In memoriam: Dr. Ronald Francis 'Skip' Garvey, professor emeritus

Dr. Ronald Francis “Skip” Garvey, whose storied medical career included serving as President and CEO of Zale Lipshy University Hospital and as an early team physician for the Dallas Cowboys, died March 15 at the age of 83.

Dr. Ronald Francis “Skip” Garvey
Dr. Ronald Francis “Skip” Garvey

Dr. Garvey, Professor Emeritus of Surgery, was one of Dallas’ most eminent surgeons.

He was named Medical Director at Zale Lipshy in August 1987, one month after construction began. He later was named CEO prior to its opening in November 1989 and served until 1991. Before that, he spent several decades in leadership roles at St. Paul Medical Center before it became part of UT Southwestern Medical Center, including President of the medical staff, Chief of Surgery and Director of the St. Paul Cancer Center. He also served on the St. Paul Medical Foundation board from 1976 to 1985.

“Dr. Garvey’s life and career embodied UT Southwestern’s mission of education, outstanding clinical care, and research,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “His surgical expertise and years of leadership at UT Southwestern, at Zale Lipshy and St. Paul hospitals, and later at UT Health Science Center at Tyler, profoundly affected the lives of thousands of patients, faculty, staff and students.”

A respected surgeon nationally, Dr. Garvey served as Governor of the American College of Surgeons from 1976 to 1982. He served as President of the Parkland Surgical Society, Dallas Society of General Surgeons, North Texas Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, Dallas Executives Association and Harvard Club of Dallas. He was Chairman of the Medical Advisory Council for Dallas County Hospital District and sat on the Board of Directors of the Dallas County Medical Society.

Dr. Garvey served as team physician to the Dallas Cowboys from 1963 to 1967 after helping establish a program to staff football games with doctors. He continued as a consultant for the next three decades until 1993.

“Skip Garvey had a remarkable and varied career in medicine,” said Dr. Kern Wildenthal, President of the Southwestern Medical Foundation and former president of the medical center. “An exceptionally talented surgeon and teacher, his many friends, colleagues and patients admired and loved him for his skill, wisdom, good humor and optimism. 

“In the latter part of his career, he turned to administration and played a pivotal role in the founding and initial success of Zale Lipshy University Hospital, and later in stabilizing and advancing The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. He left an indelible mark on medicine in North and East Texas, and he will be sorely missed.”

Dr. Garvey, born May 4, 1928, in Olean, N.Y., received his Bachelor of Arts degree at Harvard College before earning his medical degree from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 1949. He completed internship and residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital from 1953 to 1960 and served as a research fellow in arthritis and metabolic disease for the National Institutes of Health from 1959 to 1960. He served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force from 1953 to 1956 and as a flight surgeon at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio from 1954 to 1956.

A lifelong learner who enjoyed a challenge, Dr. Garvey earned an MBA in health care administration from the University of Dallas in 1986 before beginning a second career in hospital administration. After retiring from Zale Lipshy and UT Southwestern, he was called back into service by the UT System at age 70 in order to serve for five years as the CEO of  The UT Health Center at Tyler. Following his tenure at Tyler, he returned to Dallas as Professor Emeritus of Surgery at UT Southwestern.

He began his career at UT Southwestern Medical School in 1960 as Instructor, advancing to Clinical Professor in 1975, and Professor of Surgery in 1983. He later served as Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs in 1987 in conjunction with his role at Zale Lipshy.

Dr. Garvey authored a book on UT Southwestern’s surgery department, Surgery: The First Fifty Years, 1943 to 1993; A History of the Department of Surgery.


Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery Jr., M.D., Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.

Dr. Wildenthal holds the Carolyn P. and Frank M. Ryburn Jr. Distinguished Chair in Basic Research in Heart Disease.