn the discipline of giving by starting with small amounts and then by increasing your gifts as you grow. Winston Churchill set the standard for us when he said, ‘You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.’ ”

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In the 2017 issue of Future

Future is the official magazine of the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our medical alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

View the 2017 issue

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