Pandemic brings Hilmers ’72 back to U.S. to serve patients

David Hilmers ’72 is deeply dedicated to working on global health initiatives, having served on disaster relief teams and missions in more than 50 countries. In March he decided it was time to return to the U.S. to help fight the coronavirus pandemic in Houston where he serves as a professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.

David Hilmers ’72Hilmers had been working in Australia and in countries in Asia and the Pacific Islands to eradicate hepatitis B as a director and chief medical officer for an organization called Hepatitis B Free. Then in March 2020 he noticed that the COVID-19 case numbers in Texas were climbing. So he returned to Houston to help his colleagues from Baylor College of Medicine fight the coronavirus pandemic at Ben Taub Hospital. Ben Taub provides medical care for the underserved population in Harris County, Texas.

“I had been keeping track of the increasing cases in the U.S., and the emails from my section at Baylor indicated that there might be a shortage of physicians at Ben Taub as the number of COVID cases increased,” he told the Houston Chronicle for a story published July 19.

This is part of a series of stories on Cornellians responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hilmers has worked nights and days at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston since March, caring for COVID-19 patients in special wards as well as in the intensive care unit. He continues to treat patients and teach medical students and residents at this facility. He said he will try to return to Australia in mid-November to start his volunteer work again.

He has been a professor at Baylor for 20 years, currently in the departments of internal medicine and pediatrics, the Center for Global Initiatives, and the Center for Space Medicine. 

Hilmers, a former astronaut who served on four space shuttle missions, has a passion for volunteering on global health initiatives. He has served on disaster relief teams and missions in more than 50 countries—including Liberia during the Ebola outbreak, Bangladesh in Rohingya refugee camps, Iraq during combat, Southeast Asia after the 2005 tsunami, and Haiti when it was struck with an earthquake in 2010. 

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