Leaders in Clinical Excellence Awards

Patient and Family Recognition Award

This award honors clinical faculty whose dedication to the compassionate, respectful delivery of exceptional patient care has garnered the highest degree of patient trust and satisfaction.

See our Past Clinical Excellence Award Winners

The 2020 Winners:

Kevin Courtney, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Internal Medicine – Hematology and Oncology
Co-leader of the Genitourinary Oncology Disease-Oriented Team
Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

Doctors are sometimes said to have a good bedside manner, but what do those words really mean? According to Dr. Courtney’s patients and co-workers, who use the words often when talking about him, they describe someone who actively listens, someone whose skills and thorough preparation inspire trust, and, above all, someone who is empathetic.

As a specialist in prostate cancer, kidney cancer, and other genitourinary cancers, Dr. Courtney frequently first meets his patients when they have advanced cancer. At that point, his expertise in the art of patient care can be just as important to his patients and their families as his clinical skills and collaborative abilities in working as part of a multidisciplinary team.

Calming fears and providing hope while remaining supportive, compassionate, and down to earth are what distinguish Dr. Courtney as a clinician, his colleagues say.

“The first time I was introduced to Dr. Courtney in the clinic and shadowed him, I was blown away by the amount of time he spent with his patients and their families,” says Jess Ramos, M.H.A., a Clinical Research Coordinator in the UTSW Department of Urology. “He really took the time to discuss and explain all the treatment options to each patient in a way that was easily understandable to someone without a medical background. And toward the end of each visit, he would ask the patient and their family, ‘Now, do you have any questions for me that I have not yet answered?’ Just that question alone I think proves how he wants his patients to be involved in their care and wants to ensure they leave their appointment with a full understanding of their diagnosis.”

When more than one clinical research study is available, Dr. Courtney makes sure not only to explain which is the best option but also to make his patients aware of how their participation in one could affect their eligibility in another, and in this way he ensures they have access to all safe options.

Dr. Courtney earned his medical degree and a doctorate in molecular cancer biology at Duke University. He completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and then received advanced training in medical oncology through a fellowship at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. He also holds a master’s degree in clinical sciences from UT Southwestern.

After serving for several years as an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Courtney joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2012. By 2013, he was named a Clinical Research Scholar by the UTSW Department of Clinical Sciences, and by 2015 he received a Golden Pager Award from the UTSW nursing staff. He has been the recipient of numerous other honors and awards every year since.

In his words: “I am honored to receive this award and feel very fortunate to work in our outstanding Division of Hematology and Oncology. It is a privilege to participate in the care of our patients in collaboration with the extraordinary medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, urologists, radiologists, nuclear medicine specialists, pathologists, geneticists, physician assistants, nurses, and coordinators who compose our multidisciplinary Genitourinary Oncology Disease-Oriented Team. In particular, I am grateful to Teresa Sanders, M.P.A.S., PA-C, and Lauren Chapman, RN, for their dedication to providing exemplary patient care, and to my wife and fellow UT Southwestern faculty member Dr. Elizabeth Brown, who inspires me as a tireless champion for her patients and is unwavering in her support.”

Leaders in Clinical Excellence video: Dr. Kevin Courtney

A. Thomas Hyslop, M.D.

Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Learning to be a physician is a long and difficult journey. Students are taught about diseases, the signs and symptoms a patient may present, and what tests can be performed to narrow the list of possible diagnoses. But celebrated physicians like Ob/Gyn specialist Dr. Hyslop know that proficiency in categorizing and treating an illness is only part of the art of medicine and that acknowledging the unique, personal attributes of an individual is equally important.

According to his patients and colleagues, Dr. Hyslop excels on both fronts.

“Dr. Hyslop made my husband and me feel so at ease and comfortable the second we met,” one of his patients says. “I have great faith in Dr. Hyslop – my daughter, granddaughters, and I love the special care he gives. He has always taken extra time and expert care of each of us. He cares and goes above and beyond!”

