The approach of spring signals the beginning of a new season for Dr. Randy Urban, the chairman of internal medicine at UTMB. That would be baseball season and another year to cheer on the Houston Astros.
Walking into Urban’s office in the John Sealy Annex at UTMB is almost like walking into an Astros memorabilia shop. There are bobblehead Astros players, baseball cards, autographed photographs, baseballs and baseball caps, to name just a few of his prized items.
His collection was happenstance. When he moved into the chairman’s office, he wanted to replace the big, rectangular meeting table with a less-hierarchical one that was round or oval. But once he heard how much the rectangular table had cost, he relented and the table stayed. His friend, Dr. Marc Shabot, suggested placing a few baseball mementos like baseball cards under the glass top of the table to soften up the room a bit. And so it began and evolved so that the office now is sort of feng shui meets medical décor meets baseball collection. But it all works somehow.
And the collection continues to grow. His chief residents have taken to giving Urban an Astros-related thank-you gift each year for his tutelage. More cards, more ticket stubs, more souvenir programs of historic ball games.
So what does baseball have to do with running one of the biggest departments at UTMB?
“For me, baseball is very much like our organization here in the department of internal medicine,” Urban said. “It really is all about teamwork. It’s all about a team of people working together for a common cause and everyone has to do their part. It’s a lot of people pulling together for a common cause.”
Urban, who specializes in the prevention and treatment of diabetes, growth hormone replacement in adults and the effects of androgens on skeletal muscle, is true to his words, often encouraging and prodding members of his staff into the spotlight.
But back to baseball. Growing up in Victoria, Texas, young Urban would listen to Gene Elston call the Astros games on the radio and dream of seeing a game in person.
Urban’s eyes light up as he describes the first time that he went to the Astrodome. “I was just amazed. I had never seen anything like it. It was so expansive and so large. And I don’t remember the game because, for that particular time, all I could do was look at the dome. But I do remember that I was there when Jimmy Wynn, the Toy Cannon, hit a home run. So that will always be in my mind.”