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My Father – David Selby

When my father passed away in 1997, it was extremely unexpected and shocking for everyone.   I always loved him, of course, and knew he was a famous doctor, but somehow I failed to understand his life as a whole until I started reading things that other people wrote after he was gone.  This is an article that my brother-in-law, Jonathan Garner, found on the 21st anniversary of his death this summer.  I’m unsure who wrote it but I can certainly say that 21 years later, he can still give me inspiration, even if it through the eyes of someone else.

David Selby (1935-1997) was sometimes wrong but never in doubt. No one ever questioned where David Selby stood on an issue because he was never loath to present his viewpoint. Born in Illinois he practiced in Dallas, Texas where he surrounded himself with talented associates. His background as a paratroop combat surgeon served him well in his, sometimes irreverent, commentaries reflecting the trials and tribulations of medical politics. No one ever doubted that if the “chips were really down” and you found yourself in a foxhole it would be a real comfort to have David Selby at your side. Irreverence, in his hands, was a sometimes-beautiful thing. He was one of the few who was willing to say the things which needed to be said to those, who who were pompous and intimidating, and otherwise unchallenged. He could defuse (as well as fuse) a discussion with a well-placed comment. David Selby possessed a unique ability and strength to be able to pick up, and continue to run with, batons dropped by others. When the attempts to establish a North American Spine organization faltered David Selby was there to pump new life into the effort. He had the gift of not always taking himself seriously and, because of this, he was often able to communicate better than most with his patients. He was not only a skilled surgeon but also a skilled artisan and sculptor. He gave much more to his peers than most of them have realized.