Medical Humanities News

History Through the Eyes of the Medical Arts

Nov. 26, 2013

Baylor students and faculty members received a rare opportunity to hear about the medical care President John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald received during their respective final hours.

Dr. Robert N. McClelland, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, visited Baylor University on Thursday, October 24th to participate in the Honors College lecture series. The lecture, titled "Parkland Hospital, November 1963: John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald", was sponsored by the Medical Humanities Program, the Honors College, and the Institute for Faith & Learning.

The event, which was held in the Barfield Room of the Student Union Building at 7:00 p.m., drew the attention of Baylor medical students, medical faculty members, students of other disciplines, and non-affiliated guests.

The Barfield Room was packed and guests were still arriving for the event moments before Dr. McClellan began his lecture.

During the two hour lecture, Dr. McClelland spoke about his experience attending to President Kennedy at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, TX with two other physicians after the infamous shooting of November 22, 1963. As he spoke, he pointed out the exact locations where the bullet entered and exited President Kennedy's body. He also described the aftermath that resulted from the president's declared death as priests and family came into the room, including the reaction of the then First Lady, Jacqueline Lee Kennedy Onassis.

After sharing this life-changing experience, Dr. McClelland then spoke about his time as a witness to the Warren Commission following his treatment of the late President John F. Kennedy. He spoke about his time as one of President Kennedy's physicians and a witness before the Warren Commission.

He also spoke about his time as a physician for Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President Kennedy.

At the end of his address, Dr. McClelland displayed the white blood-stained shirt he wore when he was caring for President Kennedy, which was carefully sealed inside a plastic bag. After his speech, he opened the floor for questions and answered further questions.

After the lecture, students and guests had a chance to hold speak with Dr. McClelland, many asking for autographs and photographs.

Before his departure from campus, Dr. McClelland gave his opinion concerning the importance of a liberal arts education for aspiring physicians.

"I feel very strongly about that," he said. "I think everybody--physicians, most of all maybe--should have a broad education in all kinds of things. It shouldn't be narrowly focused; an education in the humanities is very important."


Dr. Robert N. McClelland was born and raised in Gilmer, Texas. He is a 1950 graduate of The University of Texas with the highest honors and a 1954 graduate from The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. After completing an internship at the University of Kansas Medical Center, he completed his residency in general surgery at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. While at Parkland, he administered medical care to President John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald. After finishing his residency in 1962, he joined the faculty of Southwestern Medical School. He retire from the university in August 2007 after working there for 45 years. In September 2007, he was appointed a Professor Emeritus of Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Today, he remains an active participant in many various medical school activities, predominantly those concerning medical student education. He can still be found on campus every weekday.

Paraphrased from the original biographical information written by Steven Sielaff