If you were acting up on the streets of Amarillo several years ago, Blake Henchcliffe, M.B.A., a second-year McGovern Medical School student, was the last person you would want to see.

Before deciding on a career in health care, Henchcliffe, 34, spent seven years maintaining law and order in the heart of the Texas Panhandle as an officer in the Amarillo Police Department.

Halfway toward earning the right to put an M.D., behind his name, Henchcliffe was honored earlier this month at the 2016 Academic Surgical Congress in Jacksonville, Fla., for a research project to reduce complications associated with hernia surgery. He received a 2016 Student Research Award from the Association for Academic Surgery.

“Obesity increases your risk of complications,” said Henchcliffe, who was always interested in becoming a doctor. “The idea is to help patients lose weight prior to surgery.”

To find out why some surgery patients have difficulty losing weight or reducing other risk factors for complications, Henchcliffe surveyed 43 patients at Harris Health System’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.

In particular, Henchcliffe wanted to determine why only five of the 24 patients who were eligible for a preoperative risk-reduction plan chose to participate.

Their reasons, according to Henchcliffe, included not being able to get to the program or having someone to watch their children. Others could not afford to take the time off work.

With the survey results in hand, risk-reduction program officials were able to improve participation by providing transportation or parking vouchers among other things, he said.

Henchliffe’s collaborators from the Department of Surgery were Julie Holihan, M.D.; Juan R. Flores-Gonzalez, M.D.; Thomas O. Mitchell; Tien C. Ko, M.D.; Lillian S. Kao, M.D., M.S.; and Mike K. Liang, M.D.

Ko is a Jack H. Mayfield, M.D. Distinguished Professor in Surgery at UTHealth.

Their research letter was titled “Barriers to Participation in Preoperative Risk-Reduction Programs Prior to Ventral Hernia Repair: An Assessment of Underserved Patients at a Safety-Net Hospital” and was supported by the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences at UTHealth, which is operated in conjunction with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Memorial Hermann Health System.

With all this time spent on surgery research, does this mean Henchcliffe plans to be a surgeon? “I’m thinking about it but I still have a way to go,” he replied.