It was an evening of well-wishing and congratulations for Marylee Kott, M.D., ’77, and Diana Fite, M.D., ’78, the 2017 winners of the Distinguished Alumnus Award of McGovern Medical School, at the annual awards ceremony last week.

Kott serves as an associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and currently is retired from active pathology practice, but works part time as informatics medical director of pathology with the Harris Health System developing the Beaker Laboratory module to interface with the hospital’s Epic Electronic Medical Record. She had plenty of doctors to thank for her award and talked about how she found her place at McGovern Medical School and how she came from a “family of old-fashioned doctors.”

“I had worked in their offices since I was a teenager,” Kott said.

While she originally sought to be a teacher, her husband encouraged her to give medical school a shot. She had applied to UT and brother had also been accepted at the time she was – something Kott joked was “very unpleasant” because her brother was younger than her.

“I have to say that I learned from my family of doctors how to care for patients, the importance of diagnostic skills, and how to be kind to all,” Kott said. “I found at [McGovern Medical School] I came into contact with more physicians who embodied the qualities I wanted to emulate.”

Kott thanked her family and friends in attendance, along with a long list of doctors for her positive experiences at the medical school. She praised the faculty for giving her an “excellent foundation for the future.” Kott recounted the process of choosing a specialty and how she had taken some time off after graduation after the birth of her first daughter and eventually filled a position in pathology with no regrets.

Kott said her happiest time was likely interviewing prospective medical students, as she also served on admission committees. She called it a “tough job” but rewarding to see students grow, venture into residency, and even maintain contact with them as they further their careers in medicine.

“I hope that I have been successful in fostering learning in the students,” Kott said. “McGovern has given so much to me, and I hope I’ve been able to give a little bit back to the community, the students, and even the faculty.”

Fite currently serves as an emergency physician at ER Katy in Katy, Texas, and as medical director of the emergency department and the hospital at Memorial Hermann Tomball. She spoke about growing up in Amarillo, and mentioned that she had no memory of being encouraged by her parents to become a doctor. Her mother was a registered nurse and her father was a neurosurgeon who emigrated from England because he “wanted to get away from socialized medicine.”

“He was the only neurosurgeon around for years in the whole Panhandle and parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico,” Fite said. “All I remember him saying is that the profession will be ruined someday by socialized medicine coming to America just as it was in England.”

While attending college, Fite had married and said she was unsure of the direction she wanted to take but during her second year noticed others said their plans were to attend medical school.

“A lot of the people in the classes are saying they are going to medical school and they can barely keep their grades up and they don’t even work, and I thought, well, maybe I should consider being a doctor,” Fite said. She joked that she didn’t know it at the time but those people would never get into medical school anyway. Nonetheless, Fite said it was a good impetus for her to start thinking about attending medical school.

She had originally aimed to remain in the Dallas area, but after her husband was accepted into a program at the University of Houston, she opted to swap places with a student enrolled at McGovern Medical School, known at the time as UT Medical School. Fite admitted she was “horrified” by the heat and humidity in Houston at first, but said it is a privilege to be an alumnus of the medical school.

“There is no question that I realized how everything fell into place that this was God’s purpose for my life to become a physician and then eventually an emergency physician because I wanted to take care of all patients,” Fite said.

Established in 1987, the purpose of the award is to recognize outstanding contributions of alumni in the areas of medical science and education, or the prevention and treatment of diseases, as well as continued interests in McGovern Medical School and its students.