Dr. Chappell details origins

August 19, 2018

Dr. Robert Lane “Bob” Chappell Jr. had a hard time getting into medical school but made the most of his opportunity when it came, distinguishing himself academically and then establishing a dermatology practice that proved the “happy profession” he had expected.

He graduated ninth in his class of 376 at Odessa High School in 1963 and earned a biology degree at Austin College in Sherman; but he failed to score high enough on the Medical College Admission Test, then had the same disappointment after getting a master’s in zoology at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches.

“All along, I had that problem of not doing well on tests I couldn’t study for,” he said. “Even when I tried to go to Rice, I didn’t test well enough on the ACT. I decided that if I couldn’t be a physician, I would teach anatomy.”

Chappell enrolled at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to work on a doctorate in anatomy and was writing a dissertation on liver cancer in mice when professors’ recommendations got him into the med school, where he made all A’s in his first semester and was eventually named chief dermatology resident.

“I was not confident going in,” he said. “When you get rejected, you wonder in the back of your mind if you really are medical school-capable.”

Chappell did a year’s internal medicine residency before gaining admission to Baylor’s highly selective dermatology program, studying diseases and cosmetic problems of the skin, scalp, hair and nails. His internal medicine residency entailed the sub-specialty of hematology on disorders of the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic systems.

“My uncle, Dr. J.B. Richardson, was a dermatologist who practiced for 67 years in Houston,” he said. “He said it was a happy profession because you got to see all ages and could really help people. There are very few skin diseases that end up with people dying and there is so much you can do to improve the quality of patients’ lives.

“I love learning in all areas of medicine. It’s the one aptitude I have. I think it was God’s plan for me to become a physician, or to train physicians. I never had any interest to do anything else.”

Chappell said there are relatively few dermatologists in the rural areas of Texas and the Southwest because med schools don’t produce many and most go to big cities.

Chappell practiced in the Medical Park Building on Tower Drive for five years and worked in a building he had constructed on East 11th Street for 33 years. Dr. Ritchie Rosso became his partner in 2013 and they opened their white, gray and beige brick clinic at 4040 Medical Park Drive, in April 2016.

Specializing in psoriasis, eczema and acne, he leaves most of the surgery to Rosso, who came here from Miami, Fla.

Seeing 500 patients a week, they treat skin cancer, pre-cancerous lesions, boils, hives, the rough brown spots of keratosis, blistering diseases of the mouth and body and problems associated with diabetes, lupus and bad drug reactions.

“Three weeks ago, we treated a man whose body was almost covered with scaly red plaques,” Chappell said July 18. “It’s so rewarding because we have more medications and tools than we did 30 or 40 years ago.”

Their laser center is in constant use with its blue light photo radiation, eradicating pre-cancerous lesions, for example, with two treatments six weeks apart. They do hair removal, remove brown and red spots, rejuvenate skin with Botox to erase lines, use fillers to fill in wrinkles and employ the CoolSculpt procedure to remove unwanted fat.

They use chemotherapy and immunotherapy to boost the immune system and sell products to enhance and rejuvenate the skin. Their assistants are Nathan Rosso, Dr. Rosso’s brother, and Jason Dominguez.

A longtime member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chappell has known many doctors whose faiths were strong and he “has definitely seen miracles in my career where God intervened and either improved the person, or allowed the person to live,” he said.

“You get the best outcome when you combine the two (medicine and faith)” said the 73-year-old physician whose granddad, the Rev. Moses Ellsworth Chappell, was a Presbyterian minister in Fort Worth. “God is a big help.”

Noting Texas has the nation’s second-worst prevalence of skin cancer behind Arizona, Chappell said, “I do believe in less ozone and more global warming.

“We are definitely seeing more skin cancer than 20 or 30 years ago. For people who work outside, the most important thing is to protect themselves with long sleeves, hats and sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF (sun protection factor) every four hours.”

Chappell works 10 hours a day four days a week and sometimes a half-day on Fridays, and he often spends an hour or two on patients’ charts at home.

Former Mayor Larry Melton said Chappell “is one of those individuals who does much for our community,’ but remains in the background.

“Bob is active in the Odessa Chamber of Commerce and is a past chairman of the United Way Pillars Club and former chief of staff of Medical Center Hospital,” Melton said. “His parents Bob and Julie Faye were also community leaders.”

His father was a certified public accountant.

“He’s booked solid but spends the time he needs to assure his patients the cures they need. He was pretty well tied down before he got a partner, and Dr. Rosso was a great addition.”

Dr. Sudhir Amaram said Chappell “is one of the most noble physicians.

“Bob always does what’s best for his patients,” the cardiologist said. “He takes his own time and makes each one feel special. He doesn’t just treat them like patients, he is a friend of the family.”

Asked what makes Chappell a good leader of doctors, Amaram said, “To become chief of staff, all the medical staff trusts you to do the right thing.

“You almost have to be like a judge, listen to all sides and do what’s best for the community, the patient and the hospital. He was on the MCH Foundation Board for a number of years.”

Attorney Steve Barron, the doctor’s workout partner, said he “is a gracious and caring person whose personality sets the tone for his practice.

“Bob listens to his patients and cares for them, which are qualities each of us would want in a physician,” Barron said. “He grew up in Odessa and has an abiding concern for its quality of life. He served on the boards of Hospice of the Southwest and Disciples Village (low-income housing for seniors) and is committed to his faith, his family, his community and his medical practice.”

Some of Chappell’s patients were his customers when he was an Odessa American paperboy throwing newspapers along West County Road, Lauderdale, Kelly, Belmont and Amburgey streets. “I’d ride by on my bicycle and try to hit the paper right by their front doors, and they still remember that,” he said.

“I also did some of their yards. Bill Noel (an oilman and civic leader) was our next door neighbor on Monticello. I was a roustabout for four summers for Odessa Natural and West Texas Gathering around Kermit. All that helped me get a good education.

“With my parents, it was more an expectation. They were never harsh. They complimented me when I did well and never reprimanded me for not doing well. It was more like, ‘We know you can do better.’”

Chappell and his wife Barbara have four children and six grandchildren. He also has one sister.

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