The Mack family might be a candidate for a Guinness World Record. With eight extended family members who have earned the prefix “Dr.,” the family’s story is one of hard work, dedication and the example set by a grandfather, father and brother.
As children, Chris, Andy and Ben Mack shadowed their father, the late Dr. Sam Mack, a dual-degree dentist and physician, who practiced both oral and general surgery in Longview for 33 years. Sam and his younger brother, dentist Ed Mack, were both well respected in the Longview community.
Sam was the first physician on the Good Shepherd Medical Center board of directors, and he was instrumental in establishing the hospital’s first full-time emergency room physician position. He also was the driving force behind his sons’ desires to enter dental and health care professions.
The brothers recall fond childhood memories of their father’s four-room clinic, where they often visited and intently watched him work. Sometimes, they accompanied their father to the hospital as he made rounds and visited patients. Occasionally, the brothers would observe their dad perform surgery.
Even as youngsters, the brothers said they wanted to be doctors. Many might have chalked up the notion to nothing more than childhood fantasies, but the Mack brothers meant it.
Chris ’79 became the first brother to enroll in SFA’s pre-professional program in 1977. Andy ’81 and Ben ’83 soon followed. The brothers’ similarities did not end with their career aspirations. While at SFA, all three siblings pursued majors in biology, lived in Garner Apartments, played intramural sports and were members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
Andy recalled SFA’s stellar reputation for graduating top-quality alumni who were exceedingly prepared to enter dental and medical schools as a key factor in his decision to enroll. He also remembers the guidance and resoluteness of his SFA professors.
“I chose SFA because I knew I wanted to be a dentist,” Andy said. “SFA had a fantastic reputation as being one of the premier schools for pre-med and pre-dental acceptance rates because of faculty members like Dr. James M. Garrett, who taught organic chemistry, and Dr. Wayne Slagle, who was our pre-dentistry and pre-medical adviser.”
Chris and Ben agree organic chemistry with Garrett was their favorite albeit most challenging course. Chris said Garrett was the best instructor he ever had, and Ben recalled that making an A in organic chemistry gave him the confidence to continue to pursue his dream of being a doctor.
“I will never forget many of my SFA instructors because they were so instrumental in my career and where I am today,” Ben said. “I remember how they pushed me to be so much better than I thought I could be.”
Garrett, who retired from teaching at SFA in 2005, distinctly remembers the Mack brothers as being some of his best students. He said SFA’s pre-professional program had established a reputation as a flagship in the state, and there was no shortage of outstanding students who were eager to enroll.
“Excellence attracted excellence, and that’s how I remember the Mack brothers,” Garrett said. “All three were exceptional students. If you gave them a challenge, they would take it and run with it. There was never a doubt as to their success.”
After Chris graduated from SFA, he attended and graduated from dental school. He then returned home to Longview, where he’s been providing dental care to patients for more than 30 years. Chris also acts as his own lab technician, making dentures, crowns and implants.
Education holds a special place in Chris’ heart. He has served on the Longview Independent School District’s Board of Trustees for 17 years, currently serving as the board’s president.
“I’m a big proponent of education,” Chris said. “I’ve been fortunate to have benefited from the knowledge shared by wonderful teachers, and I like to give back where I can. My dad also was an excellent teacher, and he really was my first teacher. He had a profound impact on my career, and I know he’d be proud I’m paying it forward.”
Andy, whose office is just across the street from Chris’ clinic, also graduated from dental school and attended a four-year surgical residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon for 28 years, his practice provides dental implants, bone grafting, reconstructive surgery and anesthesia.
Andy has served on the Longview City Council for nine years and is the city’s mayor.
“I ran for mayor because I wanted to make a difference in this community, and I will do it as long as I believe I can. I enjoy giving back to the community that has given me so much,” Andy said.
Andy’s children are following in their dad’s and grandfather’s footsteps. Daughters Spencer and Madison Mack also are Longview dentists, and son, Luke, is a dental student.
Not far from his brothers’ offices, Ben serves as a general surgeon at the Diagnostic Clinic of Longview, where he has practiced all types of general surgery for 25 years. Ben said witnessing the difference his father made in people’s lives made him want to become a physician.
“My father was my inspiration,” Ben said. “I always enjoyed going to the hospital as he made rounds and treated patients. Dad’s presence had a calming effect on them, and they respected him.”
Likewise, Ben’s son Drew is studying biochemistry and plans to attend medical school. Combined, the Mack brothers treat thousands of patients a year, which Ben said helps put life in perspective.
“Dealing with people suffering from illnesses reminds me how blessed I am to be healthy. The best part of my job is helping people get better when they are suffering from cancer, traumatic events or other health-related issues,” Ben said. “Many of my patients will come see me after they’ve healed — 20 or more years after their surgery — just to visit.”
Although he hasn’t taught at SFA in more than a decade, Garrett, SFA professor emeritus of chemistry, still keeps up to date on the whereabouts and careers of many of his former students — a list of alumni that he says comprises several of the most highly regarded health care professionals in the state. He includes the Mack brothers among them.
“Sometimes, people have anxieties about going to the doctor,” Garrett said. “They may already be uneasy because they don’t feel well. The greatest assurance I can give them is to look on the wall and see where the doctor’s degrees came from. If they have an SFA degree, there’s no need to worry.”