After distinguished military career in emergency medicine, alumnus opens ERs in civilian sector
by Mary Denny
Michael Hilliard, M.D. ’92 B.A. Biology
Not many 8-year-olds undergo ear surgery and wake up having decided to become a doctor, a professional soccer player, and serve in the military. But Michael Hilliard did, and he almost made it. As the old saying goes, “two out of three ain’t bad.”
Mike, who grew up mostly in San Antonio in a military family and attended Roosevelt High School, arrived at Trinity almost by accident. Then-Trinity soccer coach George Price attended a Roosevelt game to recruit another player but ended up recruiting Mike as well. Mike admits he was primarily lured by the fact that the team would take a minimum of four trips a season out of state. “I wanted to fly and see other parts of the country,” he says. But he also knew Trinity had an extremely high acceptance rate to medical school and, at the time, an ROTC program. Bingo! It seemed perfect. “I had been on campus less than a week when I told my parents it was the place for me,” he recalls.
Calling his Trinity experience “incredible,” Mike wrote for the Trinitonian his first year, joined ROTC, pledged Chi Delta Tau, played varsity soccer for Coaches Price and Paul McGinlay, competed in intramurals, worked on Coach Jim Potter’s intramural staff, and conducted research with professor Mike Doyle in the chemistry department, where professor Nancy Mills was also a major influence. “Trinity,” he says appreciatively, “was a very big and positive part of my life.”
Medicine and the U.S. military have also been big and positive parts of Mike’s life. He earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, joined the U.S. Army, completed an internship and residency in emergency medicine, and became Board Certified in Emergency Medicine. He spent more than a decade of his 20-year military career as a medical educator, responsible for teaching, organizing, and overseeing the educational progress of newly minted Army and Air Force doctors and physician assistants.
He also had plenty of hands-on emergency experience. In 2003-04 he deployed to Baghdad and Tikrit in Iraq and in 2010 to Al Asad, Iraq. It was there he encountered the most challenging medical situations of his life as he cared for very ill or gravely injured children. As heart-wrenching and emotionally difficult as that can be, Mike avows, “I absolutely love emergency medicine. The unpredictable nature of it and the ability to help someone when they need it is very rewarding.”
Over the course of his medical military career, Mike amassed an impressive resume that includes a list of publications, lectures, and stellar academic presentations; more than two dozen military and professional awards, among them the Legion of Merit, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Service Medal, and Emergency Medicine Medical Director of the Year in 2015 from the Government Service chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He has taught at three universities and held leadership roles at numerous institutions. Most recently, Mike was Chief of Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), the largest Level 1 trauma center in South Texas, and an assistant consultant to the Surgeon General for Emergency Medicine before retiring as a colonel in 2016.
With emergency medicine in his blood, Mike continues to “do what I love while helping people every day." Along with a few colleagues, he has opened three full-service emergency rooms, two in San Antonio and one in Austin. He is proud of the fact that his ERs have an average wait time of 10 minutes to see a physician.
Mike and his “wonderful wife, Susan,” have three teenaged children and belong to Community Bible Church. He enjoys triathlons, snow skiing, surfing, and is an avid reader— he just joined the Reading TUgether book club. He also lunches with Coach Potter, has coffee with Coach McGinlay, and keeps up with Trinity friends through annual camping trips, weekend soccer games, and “beer drinking when my kids’ schedule allows it.”
Reflecting on his life and career, Mike says, “The Lord has blessed my family and me richly.” It comes as no surprise that this hard working, compassionate doctor’s long-term goal is “to do medical mission work in developing countries with my family.”
You can contact Mike at mikehilliard8 [at] gmail.com