Cardiac surgeon Cheung, '81, takes time to give back
By Darla Brown
Edson Cheung, M.D.,’81,
has a long history of philanthropic giving to The University of Texas
Medical School at Houston. He has endowed two scholarships – one
to honor his father-in-law, Daniel H. Lam, who helped make it possible
for him attend medical school, and the other in the name of former
Medical School registrar Betty Murphy.
Now, along with his best friend from his general surgical residency,
David Van Buren, M.D., R ’87, Dr. Cheung is planning a fund-raising venture to honor
a mentor from those formative residency days – James “Red” Duke,
The two former residency buddies were vacationing together last summer in Lake
Tahoe when they hatched the plan.
“We were talking about our medical practices and who influenced us and
the way we treat patients, and Dr. Duke kept coming up,” Dr. Cheung recalls. “Dr.
Duke has been a mentor to me and so many Medical School students – it’s
time we gave something back to him since he has done so much for so many.”
Dr. Duke has been a member of the Department of Surgery since 1972 and holds
the John B. Holmes Professorship in the Clinical Sciences.
“He represents the beginning of the surgery department and he is the face
of medicine in Houston, so it will be a fitting tribute to raise funds to further
the education of surgical residents and Medical School students in Dr. Duke’s
name,” Dr. Cheung explains.
Drs. Cheung and Van Buren are planning to raise at least $200,000 to endow a
scholarship for a Medical School student and a general surgery residency fund.
“Dr. Duke was very committed to residency training throughout my tenure
at UT-Houston, and he remains so. When I came back to the graduate dinner in
the early 1990s, Dr. Duke had committed to take trauma call every third night
to support the residents,” says Dr. Van Buren, who also did a fellowship
in organ transplantation at UT after graduating from the surgery residency program.
It is that dedication that Drs. Van Buren and Cheung want to honor with scholarships
in Dr. Duke’s name.
“He was in his 60s and still so supportive of residents. I was certain
at that time that I was going to do something to support Dr. Duke. Dr. Cheung
and I want to do something for him before he retires,” says Dr. Van Buren,
who is a clinical associate professor of surgery, renal transplantation, at Texas
Tech Covenant Medical Center.
Dr. Cheung, who is a cardiac surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center Dallas,
came to the United States from Hong Kong in 1972 at the age of 17 to attend college
at the University of Houston.
“For a kid like me from Hong Kong, Dr. Duke was so fascinating – the
quintessential Texan. He exemplifies the caring doctor that is not common anymore – the
one who listens and takes care of the patient no matter what,” Dr. Cheung
Dr. Cheung says he recalls doing rounds with Dr. Duke as a surgical resident
in the middle of the night, and Dr. Duke would always make the patients feel
“I remember one patient who complained about the hospital food, and Dr.
Duke had me order him steak and eggs in the middle of the night – that’s
just the kind of caring doctor he is,” Dr. Cheung says.
This compassionate nature is also part of Dr. Cheung’s personality. Having
given two endowed scholarships to support Medical School students, he is the
school’s most prolific alumni donor.
“I think it was just the way I was brought up. When people are good to
you, you pay them back – it’s a cultural thing,” he says, adding
that he has endowed a scholarship at the University of Houston and started a
charitable foundation at Baylor University Medical Center Dallas, where he practices
with fellow UT alumni, Carl Henry, III, M.D., ‘74, and Robert Hebeler,
M.D., R, ‘82.
“The Medical School appreciates Dr. Cheung’s generosity and looks
to our alumni and friends to help ease the burden of medical school debt for
deserving students,” says Keri Valdes, associate director of development
for the Medical School. “The Dr. Duke scholarships are a great way for
alumni and others to not only show their appreciation of Dr. Duke but to help
the next generation of physicians.”
The national median for medical student indebtedness upon graduation from public
schools is $100,000. As tuition increases continue, it is projected that this
indebtedness will increase to $120,000 for those who graduate from medical school
To contribute to the Dr. Duke effort, or for more information, please contact
Keri Valdes, 713-500-5065, or email@example.com