As the TMA Annual Meeting in San Antonio approached this year, I recalled a memorable House of Delegates session four years ago in Fort Worth.
During the opening session on that Friday morning, the winners of the TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching were being announced. To be honest, I was not paying much attention. I was rummaging through the Delegate Handbook, consumed in reference committee minutia, trying to locate my next destination. The house was buzzing with white noise and background chatter.
Then a name was announced that I had not heard in years, but somehow a reflex triggered something in my consciousness and made me look up at the screen. Sure enough, there was a picture of a face I had not seen in decades: The first-place winner of the high school award was my own biology teacher, Janet Jones, from Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.
I was stunned, excited, and proud, all at once. She had instilled in me not only a strong desire to strive for excellence in her biology class, but also in the pursuit of a career in medicine as a whole. It was in her class at that very young stage in my life that my interest in medicine was sparked and nurtured to a roaring passion. I was overjoyed she was being recognized.
Nor was I the only Jesuit student in the audience that day whom Mrs. Jones had inspired to chase that dream. Keller pediatrician Jason Terk, MD, was another delegate who can look back and identify Mrs. Jones as a very influential mentor in his medical journey.
The awards were to be given out at the TMA and TMA Foundation’s tradition of a noon teacher’s luncheon presided over that year by then-TMA Board of Trustees member (and, now, past president) Don Read, MD. Even though the event conflicted with my Council on Legislation meeting, I knew what took priority in my heart. This luncheon was something I would have to crash. So I did.
I snuck into the luncheon after it had already started and quietly stood by the side wall as the presentations took place. As Dr. Read handed out the awards with a brief career synopsis for each recipient, I waited for that special moment to arrive. Finally when Mrs. Jones’ name was announced, Dr. Read summarized her amazing teaching career and the impact she personally had on her students. But before he could hand her the award, I had to raise my hand, interrupting the ceremony so I could add my own first-hand knowledge of the special teacher she is, and how she had shaped my own personal journey as a physician.
I was so proud she was being recognized in this way by the TMA and our philanthropic foundation that raises the funds for this program. Being able to tell her at that moment what she had meant to me … being able to say “thank you” for everything she had done not only for me but for hundreds of Jesuit students through the biology classes — and the Jesuit Medical Society that she founded — was so rewarding. At the conclusion of the presentations, we got together to share some special memories and a very special hug.
Who knows … perhaps this year other TMA physicians looked up from the House of Delegates floor and saw their own early medical career mentors honored and recognized for the very special teachers that they are.
Dr. Snyder is a Dallas cardiologist and member of the TMA Board of Trustees. This year’s TMA Ernest and Sarah Butler Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching were presented at TexMed 2018 in San Antonio in May. For more information about the awards and the TMA Foundation, visit www.texmed.org/foundation.