Spotlight on Rex McCallum, vice president and chief physician executive

Aug 17, 2016, 13:53 PM by KirstiAnn Clifford
RexMcCallum
Dr. Rex McCallum joined UTMB in 2010 as vice president, chief physician executive and professor of Internal Medicine. In 2014, he became associate dean for clinical affairs. He is a recognized leader and physician executive with expertise in strategic and operational development within a complex health care organization.

Before coming to UTMB, McCallum served as associate medical director of the Private Diagnostic Clinic and vice chair for faculty affairs in the Department of Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Rice University and went to medical school at Vanderbilt University. McCallum completed his residency and fellowship training in medicine and rheumatology and immunology at Duke University Medical Center. He was a member of the Duke faculty from 1989–2010 and remains an adjunct professor there. His clinical interests include rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, inflammatory arthritis, inflammatory eye disease and Behcet’s disease.
What does the Road Ahead look like for you?
On my road ahead, I’ll continue to work with the clinical chairs, my clinical colleagues and my Health System colleagues to grow the clinical enterprise at UTMB and improve our quality and costs for our patients, payers, the University of Texas System and the people of the state of Texas. These are very exciting times in health care with many changes occurring. I see numerous opportunities for UTMB in the future, if we stay committed and focused.

What are the biggest challenges you face as UTMB’s chief physician executive?
My biggest challenges are addressing and managing needed change in our fluid health care environment. Outside the institution, forces are demanding greater quality and lower costs. For the Faculty Group Practice and Health System to continue to improve, our systems and processes must change. While change is an opportunity, it is disruptive in many ways. Managing the process and disruptions are my biggest challenges.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
My close colleagues have often heard me say, “Life is a relationship game.” I find this fabulous advice, as teamwork is required to accomplish almost any major task. Teamwork is about a common goal, vision and open relationships.

What was your first job?
My first job, other than family tasks and small jobs, was as a lifeguard on a lake that was part of a Tennessee state park. It was a fabulous job! I went to work every day at 10 a.m. and worked until 6 p.m. I was able to be outside and be around other young people (and girls) every day! My friends were lifeguards with me. We did our work from a dock in the middle of the swimming area. We canoed to the dock for our time on duty—standing up and paddling.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I love to travel, as does my wife, Jan. I love to experience new locations, people and cultures. I have been to every continent except Antarctica, and I hope to get there one day. Spending three weeks several years ago in Australia was the best trip ever. We went to four of the five major cities, climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge, saw the Sydney Opera House, experienced the Outback, saw the wildflowers in Western Australia, took pictures of Brighton bathing boxes and stuck a toe in the Indian Ocean. We stayed with some of Jan’s electronic scrapbooking business partners and were privileged to catch a glimpse of their lives.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I grew up in a small town in West Tennessee called Henderson. My father was one of three physicians in the entire county. Everyone in my hometown knew me as “Doc’s Son.” This security and sense of belonging fostered my development. Given that everyone knew me, it was hard to get away with anything, as someone always told my father.

What’s something you always wanted to do but have not done yet?
I think it would be really fun to rent a motor home and drive across the country for four to six weeks with no particular destination in mind. I believe that wandering around and being spontaneous would be a blast.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would like to go to a South Pacific Island and live in a cottage over the water for at least a week. I would love to wake up in the morning and dive off my balcony into the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. I would sit and read, watch the fish and relax.