Punaro appointed Master of medical school’s Fashena College

 By Lin Lofley

Dr. Punaro in library
As a pediatrics intern, Dr. Marilynn Punaro had the opportunity to interact with Dr. Gladys Fashena in the late 1970s. Dr. Punaro now has been appointed Master of Fashena College at UT Southwestern Medical School.

Dr. Marilynn Punaro, Professor of Pediatrics, has been named Master of Fashena College at UT Southwestern Medical School.

 A graduate of the Tulane University School of Medicine, Dr. Punaro came to UT Southwestern Medical Center in 1977 to begin her internship. At the time, Dr. Gladys Fashena was Professor of Pediatrics and near the end of a trailblazing 40-year career during which she helped inaugurate the medical school and became a full professor in 1949. After retiring, Dr. Fashena held the title of Professor Emeritus until her death in 2000.

"I was very lucky to have the opportunity to learn from Dr. Fashena when I was an intern at Children's Medical Center Dallas," Dr. Punaro said. "She was one of the few women on the faculty at that time and was an inspiration for many of us. It is a true honor to be appointed as a Master of Fashena College."

Dr. Punaro succeeds Dr. Joel Steinberg, who served in the position from the inception of the Academic Colleges system six years ago.

Drs. Fashena and Punaro had parallel experiences in childhood. The former's parents thought her plan to become a doctor was "a wild idea." The latter's parents were more supportive, but in elementary school when she talked of becoming a doctor, she was asked if she shouldn't consider becoming a nurse.

A member of the UT Southwestern faculty since 1996, Dr. Punaro is also Medical Director of the Pediatric Rheumatology Service at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. 

"Put succinctly, Dr. Punaro is an extraordinary clinician," said Dr. Julio Perez-Fontan, Chairman of Pediatrics. "She has impeccable diagnostic instincts, remarkable bedside grace, a keen intelligence, and a fierce loyalty to her patients."

Referring to an article published in D Magazine in 2010, titled "The Humble Rheumatologist," Dr. Perez-Fontan said, "The writer compared Dr. Punaro with a sleuth because of her ability to transform signs, symptoms, and other medical information into hypotheses to be tested. 

"Of course, her approach is the rigorous application of the scientific method to clinical medicine. Combined with the refined art of medical practice, that approach creates the synergy that makes her the master clinician that she is."

Dr. Charles Ginsburg, Senior Associate Dean of the medical school and Professor of Pediatrics, said: "Dr. Punaro will be a terrific Colleges Master. In addition to being a masterful clinician and teacher, she is a humble, somewhat self-effacing individual who has all of the constitutive skills and professional and personal attributes that make her an ideal role model for our medical students.

"Having known Gladys Fashena, I am certain that Gladys would be proud that Lynn is serving as the Master of Fashena College."

College Headmaster Dr. Daniel Foster, Professor of Internal Medicine, said: "Dr. Punaro is a distinguished scientist and clinician, and a member of the American Board of Pediatrics, and has been elected to Best Doctors in America yearly for seven years.

"Dr. Steinberg was absolutely devoted to the Mentors who worked with him and to the students that passed through. He was always available to cover if a Mentor had to miss a meeting, and I know he wanted the next Master to be a pediatrician. I expect that he will be a mentor to Dr. Punaro now."


Dr. Foster holds the John Denis McGarry, Ph.D., Distinguished Chair in Diabetes and Metabolic Research.

Dr. Ginsburg holds the Marilyn R. Corrigan Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Research.

Dr. Perez-Fontan holds the Robert L. Moore Chair in Pediatrics.