Texas Physician Leaders Win Top AMA Honors for Pandemic Achievements
By Joey Berlin


Advancing COVID-19 vaccines and countering vaccine misinformation. Going to great lengths to secure personal protective equipment. Bolstering physician morale and professionalism in turbulent times.

These were just a few of the outstanding reasons that the American Medical Association awarded some of its top honors to Texas-based physicians for their achievements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The awards were presented Saturday during the general session of the Texas Medical Association’s virtual 2022 Winter Conference.

The AMA’s Scientific Achievement Award went to Houston’s Peter Hotez, MD, founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology at Baylor College of Medicine, and one of Texas’ most visible faces in promoting vaccinations. That work, along with combating science-devoid misinformation on vaccines, earned Dr. Hotez the award.

“Dr. Hotez continues to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to render concise and factual messaging while knocking down misinformation at every turn,” Fort Worth allergist/immunologist and AMA Immediate Past President Sue Bailey, MD, said in bestowing the award. “His expertise and depth of knowledge make him a much-sought-after guest on television and radio, and health writers at newspapers and publications from coast to coast have him on speed dial as a prime interview subject.”

In accepting the award, Dr. Hotez noted the work of him and his colleagues at Baylor’s Texas Children’s Hospital led to the emergency use authorization for the first COVID-19 vaccine specifically intended for widespread use in resource-poor areas of low- and middle-income nations.

“Our fight on both fronts – global vaccine inequalities and combating anti-science – is far from over,” he added. “But I appreciate the opportunity to continue working with the AMA in the struggle.”

Dr. Bailey also delivered the AMA’s Medal of Valor – given for demonstrating courage under extraordinary circumstances – to Lubbock pulmonary critical care specialist Victor J. Test, MD, for  securing – on his own – personal protective equipment to supply the critical care faculty and fellows at the Texas Tech University hospital where he teaches and practices. Among other accomplishments, he also set up a dedicated COVID unit in the hospital’s ICU ward and took on extra shifts so other faculty could stay home.

“The ICU, and the hospital also, are not simply places, but a group of people who come together to make the ICU team or the hospital team. We cannot function without each other, from the person who cleans the floors to the nurses and doctors who are so involved in patient care. … Though I do not feel that my actions were particularly remarkable, everything that I do is to protect my patients, my team, my hospital, and the people of West Texas,” Dr. Test said.

The AMA Foundation Award for Health Education went to David L. Lakey, MD, vice chancellor for health affairs and chief medical officer for The University of Texas System. Dr. Lakey, who previously stewarded the state through the H1N1 flu, West Nile virus, and Ebola crises, “has been instrumental in guiding Texas physicians throughout the pandemic” as a member of TMA’s COVID-19 Task Force, said Russ Kridel, MD, immediate past chair of AMA’s Board of Trustees, who presented the award. Dr. Lakey is also a COVID-19 advisor to Gov. Greg Abbott and is a member of the state’s COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel. An AMA release called him “a physician who works tirelessly to help educate and inform the public, serving as a steadfast leader during times of crisis.”

“This is a man who seems to work day and night, always present for the media, serving on many statewide panels, always available for the TMA, and virtually never turning down requests to speak at meetings,” David Henkes, MD, chair of TMA’s delegation to AMA, said of his colleague. “Dr. Lakey has a wealth of knowledge to share, and he shares it freely to improve the health of all Texans.”  

Ellen Mae Friedman, MD, professor of otolaryngology and pediatrics at Baylor, earned the AMA Foundation’s Award for Leadership in Medical Ethics and Professionalism. She’s director of Baylor’s Center for Professionalism in Medicine, a role in which she uses campus-wide activities like workshops and retreats to elevate professionalism within the college, AMA noted. She has also contributed modules for Baylor’s Ethics, Professionalism, and Policy Program covering ethical issues clinicians will someday face.

Her peers “describe her as an exemplar of professionalism and medical ethics,” Dr. Kridel said, noting several leadership positions she has held, including becoming the first woman to serve as president of the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology.

In her acceptance speech, Dr. Friedman noted today’s physicians are grappling with the commercialization of medicine, inequities within the society and the health care system, and the continuing pandemic.

“These challenges can throw any of us off course, out of touch with our higher mission,” Dr. Friedman said. “We all have periods of discouragement and possibly degrees of moral distress. Yet professionalism is a lifeline, and holding on tightly will help us survive these turbulent days.”

Last Updated On

April 05, 2022

Originally Published On

January 28, 2022

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