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Brian Bethea ’95

He’s a Doctor… and He Plays One on TV

By Donna Parker

Brian Bethea, who received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Trinity in 1995, is an assistant professor in the department of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where he is also a surgeon performing adult cardiac and thoracic surgery, including heart and lung transplants.  As if that weren’t enough, Brian is also one of the subjects of an ABC television documentary entitled, “Hopkins,” a series shot while he completed his residency at the esteemed Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md.

“Fifteen months ago, Terrence Wrong, executive producer of the show, selected me as one of the physicians who the television crew would follow around for nine straight months.  It is a documentary, not a reality show, and I feel it is a very fair representation of sensitive subject matter.  Obviously, I was nervous about the filming.  You sign a consent form and give up your rights, but Terry promised me the utmost in journalistic standards.”

“Oddly enough, there was a sense of loss when the TV crews finished up.  We worked in teams and they integrated themselves very well.  It was weird when they first showed up and weird when they left!” jokes Brian.

“Hopkins” features Brian in several episodes that aired this summer, but now can be viewed online at http://hopkins.abcnews.com/

“Johns Hopkins did challenge us all to maintain excellence, but Trinity’s professors prepared me for that.  Lawrence Espey, Melvin Frei, and Bob Blystone, all from the department of biology, were patient, tireless, and always willing to listen.  Dr. Frei was the first to show me how to conduct research in the lab.  He advised me never to forget to question why you ‘do the things you do.’” 

Being prepared came in handy for Brian during his first months at Johns Hopkins in 1999, when he dealt with heroin addicts and the “Baltimore streets coming into the hospital at night.” Tough doings for a guy from Oklahoma.

Recently, Brian, his wife, Amber, and their three children – Jordan, 12, Riley, 8, and Hayden, 5 – relocated to Dallas where they live jam-packed days of work, soccer practice, and Taekwondo.

“We also swim a lot in our pool and enjoy watching college football.  I do work out often, including running and basketball.  Amber has started me on hot vinyasa yoga, during which I just try to prevent full cardiac arrest!”

“Really, I just take the most joy spending time with my wife and driving the kids to soccer practice.  If I’m quiet in the car for that 45 minute ride, I find out everything I need to know by listening to my daughters!  They talk a lot more than boys.”

Brian will meet with Trinity’s pre-med students on Monday after Alumni Weekend scheduled next month from October 10-12.  He’ll be lecturing on research in medicine from a physician’s standpoint.

“I’m so glad I attended Trinity,” says this now-famous doctor.  “There is such a commitment to education.  If I’d gone to a big state school, I would’ve gotten lost in the system.  As it is, I’m ready to tackle real life.  I’m older with more gray hair and more responsibility.  Instead of being on the receiving end, I’m on the giving end.  And I’m ready.”

You may contact Brian at Brian.Bethea@UTSouthwestern.edu.