Dr. Jefferson Flowers, the cowboy who helped transform emergency medicine in Victoria, died Tuesday in North Carolina.
He was 90 years old.
Flowers worked as the chief of emergency medicine at Citizens Medical Center, in addition to a range of different positions he filled in the city’s medical community. He leaves behind a cadre of emergency medical professionals who learned from his expansive knowledge and his dedication to bringing the most advanced medical practices to Victoria. But he’s also remembered as a cowboy, who wore boots in the hospital and loved ranching and hunting.
Sam Green, the former nurse manager at Citizens’ emergency room, remembers his mentor’s distinctive uniform well.
“Scrubs and cowboy boots and a white overcoat,” Green said.
Flowers was born in Sanderson in 1929, according to Advocate archives. In an interview in 2010, Flowers spoke about scenes from his childhood in Sanderson, where he would perform surgeries on his mother’s chickens to save them after they’d swallowed grass burrs.
“So I decided one day I would take a razor blade to open the craw,” he said, laughing about the experience, “and get the grass burrs out. And I’d take momma’s needle and thread and sow the craw back up and they’d do all right.”
The West Texas native served in the Army before graduating from the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Medicine in 1957, according to the Advocate’s archives and the Texas Medical Board. He began work in Victoria as a family practitioner, but gradually transitioned to focus on emergency medicine, said Katrin McDonough, who preceded Green as the nurse manager at Citizens.
Flowers’ larger-than-life presence was remembered fondly by medical professionals throughout the Victoria community.
Carolyn Knox, Citizens’ trauma program manager, started her career in emergency medicine as a nurse in Flowers’ emergency room. Councilman Ricky De La Garza said Flowers had a commanding authority that he used to train first responders to deliver the best care possible. De La Garza was a training supervisor for Victoria’s EMS when Flowers served as its medical director.
The doctor’s commitment to equipping first responders with the tools and information they needed to save lives spread beyond Victoria’s city limits, De La Garza said. In 1993, Flowers, De La Garza, and Mark Reger, the director of Victoria College’s emergency medical technology program, spent six weeks in South Korea training local firefighters with the latest techniques to save trauma victims. The trip was facilitated by Flowers and his sister, and brought needed training to the country when emergency care was still being developed there, De La Garza said.
“His legacy still lives today,” De La Garza said. “He made a lot of paramedics who they were.”
Flowers spearheaded multiple medical advances in the Victoria community.
De La Garza credited Flowers with making Victoria one of the first communities to integrate telemetry systems into emergency care, so first responders could send critical information from the ambulance back to the hospital, allowing doctors to prepare before the patient had even arrived.
Flowers also taught medical professionals how to use the advanced cardiac life support system, which refers to the set of algorithms used to treat cardiovascular emergencies, said Green, who worked with him to teach the courses.
Thanks to his tall frame, country mannerisms, and commanding presence, people who knew Flowers would often compare him to the actor John Wayne or the physician Dr. James “Red” Duke. Duke, the famous Houston physician, is credited with saving Texas Gov. John Connally after he was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. Duke and Flowers actually worked together, and, with Green, taught advanced trauma life support classes in Houston, according to Green and McDonough.
In 1994, Flowers decided to retire as chief of emergency medicine at Citizens Medical Center. His retirement didn’t last long, and he went back to work in various positions, including at the Jackson County Hospital in Edna, where Flowers helped the facility launch a new emergency care facility.
During his first attempt at retirement, Citizens administrator David Brown acknowledged the hospital would never see another physician like Flowers.
“We’re not going to be able to replace him,” Brown told the Advocate at the time. “We’re not even going to attempt to replace him. There is not anyone else like him.”