As a way to honor Tom Bruce, M.D., who died March 4, the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health (COPH) has established the Thomas A. Bruce, M.D., Endowment in Public Health and Public Service. In addition, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a proclamation on Feb. 26 declaring July 1 as Dr. Thomas A. Bruce Day in Arkansas.
Dr. Bruce was the former Dean of the UAMS College of Medicine (COM), Inaugural Dean (Dean pro tem) of the COPH and Dean pro tem of the Clinton School of Public Service. He also served as the first Director of the COPH Office of Community-based Public Health.
Dr. Bruce passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 85.
Those at UAMS and in the greater medical and public health community who were fortunate to know Dr. Bruce remember him as a true friend, champion and visionary.
“As everyone who knew him can attest, words simply cannot express what Tom meant to everyone whom he touched,” wrote COPH Dean Jim Raczynski, Ph.D., when he informed the College that Dr. Bruce had passed away. “Suffice it to say that Tom was a truly unique and wonderful renaissance man who had unbounded compassion and caring for everyone. He will be deeply missed.”
A week before Dr. Bruce died, Gov. Hutchinson signed a resolution that summarized some of Dr. Bruce’s many accomplishments, thanked him for his leadership to Arkansas and its citizens, and declared July 1 as a day in honor of him, a day that was chosen since it was the day when the COPH was established at UAMS in 2001.
With the blessing and support of Dr. Bruce and his family, UAMS has established the Thomas A. Bruce, M.D., Endowment in Public Health and Public Service to honor and sustain his work in the medical and public health fields through prevention, treatment and public policy. The endowment will strengthen COPH’s ongoing efforts to prepare leaders in public health and public service who serve communities that are predominantly minority, marginalized and without adequate access to health care and preventive services.
Dr. Bruce was born in 1930 in Mountain Home, Ark., where he graduated from high school as class valedictorian. He earned his medical degree from University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock. He then trained as a cardiologist. His post-graduate education included a cardiology fellowship at the University of London and executive management training at Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School.
After serving as faculty at Wayne State University and Chief of Cardiology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, he returned to Arkansas in 1974 to serve as the UAMS COM Dean until 1985. He then served as Program Director for the WK Kellogg Foundation from 1985 to 1997, leading initiatives to improve rural health systems and health care leadership across the country and internationally.
In 1997, Dr. Bruce retired from Kellogg and with his wife, Dolores, returned to Arkansas to care for his aging parents. Soon after, he became a leader in the campaign to found a school of public health in Arkansas. That vision was strongly supported when Arkansans in November 2000 voted to use a portion of Master Tobacco Settlement funds to establish the school.
In early 2001, plans to open the school shifted into high gear, and Dr. Bruce coordinated the effort. At Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson’s request, Dr. Bruce served as Dean pro tem of the COPH until the next year, when Jim Raczynski, Ph.D., was hired as permanent Founding Dean. During that time, Dr. Bruce briefly served as Director of the COPH Office of Community-based Public Health. He went on to serve as the Clinton School of Public Service’s Dean pro tem and then as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.
Dr. Bruce continued his support of UAMS and the COPH, particularly as an advisor to Dean Raczynski and in regard to philanthropy. He endowed the Robert C. Walls Professorship in the Department of Biostatistics and contributed funds to UAMS for the construction of a fountain in front of the UAMS Medical Center in honor of Mrs. Bruce, a dedicated and longtime UAMS volunteer, who died in 2013. In 2015, he led the effort to establish an endowed chair in honor of former Surgeon General and UAMS alumna M. Joycelyn Elders, M.D..
For those who knew Dr. Bruce, he will be remembered not only for his leadership and philanthropy, but his wise words, kindness and humility. As UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn said of Dr. Bruce in an email to faculty, staff and students: “He had an immeasurable impact on UAMS and health care in Arkansas. Tom was a tireless worker for good causes … just lived to do good. He was a force of nature to make the world a better place.”