50 Years: James Campbell

The longer James Campbell works at St. Paul University Hospital, the younger the doctors seem to get.

“I’m starting to think some of them look like teenagers,” joked Mr. Campbell, now 69.

James Campbell

After more than 50 years at St. Paul, the orthopaedic technician estimates that he has helped place thousands of casts and assisted as many patients. He was himself a teenager when he started working at St. Paul in 1961.

At the time, Mr. Campbell simply was looking for a better wage – and an escape from the heat. He was working for his uncle, who did heating and air conditioning duct work in Grand Prairie. A summer spent in sweltering attics convinced him to look for a new line of work.

“This turned out to be so much better,” Mr. Campbell said. “And you’re not up in a real hot attic. In July. With insulation all around you.”

The career in caregiving eventually became a calling. Mr. Campbell’s motivations remain simple: an honest paycheck, staying productive, and a chance to help people.

“When I started in 1961, I had no idea I was going to be here this long. But once I started, I liked what I was doing,” he said. “I like helping people out. I like taking care of them. I like helping them get better.”

His employment began in a different era. UT Southwestern Medical Center hadn’t yet taken over St. Paul. And back in 1961, the hospital was in East Dallas. The hospital wouldn’t open its doors on Harry Hines Boulevard until the end of 1963.

Mr. Campbell began as an orderly in the Post- Op Recovery Unit, monitoring the vital signs of patients fresh out of surgery, transporting them to their rooms, and helping with catheters. In the mid-1960s, a retired Army sergeant who had trained Army medics on how to place casts was hired to set up a cast room.

He recruited Mr. Campbell to come work for him, then spent two years training the younger man. Mr. Campbell said he owes his career to his former boss.

“I was one of the first ones he trained, and I’ve been there ever since,” he said.

While at work one day, Mr. Campbell met a St. Paul employee named Gloria up on the ninth floor. She’d eventually work 19 years for the hospital. In March, they celebrated 45 years of marriage. The couple has two children and seven grandchildren.

“You could say I volunteered to take as many patients up to the ninth floor as I could,” Mr. Campbell said.

Mr. Campbell has been an active participant in the evolution of medical care. Plaster casts have given way to Fiberglas, and procedures “that used to keep you in the hospital for two or three weeks now keep you there for two or three days,” he said.

What hasn’t changed, he said, is the basic friendliness and decency of his fellow employees, who remain focused on delivering high-quality medical care to their patients.

Mr. Campbell spends his spare time attending weekly Bible study classes and is a deacon at his Oak Cliff church, City Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

“Everybody keeps asking, `When you going to retire,’” he said. “Not anytime soon. I just like working.” 

Employee Recognition 2012

Long-term employees play an invaluable role in the life of UT Southwestern Medical Center. Their faithful, dedicated service has helped the institution become what it is today. In this special edition of Center Times, we showcase some of these employees and their varied interests. Meet the 2012 honorees