A personal tribute to Dr Malcolm Taylor: A truly successful man

Cardiology Review® Online, December 2007, Volume 24, Issue 12

My wife and I had the great honor and privilege of attending Dr Malcolm Taylor's 60th birthday celebration. Given the tremendous expressions of love, well wishes, and admiration expressed throughout the evening, I have no doubt that if Dr Taylor decided to run for elected office, no one would acquire more votes than him among this crowd. His children grew up hearing constantly from people about their father, the great cardiologist. But more importantly, they also observed the generous human being who cares deeply about his wife Gwen, his family, his friends, his community, and the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC). He actually coined the phrase, "to know the ABC is to love the ABC."

mi casa es su casa

I have known Dr Taylor for my entire 21 years as chief executive officer of the ABC, particularly from 2002-2004 when he served as our president. The relationship is deep. We are family. One of their daughters became engaged at our house in Atlanta. We attended the weddings of each other's children and there is a room in the Taylor's house designated as "Waine's Room." I am not naive to believe that I am the only beneficiary of this special treatment but a true recognition that if you are "family," you are special in a way that only Dr and Mrs Taylor can make you feel—. I visit the Taylors to discuss difficult life issues, challenges with the ABC, to play a round of golf, and to get connected to the Taylors fountain of wisdom and caring. No one does it better. Their love brings out the best in me.

Dr Taylor never complains. He focuses on fixing the problem rather than fixing the blame. In a board meeting of the ABC, we were having a heavy discussion about lack of funds to continue our programs. Dr Taylor responded, "Instead of obsessing about this, can 20 of us just contribute $10,000 each? Here is my $10,000." This is in addition to the $30,000 he already contributed. Nine other board members followed suit. He is the only person I know who could raise $100,000 in needed funds in 1 hour. That is simply because he is a leader and people are more than willing to follow his lead.

If you have God, family and friends, you may stumble, but you will never hit the ground.

"I have been interviewing people on their deathbeds for many years and not one of them ever said, you know Dr Ross, I wish I had spent more time at the office."

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from Dr Taylor is: I learned this from him not only because he uttered these words at his State of the ABC address in 2004 but he is completely committed to this premise. Whether you are a distant cousin or a friend, he and Mrs Taylor have never missed special occasions such as the birth of a child, a graduation, birthday, wedding, funeral, or even a tee time—regardless of the personal or financial cost. This is an important commitment. He told me that he is forever thinking about what Dr Elizabeth Kübler-Ross said: It turns out that after all is said and done, it's family, friends, and the impact you have had on people's lives that matter. Dr Taylor is a genius at balancing his professional life with his social and family responsibilities.

Dr Taylor met his wife while they were both students at Georgia's Tugaloo College in 1969. They were passengers on a school bus headed for a college football game. They started up a conversation and before the day was over, he had met her parents who were also attending the game. Their lives have been intertwined ever since. They both went off to Boston after graduating from Tugaloo, he to Tufts School of Medicine and she to MIT. He earned a medical degree, she a masters degree in mathematics. She and her brother then opened a computer software and consulting company in Jackson, Miss. After Dr Taylor completed his internal medicine and cardiology training at Georgetown University, he developed a highly successful practice in Jackson with 3 partners (Drs Telis Ellis, Myrna Alexander, and Richard Rogford). The 4 of them account for 65% of the African-American cardiologists in the entire state of Mississippi. Throughout 30 years of marital bliss, 4 wonderful children, and 5 grandchildren, they have been dedicated to each other and the ABC.

As parents, they are as patient as parents could ever be. They allowed their children great latitude to follow their hearts, to experiment, and to dream. They energized them with the advice that it is not luxury or even comfort that are the essentials of life but something and someone to be enthusiastic about. "Just be sure," he told them, "that you have integrity in everything you do." As a result, their children are passionate, engaged, successful, contributing citizens who are blessing the Taylors with beautiful, healthy, and loving grandchildren.

Reflecting on her childhood, daughter Kellee said "one of the very pleasant memories of my childhood was that my father fixed pancakes every Saturday morning. These would be a gourmet treat from a secret recipe. He also lovingly made them 1 at a time and talked about them as if he was sending them off to college. They were the best pancakes." On overhearing this, Mrs Taylor chimed in: "You ungrateful wretches, I made every meal in this house all the time you were growing up and all you remember are the couple times your father made pancakes," which generated a big laugh.

The reason I have a golf game is that I am so motivated to beat Dr Taylor. I always look forward to his company on the golf course. Although I lose 80% of the time, he is always reminding me to "keep hope alive." After several years of trying, I finally beat him with a chip shot on the last hole—a moment of sheer joy. In fact, every time I beat him is fun, whether it is in exotic places like Slovenia, South Africa, Jamaica, Antigua, New Zealand, or in the vicinity of an active volcano in Italy. We were on a sight-seeing tour in Morocco when we spotted a golf course. We stopped the bus, got off, walked to the course, rented 50-year-old golf clubs, enjoyed a lovely afternoon of golf, and to our surprise shot the same score that we would have scored with our expensive clubs back home. While I could not turn down the opportunity to play golf in China, it was so consistent with Dr Taylor's philosophy that he chose to pass up golf to climb the wall of China with his family.

However you know Dr Taylor, you are blessed and will have benefited from great wisdom and active engagement as well as demonstrated affection, kindness, and generosity. That is indeed good medicine. Happy birthday, Dr Taylor!