Ho Din Award: Southwestern Medical Foundation Recognizes UTSW Medical Student With Its Highest Honor

Plano native Whitney Leigh Stuard is the winner of the 2023 Ho Din Award. As a co-founder of a student interest group focused on disabilities and a non-profit organization providing support to mothers, Stuard's contributions extend beyond her medical prowess. She also authored and received a TMA Foundation Grant for a STEM project that impacted more than 4,000 students.

Plano native Dr. Whitney Leigh Stuard will be honored as the 2023 Ho Din Award winner Thursday at UT Southwestern Medical School’s commencement ceremony, Southwestern Medical Foundation announced.

The foundation chooses one UT Southwestern medical student every year to receive the honor, which recognizes those who exemplify the unique personal qualities embodied in all great physicians — medical wisdom and human understanding.

The award represents the ideals and aspirations on which the school was built and continues to be the highest honor bestowed on a UT Southwestern medical student today.

Stuard was nominated and chosen for her excellence in academics, service, and scholarship, the foundation said.

Stuard has matched to Johns Hopkins University Wilmer Eye Institute where she will begin her training for her longstanding passion for ophthalmology.

In 1943, the Ho Din Award was started by Southwestern Medical Foundation in conjunction with the creation of Southwestern Medical College to recognize those who excel in medical wisdom and human understanding, the key traits of all great physicians.

Among many others, notable recipients include George Thomas Shires, M.D. (1948), Nobel Laureate Joseph Leonard Goldstein, M.D. (1966), Elizabeth Kassanoff-Piper, M.D. (1996), and James “Brad” Cutrell, M.D. (2007).

Above and beyond in academics and service

Dr. Whitney Leigh Stuard, second from right, after the traditional UTSW “White Coat Ceremony.” [Photo: UTSW]

The foundation said that throughout her life and career, Stuard has gone above and beyond in her commitment to academic excellence, as well as community involvement and patient service.

A native North Texan, Stuard has dedicated herself to improving the lives of others within the Dallas-Fort Worth area by co-founding a student interest group focused on disabilities as well as a 501c3 non-profit organization, Cradled with Love, which has provided more than 1,000 mothers with baby wraps to allow for kangaroo care.

She also co-founded and managed Brother Bills Helping Hands Student-Run Free Clinic and has served on the board of directors of the Society for Student-Run Free Clinics.

The foundation said that Stuard took her interest in service and community education even further through a Schweitzer Fellowship during which she created a STEM Empowerment and Education Course with 250 students. She also authored and received a TMA Foundation Grant for a STEM project that impacted over 4,000 students.

Stuard helped author more than 30 policies to improve patient care through her volunteer advocacy, the foundation said.

Dr. Whitney Leigh Stuard at Match Day at UTSW. Match Day is a highly anticipated event in the medical school journey of graduating medical students. It’s the day when medical students across the U.S. learn which residency program they have been “matched” to. [Image: UTSW]

Strong leadership

In a Q&A focused on female physicians and leadership with the Texas Medical Association last year, Stuard said, “Women bring an innovative and unique perspective to the field of health care that can be used to create effective solutions and new ideas.”

Stuard emphasize the importance of advocating for healthcare policay change, noting that she appreciates the opportunity to “help write policies to end those barriers to care and implement advocacy initiatives. The physician says she was motivated to become a leader medicine because “I felt it was a place where I could make a difference in the future of health care and our state.”

Positivity is a leadership skill, too, and Stuard aims to be a role model: “When young girls see women leaders, they see what they too can become. Women can offer a unique mentorship in this way.”

Stuard also discussed her efforts in promoting inclusion through founding the UTSW Disability Working Group to advance disability advocacy in their medical school.

“I founded the UTSW Disability Working Group; the mission is to advance curricular efforts on disability advocacy at UT Southwestern Medical School, support and create a welcome environment for students with disabilities, and educate others about individuals with disabilities in order to create community among people who are passionate about disability rights,” she said.

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R E A D   N E X T

  • The Ho Din Award honors those who exemplify the unique combination of medical wisdom and human understanding that distinguishes all great physicians.Leading with a heart of service, Cayenne L. Price, M.D., hopes to create as much of an impact in her community as possible while caring for her patients.

  • Michael McMahan follows Kathleen Gibson as CEO, who spent 10 years at the helm of the foundation. McMahan worked for more than a decade at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. He'll now lead the foundation in its mission to build "a sustainable funding source for innovative research, best-in-class medical education, and the highest standard of treatment and care."

  • As many North Texans try to move on from the pandemic, Dr. Bell is focused on the "tens of millions of patients" who've developed long-haul COVID—and who are experiencing life-altering symptoms long after their COVID-19 infection cleared.

  • Over 150 scientists across dozens of departments will be part of the elite National Institutes of Health-funded, university-wide interdisciplinary research center. Dallas' UT Southwestern Medical Center is the only institution in Texas to be selected for the NIH initiative. UTSW wants to translate scientific discoveries into new therapeutic strategies for the prevention and treatment of obesity, which it describes as a chronic disease affecting more than 40% of the U.S. population, with medical costs nearing $175 billion.

  • The Perot family’s support will expand the number of students admitted to UT Southwestern's dual-degree program as well as research disciplines in which they study, to include biomedical engineering, computational biology, bioinformatics, and data science. The funding will enhance the curriculum and experiences of Medical Scientist Training Program students and increase efforts to recruit students from elite U.S. colleges, including top international students who want to stay in the U.S. for their careers.