Honoring Dr. Robert Austin, founder of Texas Children’s Community Cares Program

October 31, 2023 | (18) Comments

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve as a guest blogger for On The Mark as we honor the founder of Texas Children’s Community Cares Program, Dr. Robert F. Austin, who passed away earlier this year. Dr. Austin left his mark on Texas Children’s, our entire community and so many of you — it is my honor to tell his story and share how Texas Children’s is honoring his legacy.

I can remember interviewing for my pediatric residency as if it was yesterday. I was incredibly excited but also very nervous because, on my way to Houston from California, my luggage happened to get lost along the way. When I entered my interview, the first thing I said to Dr. Ralph Feigin, who was Physician-in-Chief at the time, was an apology that I didn’t have a suit because it had stayed in my luggage. He laughed and responded, “Don’t you hate when that happens?”

His humble and gracious acceptance of my dilemma was the first sign that Texas Children’s was a very special place to be. Since that day, I’ve remained immensely grateful to Dr. Feigin because, after my interview, he invited me to meet Dr. Robert Austin, the physician who would become one of the most important and influential people in my life.

While I maintained a close relationship with Dr. Austin after our initial meeting, my career at Texas Children’s actually started in a different area than his. I spent about three years working in retrovirology and one day while I was caring for patients in Botswana, I received a call from Dr. Austin. He told me he had a project coming up that he thought I would be a great fit for and asked me to give him a call when I got back home. I didn’t know it then, but that very phone call would set the path for the rest of my career.

Dr. Austin introduced me to Project Medical Home, which is now known as Community Cares. He said he wanted this to be a place where every child could receive more than just medical care. It would be a place where they would have seamless access to resources they may not even know are available to them. He wanted this program to be a home for patients where they felt safe and secure, and as he spoke, every word he used to describe this project also described my true passion and a calling I was more than ready to answer.

Dr. Austin developed Community Cares because he believed that children are our most valuable resource. His undeniable commitment to serving all who need help, and his ability to be an advocate for the underserved, not only made a profound impact on how Texas Children’s Pediatrics provides care to those most in need — it also made a profound impact on me.

Throughout his life, Dr. Austin showed me the true art of medicine and how to care for patients from all backgrounds. He taught me that every family has a story and as physicians, it’s a privilege to listen. Dr. Austin showed me how to take the tools I’m given and make them accessible to everyone. He taught me how to provide family-centered care and truly connect with the family as a whole.

Dr. Austin’s advice, life lessons and invaluable mentorship have undoubtedly made me the physician — and person — I am today.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to come together with Mr. Wallace, my Texas Children’s colleagues and Dr. Austin’s family to honor Dr. Robert F. Austin by naming the very first Community Cares Site after him. Now, his tremendous legacy and the program he founded will continue to impact more and more families under his namesake for years to come.

Dr. Austin will never stop being my mentor — the lessons I learned while under his wing will stay with me forever. He lived his life to the fullest, he never met a stranger and he served his community with the biggest heart until the day he passed. I owe so much to his inspirational leadership, and I sincerely hope that I can carry the torch he held for so long and make him proud.

Desiree Lynell Evans, MD, MPH, FAAP
Texas Children’s Pediatrics

18 Responses to “Honoring Dr. Robert Austin, founder of Texas Children’s Community Cares Program”

  1. Chelsea Taylor

    Dr. Austin was my son’s pediatrician at the TCP office on Fannin before he left to continue his great care for patient’s at the Community Cares site. I remember being sad that he was leaving the practice where my son was a patient of his but yet very excited for him at the same time. He was so very nice and an awesome pediatrician to my son. That was a little over 26 years ago but yet I remember it like it was yesterday.

  2. Thomesa Wilson

    Dr. Austin truly left an amazing legacy indeed. I am so happy to have had the privilege of sharing moments and space with him. I am even more proud to have been a part of the Community Cares family for nearly 15 years now serving the beautiful children in our communities with great joy and compassion. I see Dr. Austin’s torch being carried highly and with great honor by yourself Dr. Evans, as well as Community Care Physicians such as Doctors Babineaux, Mitchell, Ogbuehi, Joyner and others. Your dedication and service will continue to have a lasting impression on generations for years to come.

  3. Karen Hill, MD, MBA

    Dr. Austin was very influential in my career and also my husband’s (Dr. Chester Brown). He was an incredible Physician/Pediatrician and advocate for the less fortunate, particularly patients of color. He is one of the reasons I have dedicated my career to serving the Medicaid population. What a wonderful tribute! I know he is smiling from heaven. He will be missed.

