This award recognizes exceptional early-career clinical faculty whose actions and activities consistently exemplify enthusiasm, commitment, professionalism, and leadership.

See our Past Clinical Excellence Award Winners

The 2023 Winners:

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Christina Herrera, M.D.

Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine

If a checklist existed for the model clinical scholar, Dr. Christina Herrera could put a mark in every box.

“Chris is brilliant, clinically astute, meticulous, and committed to the pursuit of creating evidence to better care for our patients,” said a fellow physician who nominated Dr. Herrera for the Rising Star Award.

Dr. Herrera joined the faculty of UT Southwestern’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2020. It didn’t take her long to secure funding for pioneering research in understanding the development, structure, and function of the human placenta. She received a grant to study the placental metabolic response to chronic hypertension as a KL2 Clinical Scholar in her second year as a faculty member. Dr. Herrera was awarded a K23 grant in 2022 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to research magnetic resonance image profiling in normal and hypertensive placentas.

In her role as leader of the Placenta Accreta Spectrum team at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dr. Herrera oversees the care of pregnant women whose placentas adhere abnormally to or invade the wall of the uterus.

Extensive documentation by Dr. Herrera and her team on placenta accreta spectrum, with a focus on imaging to screen, assess, and make recommendations for treatment, has led to legislative changes and enhanced standards at the state and national levels.

Data from the team helped to identify best practices for the state of Texas and informed legislation in House Bill 1164, which took effect in 2021. As a result of their research, placenta accreta spectrum teams are now required as part of the Level IV maternal care designation.

Current research by Dr. Herrera and her team is expected to impact national guidelines on the optimal time of delivery for women with placenta accreta spectrum and on the utility of antepartum testing to reduce the rate of stillbirths among obese women.

Dr. Herrera’s passion for being a physician is just as strong as her drive to conduct research with lifesaving implications.

She serves “in a dedicated high-risk clinic, sonogram suite, inpatient care areas, and on-call in one of the busiest labor units in the country, with more than 12,000 births per year. This volume demands clinical excellence,” said one of her nominators.

“On Christmas Day in 2021, Dr. Herrera managed a complex patient readmitted with life-threatening bleeding, necessitating a hysterectomy. Dr. Herrera’s astute diagnosis saved her life. She not only provided excellent clinical care and coordinated services, but she also served as a liaison to the patient’s family, demonstrating compassionate care,” the nominator continued.

Despite her busy schedule, Dr. Herrera makes time for personal development so she can further assist patients through translational research. She is working toward a Master of Science in clinical science.

Dr. Herrera graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Princeton University and earned her medical degree at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. She completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology and a fellowship in maternal-fetal medicine at UT Southwestern.

“The combination of her incredible work ethic, intellectual curiosity, broad knowledge of her research topic, continuing education through the master’s program, and excellent patient care has created a firm foundation for future clinical research,” said another physician who nominated Dr. Herrera for the award.

Dr. Herrera also is affiliated with UT Southwestern’s Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences.

In her words: As early-career faculty, it can be challenging to fill the big footsteps paved by others before you, and I am greatly honored to receive the Rising Star Award. It has been a privilege to be entrusted with the care of high-risk pregnant patients and work daily toward optimizing their outcomes now and in the future. This award is as much a testament to the great mentorship and camaraderie I have been fortunate to find both in and outside my department – my clinical colleagues, my placental research group and collaborators, and the KL2 and Clinical and Translational Science Award Program. You make it feel a little less like “work.” I also want to thank my family, who instilled in me the faith and love I needed to believe in myself, the work ethic to persevere through failure, and the kindness and compassion for others that led to my career in health care.

Leaders in Clinical Excellence video: Dr. Christina Herrera

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Jessica H. Voit, M.D.

Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine
Division of Geriatric Medicine

In her young career, Dr. Jessica Voit has been an outstanding advocate for the medical needs of geriatric patients as a caregiver, leader, and innovator.

She joined the faculty of UT Southwestern Medical Center in 2018 and was named Medical Director of the Mildred Wyatt & Ivor P. Wold Center for Geriatric Care four years later.

Her first year as faculty, Dr. Voit established a UT Southwestern branch of the nationally recognized Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP), in which volunteers help older patients retain cognitive skills and maintain physical well-being while in the hospital. She added a twist from the usual HELP format by emphasizing the educational aspect the program has on the volunteers. Through a partnership with the UT Dallas Hobson Wildenthal Honors College, the Comets HELP program at UT Southwestern brings undergraduate pre-health students into regular conversation with geriatric patients at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital who are at risk of delirium.

“Hospitalization can be very unsettling for older patients, especially those with certain risk factors, such as cognitive issues, vision or hearing impairments, or lack of mobility,” Dr. Voit said. “The stress and uncertainty of being in the hospital and the disruption of familiar routines can lead to delirium and functional decline.”

Student volunteers are trained to work with patients on important issues, including cognitive orientation, hydration, and sleep-enhancement strategies.

Although reducing cognitive confusion in older patients is the key goal of the HELP program Dr. Voit established, she had a secondary objective: generating interest among future physicians in geriatric medicine, a specialty in which enrollment is diminishing as demand grows.

She also launched a spinoff program during the COVID-19 pandemic, HELP Seniors at Home, which enables student volunteers to engage with elderly patients at risk for loneliness, depression, boredom, and social isolation.

“The characteristics Dr. Voit possesses in abundance are intellect, compassion, kindness, communication skills, and professionalism,” wrote a fellow physician who nominated her for the Rising Star Award. “She has been successful in taking on the medical directorship role and has achieved respect and buy-in from junior and senior faculty.”

Patients consistently offer unsolicited praise for Dr. Voit, according to her nomination.

“I have received the greatest care and kindness from Dr. Voit. I have never felt so secure in a doctor’s care,” said one patient.

“Dr. Voit represents what a physician should be! It is a privilege to be treated by her,” added another patient.

Dr. Voit earned her medical degree at UT Southwestern. She completed her residency in internal medicine at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, serving an additional year as Chief Resident. She returned to UT Southwestern for a fellowship in geriatric medicine.

Although early in her career, Dr. Voit has been recognized for her mentorship. While at the University of Michigan, she received a Bronze Beeper Award, an honor presented to top house officers across all specialties in recognition of outstanding teaching and support of students. In addition, she currently serves as a mentor for one of UT Southwestern’s Academic College groups.

In her words: I am honored to receive the Rising Star Award. UT Southwestern is an incredible place, and I am surrounded by so many people involved in life-changing and compassionate work. I appreciate the support and encouragement I receive from my colleagues and co-workers, and I feel privileged to be a physician. I love the relationships I am able to form with my patients and their loved ones; it is a joy to share in their good times and rewarding to help them through the challenging moments. Being a geriatrician, I hope to optimize the care of older adults, both directly through patient care and through education. I am proud of the growth of our Hospital Elder Life Program and the positive impact it is having on patients and students. I hope to continue to educate and motivate students and trainees about the importance of age-friendly care. Finally, I’d like to thank my family, who helped me on this journey in more ways than I could ever count.

Leaders in Clinical Excellence video: Dr. Jessica Voit