the westminster review logo

Tackling Your Dreams

Dr. James Hough

Alumnus uses football scholarship to launch a successful medical career

by Kayla Smith (’07)

The world is small, and Westminster is even smaller, which is why it is so amazing that James Hough (’79, ’83) found his way from southern California to this liberal arts college in Utah. An outstanding athlete, James was heavily recruited to play football by Division I teams. His junior college coach happened to play at Utah State University and knew Alan Jacobs, Westminster’s football coach. “My coach told me at those big schools it doesn’t matter how good you are, you are just a number; they don’t really care about you,” James recalls. “He said, ‘I know Alan, and Westminster College will offer you a great education, and you won’t be a number.’”

So James came to Westminster on a football scholarship. “I like to say that I came for the athletics and stayed for the academics, but really, I came for both,” James says. His ultimate goal was to become a doctor, so he began taking pre-med courses. James soon realized he couldn’t maintain the high GPA he needed to get into medical school and play football at the same time, so he decided to get a degree in physical education before his football scholarship expired. After completing his first degree, he immediately started working on a second bachelor’s degree in biology.

“So much of my life I feel like I’ve had angels on my shoulder, people who have helped me out for no apparent reason. Two of those angels were Steve Morgan and Richard Brockmyer,” James explains. Steve and Richard knew James was trying to go to medical school, so they helped him get a full-time job working campus security, enabling him to get a tuition waiver and afford to finish his second degree. “There is no way in the world I can thank them enough.”

James did get into medical school, at Chicago Med, where he competed with classmates from Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale. “I did as well or better than most of them because of my education. Every time I had a tough class or rotation, I’d have memories of Professor Barry Quinn and all the biology courses I took,” James remembers.

He completed his internship in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic and his residency in anesthesiology and a fellowship in pain management at LSU. Having attended medical school on an HPSP military scholarship, after completing his schooling, James was stationed at the Jacksonville Naval Airbase in Florida. There, he started the base’s first-ever pain clinic, for which he received the Navy/Marine Corps Accommodation Medal for Excellence in Medical Care and ultimately saved $2 million a year. “I was able to do good for my fellow military comrades and do well for the navy base by saving them a lot of money.”

After Jacksonville, James was handpicked to serve as the director of the Pain Clinic in Jefferson City, Missouri, where he served for 14 years before becoming the chief of anesthesiology and director of the Pain Clinic in Moultrie, Georgia. This past spring, James and his wife, who is a physician specializing in dermatology, moved to Helena, Montana, to work at the VA. “My wife and I, both being veterans, feel compelled to work with and help veterans,” James says.

James never made it back to live in Salt Lake after graduation, but he visits campus when he can and thinks of his experience often. “I was so blessed to go to Westminster College. I worked hard, but Westminster really facilitated my ability to go where I needed to go academically and professionally,” he says.



About the Westminster Review

The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.