Theology teacher Fr. Ralph Houlihan, SJ ‘52 fondly tells the story of Dr. Jerry Dwyer ‘75, who, in 1974, was the first white student to attend a mixer sponsored by the Organization for Black Achievement at SLUH (OBA), the predecessor of today’s Association for Cultural Enrichment at SLUH (ACES).
“It was a great event,” recalls Fr. Houlihan, SLUH’s Principal at the time. “CJ the DJ and the Jocks & Jockettes were playing music. Everybody was all dressed up and having fun. Jerry looked around and noticed he was the only white student. He was the senior class president, and it said a lot about his character. Jerry has always been about seeking solidarity and forging new relationships.”
Dwyer was recognized for his strong, consistent leadership with the Ed Hawk Award, given annually to a senior who: “for his love and dedication to SLUH, and through his example of working and giving, was most able to influence his class toward success by cooperation and unity.” To this day, it is his most treasured accolade – which, given his distinguished career marked by achievement, is quite remarkable.
As a kid, Dwyer, who grew up in Holy Redeemer Parish, knew what he wanted to become. His father had a PhD in biology and taught at Saint Louis University (SLU). Eventually he and two of his brothers (Joe ‘63 and Jim ‘71) became cardiologists. Dwyer’s family tradition continues today, with the recent graduation of his daughter, Dr. Emma Dwyer ‘19 from SLU's School of Medicine.
Dwyer says SLUH inspired his love of math and science, while cultivating his leadership ability. “During my high school years, I visited some of the poorest countries in Central and South America. That experience helped solidify my goal to help the sick as a doctor.”
The critical care aspect of cardiology always appealed to Dwyer, who graduated from the SLU School of Medicine before completing cardiology and electrophysiology fellowships at Washington University School of Medicine. In addition to founding a private cardiology practice, Dwyer has participated in multiple clinical trials and published a paper examining pacemakers and defibrillators. He says, “Having the ability to dramatically impact the lives of patients is a great privilege and responsibility.”
Dwyer’s pursuits are so wide and varied, one may wonder how he has time to be a doctor. He is a partner with Sunora Bacanora (Amigo Brands, LLC), a two-time Double Gold award winner at multiple international spirit competitions; Healthcare Advisory Board Director (Chair) for American Bank of Missouri; co-founder of MediBlurb, a podcast on the latest advances in medical care; business owner at St. Louis Cardiology Center, PC; community philanthropist; commercial developer predominantly in the healthcare field; and a member of the Board of Trustees of the SSM Health Foundation in St. Louis.
What compels Dwyer, amid all of his activity, is an insatiable drive to learn and help others. Thirty years ago, he helped to start SLU’s John Dwyer Public Lecture Series as a way to address science-related topics, while publicly recognizing his father. In 2014, Dwyer, as a full-time doctor, earned his MBA from the Trulaske School of Business at the University of Missouri. Several years later, he led the LCME Remediation and Continuity Committee, the liaison committee on medical education remediation process to obtain full accreditation of SLU’s School of Medicine. At this year’s School of Medicine graduation, Dr. Dwyer was awarded the SLU Alumni Merit Award for his lifelong work with the medical school.
His latest, and perhaps most impassioned, activity is serving as a Board Advisor for MEDLaunch, an incubator ecosystem that fosters startup within the SLU academic environment. It’s the ideal outlet, utilizing Dwyer’s business acumen (he’s an expert in the medical silo of startup companies and holds a real estate license), good legal sense (thanks, he says, to his brother John ‘61, who is an attorney) and medical background.
“I really enjoy working with students on new innovations and mentoring them as they look at careers in medicine,” he says. “In order to be successful, I teach them they need to reinvent themselves every six months.”
Dwyer concedes he has a full plate, yet in the Ignatian spirit of magis, he focuses on what more he can do as a ‘man for others.’ “I may do a lot,” he says, smiling, “But I can always do more.”
IN HIS OWN WORDS: The Importance of Entrepreneurialism
by Dr. Jerry Dwyer '75
The entrepreneurial mindset looks at life with problem-solving optics. The world today is littered with new apps and technologies meant to solve the problems of our lives, whether it’s as simple as organizing our photos or even detecting arrhythmias with at-home monitoring of implanted defibrillators, such as in the TRUST clinical trial in which I participated.
In medicine, it is especially important to keep this mindset as it allows physicians and researchers to critically analyze their work – think outside the box – and build the products, devices and businesses to best improve patients’ lives. Some of these are direct, like the detection of heartbeat abnormalities from the comfort of the patient’s home, or indirect, like the use of AR (Augmented Reality), AI (Artificial Intelligence) and VR (Virtual Reality) in the operating room to help the physician perform at a higher level in surgery – which ultimately leads to lower risk and better outcomes for patients.
The entrepreneurial mindset is key in any walk of life because it allows the individual to focus on how to implement their ideas to better others’ lives. Much as in the Jesuit spirit of being a ‘man for others,’ an entrepreneur is an inventor for others.
“SLUH has always attracted outstanding students interested in science and medicine. I studied at Backer Memorial with several classmates who were my peers in medical school. Go Forth is a natural evolution for the next generation by updating the brick-and-mortar for state-of-the-art labs and classrooms so they match the program’s excellence.”
- Dr. Jerry Dwyer '75