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Honoring Our Elders

Meet Your Neighbor:

Kay Bauman

Interview by Seth Allen


Kay and I sat down after she finished a rousing game of Rummy Cube during St. Francis game time. The 81 year-old is a long time St. Francis member, a leader during the Reconciling process, and one of Tucson’s first AIDS physicians. She confides that she has enough stories to fill several interviews. I have more than I can possibly fit in here. (Take her out for coffee and get her to tell you some). Meet the incomparable Dr. Kay Bauman.


ME: Where were you born and raised?

KAY: I was born in Flint, Michigan. But we moved to Midland when I was 2 ½.  It’s the home of Dow Chemical, which was then a very conservative company. They wouldn’t hire anyone that wasn’t white.


ME: What was the best thing about growing up there? Your favorite memory of childhood.

KAY: I went to a very welcoming church. My parents were very welcoming and open to everyone. My dad was a Pro-football player in the 20’s. And, he was the high school football coach.


ME: Where did you go to college/medical school?

KAY:  University of Michigan. I have my BS, my MS in Microbiology, and my Doctorate in Medicine.


ME: Why did you pursue a medical degree?

KAY: I hadn’t really planned it that way. I was the Salutatorian of my High school. I loved science. So when I met with the College Advisor, he was looking over my transcripts and asked what I was planning to study. I told him I really wasn’t sure. He suggested medicine. I told him I didn’t want to be a nurse. He said not a nurse, a Doctor. And, so I started pre-med.


ME: If memory serves me correctly, you lived in Hawaii for a time? 

KAY: I lived in Hawaii from 1992 to 2010. I have been to all 50 states and I’ve lived in New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, Louisiana, and Michigan. I worked in the prison system in Hawaii and also worked to help establish family medicine in the Medical School there.


ME:  How did you end up in Tucson?

KAY: Way before that Jim (her husband) and I were in Phoenix for five years. I was a family practitioner and Jim was an OB-GYN. We moved to Texas for a year, but we didn’t like it there. When we decided to leave Texas and return to Arizona, we just decided that Tucson was a better fit.


ME: You focused on treating patients with AIDS. What drew you to that particular population?

KAY: I had lots of LGBTQ friends. I had a reputation as a “safe” doctor for the gay community. About 40-percent of my patients were gay. When the AIDS epidemic hit the gay community, I just had to focus on it. There were only 3 doctors specializing in AIDS for all of Southern Arizona. 


ME: Tell me a little about what that was like.

KAY: I lost lots of people during that time. I would be on TV talking about AIDS. People told me I would lose patients as a result of that. But, I found many patients thanked me for speaking out, patients who would ask me to be with them when they spoke with parents, and parents who would thank me for helping their children. 


Kay Bauman

ME: When did you first come to St. Francis?

KAY: We came to St. Francis in 1979. Gay, Art Evans wife, was instrumental in that.

ME: What attracted you to this church specifically?

KAY: The Reconciling Ministry was getting started. I became one of the leaders. I was here when David Wilkinson came. We had a lot of gay men with AIDS here then. David helped them through it. I was one of the more vocal activists. We coordinated an overnight retreat “Meeting Our Lesbian Sisters Half-Way.” It was okay to be out LGBTQ here.


ME:  What changes have you seen through the years?

KAY: We have continued to be a reconciling church, but now we’ve focused on the Refugees and Asylum Seekers. I’ve become active in the Refugee program. I’ve opened my home to four displaced people so far over the years. Refugees have permission to be here. Asylum seekers have to apply to be here. It’s important. I’m active in the Refugee Welcome Corporation in Albany, NY. We’re helping to renovate old homes to house refugees, provide ESL classes, tutoring, and education for the refugee community.


ME: Covid hit everything in the country hard. What are your thoughts?

KAY: We got a Covid vaccine so fast. And, still, we have no AIDS vaccine. It’s sad.


ME: What is your hope for the church’s future?

KAY: I haven’t really thought about that. I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing for refugee community and the LGBTQ community.


ME: What’s your favorite pastime or hobby?

KAY: I’m a puzzle person. I don’t watch TV.


Me: What are you reading now?

KAY: I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s about a Jewish Family from Russia who settled in America. I have a daughter who converted to Judaism.


ME: If your life was a book, what would the title be?

KAY: I’m actually writing a book now. The working title is “Surviving Suicide.”


ME: Any questions I didn’t ask that you wish I had?

KAY: You didn’t ask me how my husband died. I’ve been a widow for 39 years. He committed suicide from depression from a medical malpractice suit. It’s life changing. Our 4 daughters were young when it happened. I was glad that I had the financial ability to maintain the family and send my daughters to college. 


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