About the President, Dr. Scott Clitheroe


“Don’t worry, I’ve never lost a patient. I never lose anything. Have you seen my stethoscope?” said Hawkeye Pierce on the television show MASH. The wit, morality, and compassion of this TV character was an inspiration to Dr. Scott Clitheroe—so much so that he names Hawkeye as one of the reasons he became a physician. Further inspiration came from home.

The son of a dentist, he grew up around health care. “I used to love it when people around town would greet my dad with such respect,” he says with a smile. “His patients just loved him.” Another influencer was his pediatrician, Dr. Tengg, who was once his father’s college roommate. Clitheroe thought the world of his dad’s physician friend. “He was the greatest guy! When I would watch him at work, I thought about becoming a pediatrician.” Clitheroe’s siblings must have felt the same pride in their father, as both his brother and sister followed his path and became dentists.

Dr. Clitheroe spent most of his childhood in Houston, coming to Austin to attend UT. While a pre-med student, he volunteered in the pediatric ward and loved it. “I always thought I would be a pediatrician due to my admiration of Dr. Tengg’s work when I was growing up,” but then I got some real pediatric experience while in medical school and it tore me apart. It is very stressful, often sad, and hard because many of your patients cannot tell you what is wrong. I was heartbroken and felt like I had failed my mentor.” But, far from being disappointed, Dr. Tengg told him to find his own niche in medicine. Clitheroe thought surgery might be the specialty for him as he liked the work—until he struggled to sew someone up and his teacher half joking said, “maybe not.” He then considered endocrinology but that wasn’t a good fit either. He ultimately found his calling in internal medicine, with a secondary specialty as a hospitalist.

Attending McGovern Medical School in Houston, he remembers the early ’80s and how everything was about AIDS. “I worked with so many of those patients,” he says. “I remember this one patient; he was a Haitian immigrant, and he was dying of AIDS. He kept telling me I was too thin, and he wanted to give me money so I could buy food—I mean what an amazing human statement that is.” To say Dr. Clitheroe is altruistic is an understatement. He immediately gravitates to the needs of others in his actions and in conversation. “I was told once to treat every patient as if they are your mother. I’ve never forgotten that—makes you really think about your level of empathy,” he explains.

As he was pondering residency programs, “I was lucky to be contacted by Dr. Ann Gateley at the University of New Mexico. She told me about the incredible internal medicine program they offered, so that is where I completed my residency.” Clitheroe loved the area and considered setting up practice in Santa Fe but ultimately decided to raise his family in Austin near his extended family. Family is a very important part of his life—he and his wife Jenny have been married 30 years this January. They met during spring break in Cancun, Mexico. “I was on a trip I couldn’t afford and kept thinking I should be back at school,” he says laughing. “But it was love at first sight for both of us. We danced the night away and were married two years later.” Together they have three children—Justin, aged 25, is a computer programmer and musician; Tori, aged 23, is a marketing director and a photographer; and Will, aged 21, is a junior at Oklahoma University. The entire family loves the outdoors. From skiing, hiking, and boating on Lake Travis to eating outside whenever possible—the family even runs the 5-mile Austin Turkey Trot every November to benefit charity. It’s obvious that Austin suits his year-round yen for the outdoors. “I love Austin—the hills, the lakes and the whole vibe,” he says. “Plus, there are so many amazing doctors here. You don’t need to go anywhere else.”

Clitheroe’s first position in Austin after residency was with ADC, “They have such great internal medicine docs there!” After a few years at ADC, he founded a small hospitalist group with his medical school buddy, Dr. Sean Coughlin. “Man, we laughed a lot in med school. He was the ideal partner,” he says with a smile. After a while the group was purchased by a large firm, and in 2014 Clitheroe joined InternalMed Solutions LLC where he remains today. In addition to being a full-time hospitalist, he also serves as the medical director for Hope Clinic (a volunteer health care clinic), whose tagline is “Reducing barriers to health care for over a decade” and he is the medical director for Traditions Hospice—of course he finds both positions incredibly rewarding.

Even with a full schedule of patient care and volunteer work, Clitheroe makes time to be active with TCMS. He joined the society in 1988 and since then has served on various committees—membership, public relations and most recently, the ethics committee for which he served as chair. In recent years, his involvement in the political side of medicine has increased with participation in the First Tuesday “white coat invasions” of the Capitol during legislative years. He is also active with the delegation which helps determine Texas Medical Association policy. “I can’t stop repeating to people who do not understand the value of TCMS—look what was accomplished during COVID!” He also stresses the fellowship and the importance of community. In addition, he is adamant that physicians use their voices to stand up for medicine. “You don’t live in a bubble. We need to be heard and work together to protect our profession and our patients.”

With issues such as pay cuts, constant regulatory changes and burdensome EMRs, Clitheroe is worried that, without legislative intervention, young people will avoid the profession entirely—especially primary care. “We are in crisis mode. This needs to be a national conversation.”

Currently, almost 80% of the practicing physicians in Travis County are members of TCMS. Clitheroe wants to increase that number—and to make sure that those who are members fully understand the benefits. “I want to see more of that 80% at our events and participating in our advocacy efforts,” he says. “Many physicians are members because their practice pays for it—they have little or no idea about all that TCMS does for them and how they can be involved.” The pandemic has opened many physician eyes—with TCMS providing PPE and COVID vaccines to physicians when supplies were scarce. “Let’s keep that awareness train rolling and build on it,” he says.

The younger physicians are also on his radar. “The virtual town halls, educational opportunities and Zoom meetings have got some of the younger set paying attention due to ease of attending. We are living in a hybrid world now—it touches all facets of our lives,” he says. He is hopeful that this virtual taste of TCMS has created awareness of the importance of organized medicine. In addition to the new physicians, Dr. Clitheroe would like to see more diversity in the physician community. “I also want to encourage more physicians of color to become involved with TCMS,” he says. “One of the best things we’ve done recently is the TCMS Journal issue on Racism and Medicine (Nov/Dec 2020 issue). I am so proud to have been a part of that—activism is important, and we have a long way to go yet.”

To wrap up our interview, Dr. Clitheroe said, “I leave you with this. Ask not what your medical society can do for you, but what you can do for your medical society.”

If you have input, needs, or ideas for the Travis County Medical Society please contact Dr. Clitheroe at president@tcms.com.

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