He represented the third generation of Callans to deliver babies, perform surgeries and see to the health care needs of grateful people in the farming community of Rotan, about 30 miles from Sweetwater. His grandfather, W.W. Callan, M.D., began practicing medicine there in 1907, when the town was less than a year old. He was followed by Maurice’s father, Chester U. Callan, M.D. (’24), who mentored his son.
Deana (Hamby ’94) Nall profiled Maurice in the Winter 2000 issue of ACU Today magazine:
As Rotan’s third Dr. Callan, he has done everything from delivering babies to performing orthopedic surgery. “And I took out a jillion pair of tonsils,” he adds.
After being cared for by three generations of Callans, some of Rotan’s citizens wouldn’t think of going to anyone else.
“His daddy and his grandfather were doctors for as long as I can remember,” says Edna Gattis, longtime Rotan resident and a patient of Callan’s. “I think he’s wonderful.”
Like Gattis, the people of Rotan have been appreciative of Callan’s work.
“I’ve been treated a lot better than I deserved,” he says.
After graduating in 1956 from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston – where his father attended – he returned home to join his dad’s practice.
“Residencies for family practice were unheard of,” Callan says. “Really and truly, I did my residency under my dad.”
Working with his father in Rotan was tough at first, Callan recalls. “People would say, ‘No, I don’t want you – I want the real Dr. Callan.’ ” Despite being like a prophet without honor in his hometown, Callan cherished the opportunity work with his father. When asked why he didn’t choose to practice in a larger city and possibly make more money, he smiles.
“That’s a good question,” he says.
For this Rotan boy-turned doctor, family ties played a major role in this important decision.
“I really wanted to work with my dad. That was one of the greatest things in my professional life,” he says. “He was very wise and a very good teacher. We learned to really work together. I still miss him,” he says about his father, who passed away in 1987.
The people of Rotan eventually warmed to the younger Dr. Callan. They trusted him for an array of medical service, including delivering countless Rotan babies.
“I thought delivering babies was real rewarding because that was one reason people came to the hospital – they wanted to be there,” he says.
“I was always amazed,” he adds with a smile. “These parents would have visions of grandeur for their babies. ‘Our son will be the president of the United States’ or ‘There goes our daughter – Miss America.’ Then I’d go visit those same people 16 years later and all they’d be trying to do was the get the child grown and without him killing himself or someone else – if the parents didn’t kill him first.”
Chester Callan served on ACU’s Board of Trustees from 1928-78, and was honored by the American Medical Association and featured in the Saturday Evening Post in 1948 as “the Model Country Doctor.” When Rotan citizens voted in 1930 to use Works Progress Administration funds from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program to construct a community swimming pool rather than a hospital, Callan built his own.
Maurice was a longtime elder at Rotan Church of Christ, where he established Operation Starfish to feed orphans in Zimbabwe and educate people there about AIDS. He served on Abilene Christian’s Advisory Board, was a member of the Science and Mathematics Visiting Committee and retired from his medical practice in 2015 after 58 years.
Callan told ACU Today 15 years ago that he probably would never retire, needing to work to support his passion for helping others. “I need the money to go to Africa,” he said.
His memorial service was Aug. 13 in Rotan. Read his obituary here.