Benjy Frances Brooks was the first woman to become a pediatric surgeon in the state of Texas. In her work at Texas Children's Hospital and St. Joseph's Hospital in Houston, she conducted research on congenital defects, burn treatment, spleen reparation, and the prevention of hepatitis. A foundation set up in her name has advanced the surgical care of young children in Texas by endowing chairs at medical colleges, donating special equipment to hospitals and medical centers, and providing research grants for the study of pediatric illnesses and diseases.
Benjy Brooks was born in the small north Texas town of Lewisville in 1918. As she recalled later in life, from the moment she performed operations on her sister's dolls with manicure scissors at the age of four, she never wanted to be anything other than a doctor. In fact, she was so eager to learn as a child that her mother gave her reading lessons on the back porch of their farmhouse well before she had reached school age. After learning to read by age four, Brooks earned her B.S. degree from the North Texas State Teacher's College at the age of nineteen. She went on to earn an M.S. from the same school two years later. After four years teaching high school science to students hardly older than herself, Brooks decided to enter the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1944, where she received her M.D. degree in 1948. Dr. Brooks rose quickly through the difficult field of pediatric surgery. She accepted residencies at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children's Medical Center in Boston, and went on to become one of the first women to enter the department of surgery at Harvard. After spending 1957 in Glasgow, Scotland, studying pediatric surgery at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Dr. Brooks returned to Boston. She was not entirely happy there, however, and in 1960 she decided to return home. At this time there were only two other pediatric surgeons in Texas, and Brooks became the first woman of the group.
Dr. Brooks worked in Houston at the Texas Children's Hospital and St. Joseph's Hospital and volunteered as a teacher at the Baylor College of Medicine. In addition to a rigorous teaching and surgical schedule, she continued lines of research started elsewhere concerning congenital defects, burn treatment, spleen reparation, and the prevention of hepatitis.
The Benjy Brooks Foundation for Children, created by the parents of one of her patients, has been credited with greatly advancing the surgical care of young children in Texas by endowing chairs at medical colleges, donating special equipment needed by hospitals and medical centers, and provining research grants for the study of pediatric illnesses and diseases.
Dr. Benjy Brooks was a lifelong fan of Texas. In fact, she credits much of her success to her childhood in the Lone Star state, with its long history of strong, pioneering women. In Texas, Brooks noted, "you can go as far as you can push yourself."