In the summer of 1982, Robert Probe drove down South 31st Street for the first time in a navy blue Ford Mustang. He was excited by the new vehicle but more so by the opportunity to come to Scott & White Memorial Hospital to complete his final two years as a Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine medical student.
In those final years of medical school, the newly minted “Dr. Probe” identified orthopedics as the specialty where he could combine an inherited penchant for engineering with medicine in orthopedic surgery. He also reaffirmed Scott & White was the place to be to receive that training and enlisted for another five years in Temple to complete his residency there.
Thirty-five years later, Probe still drives down S. 31st Street in a navy blue vehicle to Scott & White Medical Center – Temple and Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center. However, he now is the chief medical officer (CMO) of the largest not-for-profit health system in Texas and his drive is a BMW X6.
“The horsepower changed, but the color didn’t,” he said.
“The community gets some of the best health care in the nation and the residents feel the embrace of Temple. They feel welcomed and appreciated as part of the community.”
In a recent speech to the Temple Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Probe noted the significant changes in health care during his career but praised the unchanging warmth of the Temple community toward the medical residents. He said his medical school class was 32 students and his group of Scott & White residents was about 180. Today’s Texas A&M medical school classes number about 200 students and Scott & White trains nearly 500 residents.
Because of this, Dr. Probe said, “The community gets some of the best health care in the nation and the residents feel the embrace of Temple. They feel welcomed and appreciated as part of the community.”
Dr. Probe became Chief Medical Officer for Baylor Scott & White Health in 2016, responsible for overseeing safety and quality, the medical practice and program development for the health system. Dr. Probe was chairman of orthopedic surgery at Scott & White until 2013 when he was named chairman of the board of directors and chief of staff for the Scott & White Clinic, a 1,100 physician group practice.
While serving as orthopedic chair, he had grown his department from a 12-physician group to one with 38 providers in five locations. In October 2013, he spearheaded the opening of the Roney Bone & Joint Institute, a 75,000 square-foot multidisciplinary musculoskeletal patient-centered medical home. He also has held numerous teaching roles at Texas A&M Health Science Center.
Dr. Probe believes the biggest change in medical practice during his career has been the promise and challenges brought about the dawning of the information age. He said the promise lies in the opportunities that come from having the world’s knowledge a keyboard away, and the challenge is the preservation of the interpersonal relationships that define medicine amid this technology.
Dr. Probe’s CMO position does not allow him to treat patients directly, and he speaks wistfully about that.
“Every time I walk by an operating room, I get sad about not going through those double doors as I did so often in a former life,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss that. While I miss those days, I feel as though having a physician who took care of patients for thirty-five years helping to guide the organization is helping patients in other meaningful ways.”