Top of the Class: 2000 SSHS valedictorian Brad Cutrell earns UT Southwestern Medical School’s highest honor

By PATTI SELLS | News-Telegram Feature Writer

June 4, 2007 - When James Bradford "Brad" Cutrell set out to follow in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Curtis Cutrell, and uncle, Dr. Martin Cutrell, both alumni of UT Southwestern Medical School, he never imagined he would graduate at the top of his class and be the recipient of the coveted Southwestern Medical Foundation's Ho Din Award, the highest honor for a graduating medical student. 

The Ho Din Award, a Greek acronym representing "the spirit of medical wisdom," has been given annually since 1943 to a graduating medical student who exhibits unique personal qualities of great physicians, such as knowledge, understanding and compassion.

"It's a tremendous honor," said Cutrell, who will return to UT Southwestern in July as a resident in internal medicine. "Once we started having extensive contact with patients, I just kept trying to see those patients as my own, and I tried to meet their needs, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. Ultimately, some of the greatest compliments we will ever get as doctors are from our patients."

�With the award came a certificate, a gold key charm and $7,500 which was presented to him during commencement exercises Saturday, June 2.

Cutrell, a 2000 graduate of Sulphur Springs High School, made the decision to follow the medical path of his father, who has a family practice in Sulphur Springs, and his uncle, a pediatrician in Paris, during the summer after his sophomore year while on a medical mission trip in Nicaragua.

"It was one of the defining points in my life," he recalled. "On the one hand, I could see how much we could do with so little, but I also  recognized that we could only be there for a week or two. And in another six months, some of the people we treated were going to be sick again. That experience spurred me to get medical training myself."

Every summer since making his decision he has returned to Central American countries to do mission work alongside his father, and someday he hopes to practice in a Third World country.

"I'd like to try to intervene and address the medical issues in a more holistic and permanent way," he explained.

After high school, Cutrell attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in microbiology and graduated summa cum laude in 2003, all while being active in student ministries and intramural soccer.

Again, following in tradition of his father and uncle, Cutrell applied to UT Southwestern Medical School, where he continued his outstanding academic record. He is ranked No. 1 in his class along with four other classmates.

In addition to his medical studies, Cutrell was vice president of Alpha Omega Alpha, class officer, served on the test committee, was a member of campus Spirituality in Medicine discussion groups, participated in Southwestern Christian Fellowship, intramural soccer, volunteered his time at a homeless shelter and got married. He also tutored underclassmen for which he was selected co-winner of the Hemphill-Gojer Award in Internal Medicine and of the Vanatta, Hesser, Schmalstieg Excellence in Tutoring Award in his final year. 

The Excellence in Tutoring Award recognizes fourth-year students who make the most substantial contributions to fellow students as tutors or instructors in the Office of Medical Education at UT. Southwestern.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Paulk, assistant professor of internal medicine, with whom Cutrell worked with one month in palliative care, she would like to see Cutrell enter academics to help train upcoming medical students.

"He would be a great teacher, but I can also see him following in his father's footsteps and going into primary care," she said. "Either way, the world will be lucky to have him. He is brilliant, and one of the smartest students I have ever worked with. There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to be a real standout."

Dr. Cutrell remains undecided in a specialized field but is considering infectious diseases.

Cutrell's mother is Susan Cutrell, and his siblings are Ben and Melissa Cutrell.

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