Dr. Kyle Woerner, winner of the Benjy F. Brooks, M.D., Outstanding Faculty Award, with his family.
Dr. Kyle Woerner, winner of the Benjy F. Brooks, M.D., Outstanding Faculty Award, with his family.

Kyle Woerner, M.D., a fourth-year orthopaedic surgery resident, is this year’s winner of the Benjy F. Brooks, M.D. Outstanding Clinical Faculty Award.

Established in 1991 by the Alumni Association, the Benjy Brooks award is presented by the Medical School alumni to recognize individuals “who complement and enhance the education program by serving as role models for students.” It is named in honor of Dr. Benjy Brooks, the first board-certified woman pediatric surgeon in the United States, who joined the Medical School’s faculty in 1973 and remained active in the life of the Medical School until her death in 1998.

Medical students may nominate faculty or residents for the award. Woerner is the first resident to ever receive the Benjy Brooks award.

“Winning an award like this is a blessing for me.  It lets me know that I am impacting people in a positive way, which is a great motivator for me,” Woerner said. “This award is really a confirmation of the amazing teachers and role models who have shaped me.  The Orthopedic Surgery department at UT Houston is an exciting place to be as a resident, and that excitement has manifested itself in many ways, including this award.  It is truly an honor to receive the Benjy Brooks award, and I have my own department’s faculty to thank.”

Woerner said he teaches students that being a competent doctor is not enough.

“When you boil down what makes a good doctor, knowledge of what an illness is and how to treat it, is an expected baseline.  If I send my mother to the doctor, I want her to be taken care of by somebody who is compassionate, kind, patient, and a good listener,” he said.

And the only way to teach excellent medicine is to model it.

“The fact is that the only good way to foster those qualities in medical students is by being a good example, so I take that job seriously.  It is one thing to tell medical students to treat patients as if they were family, and another thing entirely to show them how to treat people.  Role models and mentorship are a hallmark of a strong medical education, and UT Houston has been blessed with a lot of quality individuals to look up to,” he explained.

Woerner said that he has had many role models in the field of orthopaedic surgery to inspire him.

“As a young resident, I first met Dr. John Munz, who was a chief resident at the time.  He is now faculty at UT Houston in our Orthopedic Trauma department.  His work ethic and constant striving for better patient care have always been inspirational to me, and he continues to be a role model for me,” he said.

“The other person I look up to the most is Dr. Walt Lowe, our chairman.  He is an extremely talented surgeon, but most of all, he is a great doctor.  He sits down with every patient and treats them with respect and compassion.  He is one of the busiest people I have met, but you would never know it as a patient, because in that room, he treats you like family.  He has also made it a point to surround the residents with faculty who are talented teachers and mentors in addition to being great surgeons, and it has impacted each resident in our program immensely.”

Woerner said he has to look no further than the list of previous Benjy Brooks award recipients for role models.

“Most of the faculty who have received this award in the past were an integral part of my development in medical school at UT Houston, so to be placed on that same list is a phenomenal honor,” he said.

Former recipients of the Benjy F. Brooks Teaching Award include Walter M. Kirkendall, M.D., 1991; William S. Fields, M.D., 1992; James T. Willerson, M.D., 1994; Harold T. Pruessner, M.D., 1995; Herbert L. DuPont, M.D., 1997; Larry D. Scott, M.D., 1999; Herbert L. Fred, M.D., 1999; Becky L. McGraw-Wall, M.D., 2000; Terry K. Satterwhite, M.D., 2001; Cheves M. Smythe, M.D., 2002; Ian Butler, M.D., 2003; Francisco Fuentes, M.D., 2004; Pedro Mancias, M.D., 2009; Lisa Armitige, M.D., Ph.D., 2010; and Octavio Pinell, M.D., 2011.

-Darla Brown, Office of Communications, Medical School