Dr. Robert Salem, Texas Tech ’50, a world-renowned surgeon, was initiated into the Texas Epsilon Chapter on August 30, 2021, 71 years after graduating. He is an icon of medicine and surgery for the nation, not to mention West Texas.
While a student, Salem was a member and president of the Silver Key social club in the 1940s, which later became affiliated with Phi Delta Theta in 1953. By then, Dr. Salem was in Dallas finishing his medical degree at Southwestern Medical School.
Silver Key Certificate of Membership
In late 2020, Phi Dr. Rob Schmid*, Texas Tech ’93, a plastic surgeon in Lubbock, visited a small museum dedicated to Dr. Salem at the local Covenant Hospital. To his surprise, hanging in the museum was Dr. Salem’s certificate of membership in Silver Key.
He soon after asked Dr. Salem if he was indeed a member of Silver Key, to which he replied, “member?! I was the president of Silver Key 1949-50!” Dr. Schmid notified Dr. Rob King, Texas Epsilon chapter advisory board chairman, of his discovery and through the efforts of Dr. King, Dr. Bill Dean, and the chapter advisory board, permission was obtained from General Headquarters to initiate Dr. Salem.
At 92, Dr. Salem became Brother Dr. Salem and signed the Bond of Phi Delta Theta, Bond Number 3026.
*Important Note: Dr. Rob Schmid was a 1992 Arthur R Priest Award recipient and his son, Preston Schmid, a fourth-generation Texas Tech Red Raider, is a third-generation Texas Epsilon Phikeia!
About Dr. Salem, Just Initiated and Recently Posted Famous Phi
Dr. Salem was given a deferment from military service in the early 1950s with the obligation of serving a tour in the military after he finished
He has then commissioned a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps and was assigned to Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver. When the internship ended, Salem was assigned overseas to the U.S. Air Force Hospital at Orly Airfield, Paris.
Later, he did a residency under Dr. Michael DeBakey, a world-famous heart surgeon, and pioneer in the field. When he entered his own surgical practice in Lubbock, his intense training and the particular talent that characterized his own work, began to save lives on the South Plains. And other surgeons were calling him for life-or-death emergencies in operating rooms. (Lubbock Avalanche Journal)
On May 11, 1970, Lubbock, Texas was hit by an F-5 tornado that caused widespread destruction and injuries. Dr. Salem was called into the hospital and operated for 24 continuous hours on patients.
He pioneered peripheral vascular surgery in West Texas and performed the first abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery in West Texas in 1962. He was a senior and founding member of SWAT Surgical Associates in Lubbock in 1962.
Dr. Salem was the founding chair of, Department of Surgery at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in 1972. He developed the first trauma program at Methodist Hospital (now Covenant Hospital) in 1992 and developed the Children’s Open Heart Surgical program at Covenant Hospital.
In 1975, the Robert J. Salem. MD Award for Excellence in Surgery was established by the Texas Tech University School of Medicine. Salem received Texas Tech’s Distinguished Service Award in 1977.
He received the Larry King Cardiac Foundation’s Physician Laureate Award in 2012 and was named a Distinguished Alumnus by Texas Tech University in 2013.
The Robert J. Salem, M.D. Historical Collection was opened and dedicated by Covenant Health System in August 2010. The museum is located in the hospital’s lobby.
Dr. Salem is now a brother in the Bond thanks to a Silver Key certificate hanging in that museum.