Medal of Service for Contributions to Medicine and Healthcare: Robert Pryor

Awarded to individuals for dedication to advancing their chosen fields and making significant impacts in our world

As a teenager working in the pathology department at Temple’s Scott & White Memorial Hospital in the late 1960s, Robert “Bob” Pryor, BS ’73, couldn’t dream that one day he would become president and CEO of Scott & White Healthcare—and, a few years later—CMO, COO and president of Baylor Scott & White Health.

“I always wanted to be a research scientist or a physician, and I learned from the very best people at Scott & White,” says Pryor, an only child who only considered attending Baylor. “Scott & White doctors took an interest in me and taught me what it was to be a physician, taught me the ethics and how to model the role of a physician. I just can’t thank them enough.”

Driven by the goal of getting into medical school, Pryor maintains he was a bookworm in college, always electing to take the earliest- possible classes. He says he has nothing but fond memories of his student experience.

“Every day I loved getting up and going to school. I loved being there in the morning and watching the sun come up on campus near Carroll Science Building. I was so paranoid about being accepted to medical school, I studied and studied and studied.”

Pryor says that all of his professors were superb. He particularly credits the biology and chemistry departments.

“And Dr. Robert Packard, he was amazing—the perfect professor. He was so involved with his students and the most incredible teacher. Of course, he stands out to everybody that was premed at Baylor. He was very, very instrumental in forming my thoughts early on.”

One reason Pryor became a pediatrician was because of the chance to interact with families and children. He was one of the first certified pediatric intensivists in the country and was involved in the formative years of pediatric intensive care. During his 20 years as a pediatrician, he also was recognized as a medical teacher.

After two decades as a pediatrician, Pryor says the emotional toll of taking care of critically ill children was more than he could continue to handle. He was ready for a change, taking on administrative roles at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz. While there, he earned an MBA from Arizona State University.

In 2005, he received a call from a recruiter describing an opening in Texas.

“As soon as she started describing it, I told her she must be talking about Scott & White in Temple. She asks, ‘How did you know that?’ I told her I was born there. She says, ‘Wow.’”

A short time after that conversation and 35 years after he started his medical journey at Scott & White, Pryor returned to the hospital as chief medical officer. Two years later, he also became chief operating officer. In 2010, he became CEO and president of Scott & White Healthcare.

Pryor played a crucial role in the 2013 merger of the Dallas-based Baylor Health Care System and Temple-based Scott & White Healthcare, creating Baylor Scott & White Health, the largest not-for-profit healthcare system in Texas and one of the largest in the U.S.

Known for exceptional patient care for more than a century, the two organizations served adjacent regions of Texas and operated on a foundation of complementary values and similar missions. Today, Baylor Scott & White Health includes 43 hospitals, more than 500 patient care sites, and more than 6,000 affiliated physicians.

Coincidentally, the four highest leadership positions at Baylor Scott & White Health are held by Baylor graduates. Drayton McLane Jr., BBA ’58, is board chair; Jim Turner, BBA ’69, is board chair-elect; Joel Allison, BA ’70, is CEO; and Bob Pryor serves as president, COO and CMO.

“The importance of the merger of Baylor Scott & White is to be able to deliver quality healthcare at a cost that people can afford, and to be able to have whole communities learn how to be healthier. The health system should be helping people stay well, stay healthy, and stay out of the hospitals,” Pryor says. “So part of our business is to make ourselves obsolete as we start moving into this next phase of being really healthcare providers and not providers of sick care.

“To me, this is the most exciting thing that’s come along in medicine,” he continues. “This is the promise of the future: to help people maintain their health, to be there when they need us, but to have high quality, low cost healthcare so that people can access the health system. That’s what the merger was all about. It wasn’t about getting bigger. It wasn’t about anything other than how to get to the promise of what’s called the triple aim: high quality, low cost healthcare for communities, making them healthier.”

Bob and his wife Kay, have three children: Jami; Jarrod, a current Baylor student; and Jaxon. Representative of Pryor’s dedication to giving back, the Pryors established The Robert W. and Kay Pryor Endowed Scholarship Fund in 2010 to assist Baylor undergraduates.

“At Baylor I learned the importance of being human and being part of the tradition of Baylor, which is, to me, being able to give back and not just take, and that is something that I took with me the rest of my life,” Pryor says. “Baylor produces leaders not just for the state, but for the country. My wife and I feel very strongly about supporting the Christian education and the values that Baylor brings to the students. We want to support that for the next generation of leaders.”