avary-andrewThere is the possibility that Dr. Andrew “Drew” Avery was destined to become a surgeon. According to family legend, there’s a great-great-great uncle way back when who successfully removed his brother’s appendix on a kitchen table.

Dr. Avery, not too slow with a quip, is proud to say, “While I don’t anticipate encountering the operating conditions that my relative, Irvin Stokes, saw, I’m honored to have a family heritage of medical innovation in the resource-poor conditions of Depression-era southern Arkansas.”

Dr. Avery might not be the first medical practitioner in the family, but there’s no question he’s the best-trained – and he’s just the second graduate in the history of UT Southwestern Medical School to win both the Ho Din Award and the Iatros Award.

The Ho Din Award, which honors outstanding knowledge, understanding, and compassion, is presented annually by Southwestern Medical Foundation and is the oldest award on campus, having first been bestowed in 1943. Ho Din is a Greek acronym representing “the spirit of medical wisdom.”

Ho Din AwardThe Ho Din Award – which includes a certificate, a gold key charm, and $10,000 – honors Dr. Edward H. Cary, the first president of Southwestern Medical Foundation. The award will be presented this year by Edward Cary III, Dr. Cary’s grandson.

The Iatros Award, first presented in 1984, is sponsored by the UT Southwestern Medical School Alumni Association and is determined by a vote of the graduating medical class.

“I’m honored to win both these recognitions,” said Dr. Avery, who soon will begin a general surgery residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. “The Ho Din Award, especially given its history, is a wonderful thing considering all the great people who’ve gone before.

“And being selected by my classmates for the Iatros Award: That just means the world to me. I can think of so many people I admire and respect, and I wouldn’t have been able to do the things I’ve done in medical school without them. I’ve learned as much from them as I have from books, and they’re some of the most important people in my life. Being honored by them is humbling, and I’m very appreciative.

“Let’s put it this way: I have trouble keeping clean sheets on my bed. I have classmates who are having babies and raising families and caring for sick loved ones while they go to medical school. I’m in awe of what they’ve accomplished.”

Dr. Avery grew up in Rogers, Arkansas, graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in chemistry and minors in Spanish and classical studies. He came to UT Southwestern Medical School thinking that he’d like to become a family practice physician to achieve his goal of serving in medical missions overseas.

“But during my surgical rotations I found that there’s a large amount of need for developing surgical care in the global health arena,” he said. “I realized that surgeons are often on the front line between life and death and acute illness in the hospital, and that the human aspect of working with patients and families in these critical situations really keeps me motivated.”

Dr. Avery learned the concept and value of servant leadership while growing up. His mother, Monica, is a former teacher who now is federal program coordinator in the local school district and his father, Randy, works in the Social Security Administration.

He continued to lead while in medical school, enrolling in the Spanish Interpreter Apprenticeship Program, an elective course taught by UT Southwestern students. He was a leader in the Southwestern Christian Fellowship student organization, and was a part of hospital-student alliances, such as Leaders in the Fight for Every Patient and in No One Dies Alone, a vigil endeavor for Parkland Memorial Hospital patients who have no family or loved ones present in their final hours. Dr. Avery also became involved in public health programs elsewhere when his proficiency in Spanish was not central – in Haiti, and Bihar, India.

Those experiences cemented his desire to work abroad to develop health systems for those without access to care. Locally, he has been involved in community service efforts organized by UT Southwestern, such as United to Serve and The Monday Clinic.

“What was striking about him was that he’s one of the most humble individuals you’d ever meet,” said Dr. Brett Arnoldo, Associate Professor of Surgery, who guided Dr. Avery in surgical rotations. “He’s an outstanding human being and I don’t mind saying I recruited him hard to stay here for his residency.”