The Dallas County Medical Society installed John T. Carlo, MD, as its 134th president on Jan. 19. With 15 years of experience under his belt, Carlo has proved to be a well-known, active physician leader in Dallas.
Carlo earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Tulane University in biomedical engineering and attended UT Southwestern Medical School. After graduation, he completed his residency in general surgery at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
He began his career as a physician, overseeing routine clinical and public health services at the Dallas County Health Department before being hired as the chief epidemiologist. He later became the medical director at DCHD. Six years later, Carlo joined the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, working with local and state public health officials to develop a biological threat and response capability.
I sat down with the newly appointed president and talked with him about what sparked his interest in healthcare, memorable moments in his career thus far, and what he hopes for the future of the DCMS.
What prompted you to get into the healthcare field?
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in. I think it was my desire to learn and understand something so complex as the human body. I also think using my medical background bridges an important gap to help people. You get the best of both worlds to have a career that’s stimulating in terms of the knowledge, requirements, and the lifelong learning, and being able to put it into use.”
What have been some memorable moments in your career?
“Hurricane Katrina was a big thing that I kept with me. It was big for everyone in DFW and in the country. What we did here was very unique: we built a medical response only using local resources. It was a moment for Dallas to shine and show what local, community collaborations can do. It wasn’t defined by one single hospital—we had doctors from all the different systems—and it was an amazing thing to participate and witness. It formed a collaborative community group where we still are interacting and doing things today.”
What are some things you’ve learned from your predecessors at DCMS?
“We’ve had some great past presidents recently. I enjoy learning from their leadership; they are bright and diverse. For example, our immediate past president attended the Trump inauguration. Before her, the president would not have necessarily have been in attendance. We have strong diversity with political thought and backgrounds and I’m pleased to see that here.”
“I also am pleased to see DCMS has really committed itself to community health more in-depth than other medical societies in the country. We’ve been invested in it for a long time with project access, a system creating opportunities to see doctors without cost. We’ve now developed the Dallas Choice Plan, and I’ve been excited to be involved with the past presidents in this initiative to see if we can get this to move forward. If we could get a ‘call to community’ model, I think it’s also a worthwhile effort for the medical society.”
Are there any short or long-term goals in mind?
“We will maintain a strong investment in public health preparedness. We came through the Ebola crisis with quite a bit of effort. And we continue, I think, to be an important role as an advisor and gatherer of physician leaders who can provide their expertise to respond. One thing I’d particularly like to see us do is not only to be ready for the emergency phone call, but to figure out how can we strengthen our systems in the interim before we actually have a disaster, so we’re not as reactive.”
What are you looking forward to in your new role?
“I think we do look forward to working with North Texas’ massive healthcare community. We have it all here in Dallas. I’m looking forward to working with the different and great people in their roles doing that. I also think the medical society has a long history of being involved in those groups. Notoriously, communities in those group may not always get along in situations because of competing interests, but we tend to do well in bringing everyone together and sitting down to talk openly about reaching some middle ground.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“With anything, learning is a process. But I’m excited to see how it unfolds.”
Carlo is currently a member of the DCMS board of directors, chair of the Texas Medical Association Council on Socioeconomics, and CEO of the nonprofit organization AIDS Arms Inc., which is the largest community-based HIV/AIDS service organization in North Texas.