AUSTIN, TEXAS — AUSTIN, Texas -- These days, Mark McBath can come home at night, eat dinner with his wife and sometimes even get a chance to watch television. Unless of course the phone starts ringing, and he's called to the hospital.
McBath is relishing this new normalcy -- that is, normal if you're a new doctor. He has been able to enjoy such a lifestyle for about the past 100 days, since he completed the last phase of his lengthy medical education.
For the past 10 years, McBath has spent more hours working -- and more hours on call -- than his body cares to remember. As a resident in the surgical rotation of the transplant unit at Hermann Hospital, for instance, McBath often spent three days at a time on duty, or on call somewhere in the hospital.
"This is very, very much a whole new world to me," McBath said last week from his home in Houston. "I decided to give it a try in the real world."
McBath gave up his last year at quarterback at the University of Texas to lead such a life. He did leave a winner; in his last game as a Longhorn in 1978, McBath led Texas to a 42-0 win over Maryland in the Sun Bowl.
McBath might be remembered for another reason -- being the hard-luck Texas quarterback in 1977. As a sophomore, he began the year as the starter, leading Texas to consecutive wins over Boston College (44-0), Virginia (68-0) and Rice (72-15).
But in the first quarter of the Oklahoma game, McBath took a snap and began running an option play. Before he could pitch the ball, his leg twisted horribly underneath him. With a broken leg, McBath missed the remainder of the game and Texas' undefeated regular season. Third-stringer Randy McEachern replaced McBath and had a storybook year.
If only he stayed one more season . . . well, McBath thought about it and realized being the Texas quarterback wasn't going to help him get to medical school. As a true option quarterback, McBath knew he had no chance at the NFL.
And football practice sure conflicted with lab time.
"It felt tough at the time," McBath said. "But it was the only decision to make. I knew I had no real option in football after college. It was time to think about my future."
McBath checked out of the football dorm and moved into an extra room in a Catholic rectory in South Austin. He completed all his requirements and graduated that spring with a degree in biology. He was also accepted to medical school in Houston.
McBath spent four years in medical school and another five as a surgical resident at Hermann Hospital. Last year, he had a teaching fellowship in surgical oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Tumor Institute.
He was encouraged to continue teaching other residents the finer points of cancer surgery, but McBath left the hospital to go out on his own earlier this year. He specializes in cancer and general surgery.
Four times a month, McBath gives back to Hermann Hospital, volunteering for a surgical shift in the trauma center.
He said his life steadily is returning to normal. He can relax with his wife. And he also holds season tickets to Longhorns football games.
But McBath does concede to a certain longing for those long hours.
"The thing I miss the most is it probably was my last real chance at formally educating myself," he said. "While I was a resident, it was plastics one day, burns the next. Then the next day, I'd be delivering a baby."
And speaking of babies, McBath and his wife Annie are expecting their first child next spring. Perhaps McBath, with all those long hours behind him, will volunteer for the 2 a.m. feedings.