Leverenz wins Ho Din Award

Graduate earns highest medical student honor for academics, compassion

By Jan Jarvis

Growing up in Fort Worth, Dr. David Leverenz dreamed of one day playing baseball in the major leagues.

Dr. David Leverenz
Dr. David Leverenz

Later, that dream was replaced with thoughts of becoming an engineer. Then he went to Baylor University, and his plans changed again when he earned a liberal arts degree.

All the while, the possibility of a career in medicine never left his mind.

“I wanted a career that combined working with people and really helping others,” said Dr. Leverenz, winner of Southwestern Medical Foundation’s 2013 Ho Din Award. “I couldn’t think of a better way to combine the two than with medicine.”

Dr. Leverenz’s extensive knowledge, along with his deep commitment to caring for others, helped earn him the Ho Din – the highest honor given to a graduating student of UT Southwestern Medical School.

Dr. Leverenz said he was humbled by the honor and grateful to the Foundation.

“I’m incredibly honored and so thankful to my mentors and teachers,” he said. “I’m especially thankful for the support of my wife, family, and friends. I don’t think any award would be possible without them.”

The Ho Din Award, which includes a certificate and a gold key charm, honors Dr. Edward H. Cary, the first President of Southwestern Medical Foundation. Winners are recognized for exhibiting outstanding knowledge, understanding, and compassion.

Dr. Leverenz has done exceptionally well in medical school, performed research, worked, volunteered, and completed multiple mission trips, said Dr. David Balis, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and his mentor at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“But what strikes me most about David is his caring, sincere, compassionate personality,” Dr. Balis said. “It’s obvious that he really does care about his patients in his interactions with them.”

Dr. Leverenz approached medical school with the same enthusiasm that he brought to his undergraduate studies.

“I explored a lot of different areas of medicine, and I wanted to do every specialty,” he said. “At one point it was pediatrics, then I switched to family medicine.”

He decided on internal medicine because it will allow him to establish long-term relationships with his patients.

“My favorite part of medicine is when you’re trying to gain the patient’s trust and you’re working with them to improve their lives,” he said. “That’s a huge part of what medicine is about.”

Richard Mays Smith Scholarship Award

Dr. Leverenz also is the recipient of the Richard Mays Smith Scholarship Award, which was established to honor one of Dallas’ earliest internists, a former UTSW Associate Professor of Internal Medicine who died in 1975. The award is given on the basis of achievement, interest in internal medicine, and financial need.

During his training, Dr. Leverenz demonstrated knowledge beyond his level of training, yet he was never showy and always quite amicable, said Dr. Biff Palmer, Professor of Internal Medicine.

“He showed a great deal of caring with his patients, and his enthusiasm was noticeable on rounds,” Dr. Palmer said. “He is very much deserving of this award.”

Dr. Leverenz, who will move to Nashville, Tenn., with his wife, Molly, will serve his residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

He plans to be open to whatever opportunities come his way.

“I’m excited to get started and see where it takes me,” he said. “I see the residency as a time when you’re still learning, but you really get to start doing what you have been training for so long.”