Leaders in Clinical Excellence Awards
This award celebrates clinicians who demonstrate exceptional commitment and effectiveness as a mentor to health care providers.
More in 2021 Leaders in Clinical Excellence Awards
The 2021 Winners:
Lina Chalak, M.D.
Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry
The adjectives come freely to mentees when describing the qualities of their mentor, Dr. Chalak: “Inspiring. Motivating. Caring. Dependable. Enthusiastic. Driven. Invested. Tireless.” They all point to one indisputable fact – she lives the life of a trusted adviser.
As the Associate Chief for Academic Affairs and Faculty Development in the Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, Founder and Medical Director of the Fetal Neurological Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (Neuro NICU) Program at UT Southwestern and Parkland, as well as co-Director of the Fetal Neonatal Neurology Fellowship Program, Dr. Chalak has ample opportunities for mentoring. And by all accounts, she makes the most of them.
“Dr. Chalak embodies the best characteristics of an excellent mentor in her willingness to be an authentic champion of the successes of her mentees, to fully engage in their professional growth and maturation, to serve as a dependable resource for straightforward feedback, and to be a model of success in clinical care and research through hard work and resiliency,” said one of her mentees.
Added another: “When Dr. Chalak’s mentees achieve a success such as a teaching award, a grant application, an accepted publication, etc., she is the first to share these successes with others and use them to further elevate her mentees.” Her energy and enthusiasm flow to those around her.
Dr. Chalak offers learners, trainees, and early career colleagues numerous opportunities to gain experience. Through the Neuro NICU program she developed, “She encourages knowledge dissemination and allows trainees and junior faculty to be in the spotlight while presenting case-related, evidence-based information to an influential, multidisciplinary group,” explained one mentee.
Ultimately, being a mentor is about service to others. “Dr. Chalak does not seek recognition or credit for her countless hours spent editing manuscripts, reviewing presentations, leading clinicians through critical patient scenarios, developing grant ideas, or any of the other ways she provides mentorship,” one nominator said. “Her generosity of time and energy is an invaluable resource to our Division and the University.”
In her words: “I am genuinely honored to accept this Mentoring Award and humbled for the faith my colleagues and mentees have placed in me. I get more than I give from each of them, and they are always pushing me to be a better version of myself every single day so that I don’t let anyone down. I ride on the shoulders of this great institution’s giant mentors who took this immigrant trainee under their wings two decades ago. I am grateful that this experience made me a better mentor who inspires others. There is no greater joy than knowing that the torch will be carried by the new generation of physician-scientists who I helped mentor. Every day I come to work and walk by Dr. Donald Seldin’s statue, and I feel proud to be part of UT Southwestern.”
Sunati Sahoo, M.D.
Professor of Pathology
In her position as Director of Surgical Pathology at Clements University Hospital and Director of Breast Pathology Services at UT Southwestern and Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dr. Sahoo plays an important leadership role in the delivery of UTSW’s pathology services and strives to provide the highest standards of care to her patients. She encourages those around her to do the same by serving as a trusted mentor and role model to many.
“She is extremely generous with her time and tireless in her efforts to provide education and guidance for trainees and junior colleagues,” says a mentee. “What sets her apart is her passion for helping, guiding, and mentoring.”
Indeed, during her decade on the UT Southwestern faculty, Dr. Sahoo has built a reputation as someone who is personable, approachable, encouraging, and always willing to help – someone who has a strong desire to help those less experienced learn and succeed.
“When I was a junior faculty member, Dr. Sahoo provided me with guidance and advice and shared her experience in conducting translational research,” the mentee recalls. “The experience and insight she generously shared with me was invaluable in developing my academic career.”
Word of Dr. Sahoo’s reputation is apparently getting around. A mentee maintains that Dr. Sahoo’s enthusiasm for pathology and her engaging teaching style are qualities that attract trainees to pathology and to UTSW for residency and fellowship. “My medical school class has a record-breaking eight students applying to pathology residency, which can be attributed in part to Dr. Sahoo and other pathology faculty who have a passion for mentoring students,” the mentee says.