Such comments fill the files of more than 1,100 patient evaluations Dr. Hyslop has received in Press Ganey surveys. Many patients comment on the longevity of their care with Dr. Hyslop and the number of friends and family members whom they have referred because of their satisfaction with and appreciation for his care.

Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, M.D., UTSW Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UTSW’s William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital, notes that there are two groups of patients who especially speak to Dr. Hyslop’s clinical excellence.

“Dr. Hyslop is the Ob/Gyn physician of choice not just for individual women but also for many families,” she says. “A visit to an Ob/Gyn can often be anxiety provoking and even uncomfortable. To have so many women who happily refer their mothers, sisters, and daughters to their own doctor speaks to the high level of trust they have in his care – they are confident he will treat their family as well as he treats them.

“The second group of patients who are ardent fans of Dr. Hyslop are health care workers – nurses and other hospital employees who firsthand witness his interactions with patients. They recognize quality care, want that same attention, and seek him out to be their physician.”

Dr. Hyslop received his medical training at UT Southwestern, graduating in 1988 and completing his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at UTSW’s former St. Paul University Hospital in 1992. Following 20 years as a private practitioner in Dallas, he joined the UTSW faculty in 2012.

By 2013, the UTSW nursing staff recognized him with its Golden Pager Award, and he has received numerous other honors and accolades in the years since, including being named a Super Doctor by Texas Monthly.

In his words: “I am truly honored and humbled by this very special recognition. My specialty has truly blessed my life, and my interactions with my patients are why I continue to serve – and hope to serve for many years ahead. I was taught early on by a tremendous mentor and figure in obstetrics in Dallas, Dr. Luis Leib, that you are only as good as those you surround yourself with. I have truly been in the company of great physicians, nurses, and support staff, who have made my life great! Taking care of multiple generations of families is the highlight of my career.”

Leaders in Clinical Excellence video: Dr. A. Thomas Hyslop

Catherine Ikemba, M.D.

Associate Professor
Division of Cardiology
Director, Fetal Heart Program

The discovery of a heart defect is always disturbing, but when the finding happens in a child, or in an infant before or after birth, then the anxiety can be compounded by waiting and uncertainty.

“At that point, it takes a special kind of person to provide sound advice without alarming, to guide without overwhelming, and to console without intruding or condescending. Dr. Ikemba is that kind of person,” says Julio Pérez Fontán, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern. “Families view her as their child’s doctor from that very early stage, and they are right, because she follows her patients through all the hardships of surgical repairs, through all the ups and downs, and also occasionally through the sorrow of death, always being there for them.”

A highly skilled pediatric cardiologist with special expertise in diagnostic imaging, Dr. Ikemba is on the front line of detection and management of congenital heart anomalies. Having empathy, patience, and extraordinary skills necessarily go with the calling, and these are just a few of the attributes the parents of her patients say they are most grateful for in Dr. Ikemba.

“Not a year goes by that I, as a mom, do not think about the team that took such good care of our daughter. She is with us today because of you,” one parent says.

“How can we even begin to thank you?” another parent writes. “Besides being such a great doctor, you have been an infinite source of mommy wisdom. The advice you provided us with (and the time you spent just listening) was invaluable.”

Dr. Pérez Fontán adds, “Dr. Ikemba’s ability to care for others is a gift, one that is evident upon meeting her. She exudes intelligence and understanding. She is also naturally generous and self-sacrificing. Her humbleness is proverbial and disarming.”

Dr. Ikemba earned her medical degree at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She performed her residency in pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, followed by additional training in pediatric cardiology and advanced non-invasive pediatric and fetal cardiac imaging through separate fellowships at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

She joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2003 and, in addition to other roles, she is currently director of the Fetal Heart Program at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, also seeing patients at Parkland Memorial Hospital and William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. She has published broadly on areas of expertise in academic medical journals and delivered numerous invited lectures.

Among many other honors, she was included in D Magazine’s Best Doctors list for 2018, 2019 and 2020.

