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
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.
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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