It’s mentorship with purpose, of course: to provide excellent patient care. “Dr. Sahoo has been pivotal in standardizing an excellent breast pathology program,” says a colleague. “She is always available, ready, and willing to discuss a patient, a pathway, or a process that experienced a hiccup, and she never displays any annoyance with detailed requests to review a specific finding (even one that keeps her here way after hours!). She is widely recognized as an expert in her field.”
That level of expertise never stops giving to patients – or to colleagues. “I’ve witnessed Dr. Sahoo taking calls from former mentees who are now attending pathologists and helping them through difficult cases or diagnoses,” says a mentee. “She is more than a faculty member and more than an educator – she is truly a mentor to trainees at all levels of experience.”
In her words: “I am truly humbled to receive this award in an institution known for its excellence in clinical care, teaching, and research. The relationship between a mentor and mentee is built on respect and trust, and one that can last for a lifetime. It is gratifying to work with an incredible number of smart and hard-working individuals, not just in my own department but in other medical specialties. I am grateful that I was able to foster that relationship with my students and colleagues who trusted me to guide them in their professional career.”
Leaders in Clinical Excellence video: Dr. Sunati Sahoo
William W. Turner Jr., M.D.
Professor of Surgery
Division of Burn, Trauma, Acute, and Critical Care Surgery
“Dr. Turner is the type of surgeon who breaks all the stereotypes,” said his nominator for the Mentoring Award. “It is evident in every interaction with him that his true calling in life was to be in the operating room teaching others how to be surgeons.”
Over the course of his nearly 50-year career in medicine, Dr. Turner has had thousands of operating room interactions with postgraduate trainees and students, and it is clear he takes immense pride in each encounter. Dr. Turner is described as a living history book whose educational approach centers on stories and lessons learned throughout his significant career and dogged pursuit of the surgical literature. He uses his own experiences and love of learning to help others.
“He is nonjudgmental in providing feedback and is inspirational in his delivery of messages that are needed in critical times,” his nominator noted.
Dr. Turner leads with a servant’s heart and is said to attend every single resident teaching session. He has even created a separate, weekly Professor rounds, in which he leads a team of residents to enrich their academic experience. “None of this speaks to the time he spends as a Colleges Master, during which he ensures that the mentors of Sprague College are well-informed and well-resourced to teach the newest members of our medical community,” said his nominator. “It would be hard to find another individual who has dedicated as much of their waking time to mentorship and education as Dr. Turner.”
Dr. Turner was himself a surgical resident at UTSW and began his career in academic medicine here. All told, with time away for military service and additional positions in Indiana and Mississippi, he has spent nearly 30 years on the UT Southwestern faculty, earning several awards for outstanding achievement in resident and student teaching along the way, as well as election to the Southwestern Academy of Teachers. Throughout his many decades of service, he has cemented a reputation among generations of surgeons as a patient and skilled person who takes novice learners and helps turn them into knowledgeable, compassionate, and respected caregivers.
Dr. Turner holds the Alvin Baldwin, Jr. Chair in Surgery and the Carla and Paul Bass Professorship in Medical Education Honoring Charles C. Sprague, M.D.
In his words: “To be recognized as a mentor is humbling. Mentors have been very important to me. I had the advantage of having parents who mentored me. My father taught me to use tools, to repair things, to solve problems on my own, and to be tenacious. My mother worked constantly to improve my spoken language and to show me the value of voraciously reading. Dr. William Snyder, the first Master of Cary College, and Dr. Robert McClelland were special residency teachers and later friends and colleagues. They helped me to see that being an academic surgeon was something for which I had prepared in one form or another all of my life. My wife, Toni, of 53 years convinced me to go to medical school and to become a surgeon. My residents and students remind me of what I don't know and the value of lifelong learning. My patients challenge me, and they are perhaps my greatest teachers.”