In her words: “In my opinion, the Patient and Family Recognition Award is the most important award and highest praise a pediatrician can receive. As a pediatric cardiologist who practices fetal echocardiography, I often meet families at a very stressful and scary time, just after they have been told that their unborn child has a congenital heart problem. My fetal team educates and supports families so that they know what to expect and to ease their fears. I enjoy following many of these patients as they grow up and watching their parents also grow and become experts in their child's care. My heart kids are an extension of my family. It is a privilege to work in the Children’s Heart Center and to know and care for our families of children with congenital heart disease.”

Leaders in Clinical Excellence video: Dr. Catherine Ikemba

Joel Wells, M.D., M.P.H.

Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
UT Southwestern Orthopaedic Surgery Clinic
Sports Medicine Clinic at Richardson/Plano

In the same way some authors are said to be a “writer’s writer” or some thespians an “actor’s actor,” Dr. Wells is a physician’s physician. His colleagues note how he comes in early and stays late and laud him for his attention to detail, compassion, and approachability.

One of those colleagues, Bonnie Prokesch, M.D., an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern, describes him as “the quintessential physician,” saying he’s “warm, humble, compassionate, kind, intelligent, empathetic, and masterful at his craft.” She adds, “All members of the UTSW faculty can learn humility, communication skills, collaborative skills, compassion, and the true art of healing from how Dr. Wells practices medicine. I personally have sent many friends and colleagues to Dr. Wells, and I would trust him with my own life readily in light of his surgical skills and immense understanding of what it means to truly care for patients.”

His patients and their families have noted those same qualities.

A specialist in comprehensive hip surgery, Dr. Wells cares for patients of all ages, from preadolescents to the elderly. He is an expert at performing periacetabular osteotomies, a complex surgery for repositioning the hip joint. Although the procedure is the most common type of hip preservation surgery in young adults, it usually is done only at specialized centers.

Dr. Wells’ background as an athlete – he played college baseball and was drafted by the New York Mets in 2006 – gives him unusual insight into what his patients are going through and, no matter the source of their hip pain, into their hope of a faster recovery.

Prior to joining the UT Southwestern faculty in 2016, Dr. Wells was part of the care team for the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots, where he focused on diagnosing and treating hip and knee injuries of all varieties.

Steven Leach, M.D., Associate Vice Chair of Internal Medicine Clinical Operations, notes that Dr. Wells brings the same diligence and expertise needed at the pro sports level to the patients and families he serves in his everyday practice – which often includes working nights and weekends.

“What distinguishes Dr. Wells most is his willingness to go above and beyond to ensure his patients and referring physicians get the best service,” Dr. Leach says. “On numerous occasions, he has worked patients in early (usually at lunch) to expedite their care, and he has added on extra cases in the hospital.”

Dr. Leach adds: “There is something disarming about his West Texas style, cowboy boots, and bow ties that put patients at ease. He works very hard to explain things to patients in a way they can understand so that they feel confident and know they are getting the correct – and best – care, which is extremely important.”

In addition to caring for patients, Dr. Wells is a prolific author, with numerous peer-reviewed articles focused on every aspect of hip surgery. At UT Southwestern, he and his team put together a journey guide for hip and knee surgery patients to tell them, step by step, what to expect in their journey to recovery.

Outside of UT Southwestern, Dr. Wells volunteers in the Frisco ISD Mentoring Program and in the Orthopaedic Department at the Agape Clinic, a facility designed to provide quality health care services to underserved people.

He has received numerous honors, including being named the 2020 Young Alumnus of the Year by Abilene Christian University where, in 2006, he earned his undergraduate degree in biology, summa cum laude, four years after being named Abilene Cooper High School’s valedictorian for the Class of 2002.

Dr. Wells also works hard to make his son 2-year-old son, Gabe, and his wife, Katerina, a colorectal surgeon, proud.

In his words: “This award goes to my patients and the team that I am surrounded by. It is an honor to receive this award because it embodies what I have shaped my entire career around – treating every single one of my patients as I would treat my family. There is no greater privilege than taking care of patients. I am humbled and must thank the amazing faculty at UT Southwestern for allowing me to be a part of this phenomenal institution.”

Leaders in Clinical Excellence video: Dr. Joel Wells