  4. Patricia Coleman Anderson

    I met Dr. Austin when I moved to Houston in 1985 along with Mrs. Austin (then Joan Perry)! They have been an influence in not just my life but also my two (now adult) children! Fast forward to TCH/TCP, I was honored to assist him with each of the manuscripts regarding our Project Medical Home/Community Cares Program. He was insistent on sharing the program to not just local and state, but to a national audience! I share the pride in our Community Cares program that he laid the foundation down as it continues to grow. With pride, we take care of ALL CHILDREN, regardless of their ability to pay!! He was definitely a hero in my life that will be missed!! Yesterday’s celebration was a reminder of all of the lives he touched and mentored!!! He was a great man!!!

  5. Lakaesha Elliott-Reed

    Thank you tremendously Dr. Evans for sharing this amazing tribute! I am certain that he is smiling down, as you are carrying the torch with pride, excellence, and honor. Great leadership in addition to excellent mentorship, mean everything. I would like to say thank you to Dr. Austin’s family for sharing him with us, our communities, as well as families. Thank you again Dr. Evans for all that you have done and will continue to do!

  6. Frank Stowell

    Dr. Evans,
    This was a wonderful tribute from one outstanding human being to another. I am so pleased to learn that Texas Children’s is honoring Dr. Austin in this respectful way. He was indeed an incredible gentleman and he and Dr. Feigin clearly had a strong influence on you. Thank you for carrying the torch. You have been doing an incredibly admirable job.

  7. Monique McKnight

    Dr. Austin was intricately involved in my life from the time I expressed my interest in becoming at physician at age 14. He was my family, father-figure, and mentor. He always made sure to check in with me throughout my educational life as well as my career contributing pearls of wisdom as well as financial support. Although, my journey took me to several locations that put distance between us, he continued to make sure I stayed on track with my goal always encouraging me to go further and dig deeper.
    We always shared the same goal of servicing our community.
    Thus, we were both elated when I joined the Texas Children’s team at the Center for Children and Women four short years ago. I finally felt that it was here that I would indeed make him proud and represent him well. I told him that I would do my best to enhance his dream of caring for ALL the children of our community by providing excellent service to ALL the mother’s of our community while “his” children were still growing in the womb.
    There really aren’t any words to express what the world gained when Dr. Austin was born nor what the world lost with his passing. Although I will miss our visits, I know that he will continue to guide me and do his routine check-ins from his heavenly realm. Not only was he an exemplary role model, he was a wonderful manifestation of humanity wrapped in kindness, wisdom, and love. He was simply…one of a kind!!! I will be forever grateful to him and he will be forever missed by many…especially me.

  8. Carla M. Davis

    Dr. Austin was a mentor and role model for me as an intern and resident at Texas Children’s. He always encouraged me to listen to the patient and had a humble, caring demeanor. It warms my heart that he is being honored in this way by TCH. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, Dr. Evans!

    I am so glad his mission is still being carried out through Community Cares.

  9. Kristiana Valsin

    Dr. Austin was my child’s doctor and he was so kind and humble. Dr. Austin took his time to listen to your questions or/and your concerns. My daughter has sicle cell diease and he was such a advocate and support to us and that was over 30 years ago. Dr. Austin will never be forgotten.

  10. Paul Minifee

    Dr. Austin was wonderful in his roles as a general pediatrician for all children and hematologist for many patients with Sickle Cell Disease. He elevated all around him and was very supportive of my career in pediatric surgery.

    Paul Minifee MD

  11. Tyeshia Babineaux, MD

    What a beautiful memory and honor of Dr. Austin! I remember joining the Project Medical Home family (now Community Cares Program) as my 1st job immediately after residency. For the first few years of my career, Dr. Austin would come to our Community Cares meetings regularly and encourage us to continue to serve our community in the special way afforded to us. He brought the data! And he clearly illustrated our direct impact on the community. It was an honor to know and learn from Dr. Austin. I continue to serve in Community Cares because of his vision!

  12. Cheryl Hardin, MD

    Dr. Evans, this is a beautiful & very fitting tribute for Dr. Robert Austin. His undeniable legacy and mentorship has impacted many children, families, learners and colleagues. His legacy of Excellence through Community Cares and Texas Children’s shall continue to be a Force for Good.

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