Dr. Reese Mathieu IV and Dr. Shyam Sivasankar: Class of 2014 Leadership Award

By Deborah Wormser

Dr. Reese Mathieu IV and Dr. Shyam Sivasankar met in the Plan II honors program at UT Austin and forged their friendship as members of a campus service organization.

Their friendship continued through UT Southwestern Medical School, where they served as co-presidents of the student body, and includes their selection as co-recipients of the 2014 Medical School Student Leadership Award, presented annually to the student officers.

Dr. Reese Mathieu IV and Dr. Shyam Sivasankar
Dr. Reese Mathieu IV and Dr. Shyam Sivasankar

“It has been a personal pleasure working with them as they showed both wisdom and effective leadership skills on a host of class projects during the past four years,” said Wes Norred, Vice President for Student/Alumni Affairs at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

As members of the Texas Blazers undergraduate service organization, both men volunteered at least an hour a week mentoring East Austin high school students and additional hours at campus events. During their senior year, Dr. Mathieu led the organization and Dr. Sivasankar served as secretary. “My role was really more big-picture oversight and I depended on other officers like Shyam to do their jobs exceptionally well, which Shyam always did,” Dr. Mathieu said. 

“When I got to UT Southwestern, I had a desire to run for president because I got a really positive vibe from the administration that they would be supportive and put the students first, but in order to really be inspired to run I knew I wanted Shyam to run with me,” Dr. Mathieu added. “I remember calling him one night and, luckily for me, he was also intrigued by the idea. So we decided to run as co-presidents.”

Dr. Sivasankar, who was born in Singapore and graduated from Southlake Carroll Senior High School, recalls the phone call from his friend.

“I’d told myself I wouldn’t get too involved when I attended medical school because undergrad was so busy with all my extracurricular activities, but when Reese approached me about running for presidency together, I couldn’t refuse.”

He said he is proudest of securing video streaming for all first-year classes and working with the administration to make 24-hour library access for students a reality.

The campus community is doubly lucky that Dr. Sivasankar ignored his vow to avoid extracurricular activities, which included four years performing on a 12-person Bollywood dance team at the university’s annual Celebration of Cultures.

Dr. Mathieu’s most memorable moment as a student leader was organizing the Anatomy Candlelight Vigil, an annual event at which first-year students show their appreciation to the families who donate their loved ones’ bodies to the anatomy laboratory. After recitations from medical students and family members, everyone stood outside holding candles as a bell was rung for each donation, he said. He added that the awe and gratitude of that moment stayed with him throughout medical school.

His most inspiring memory was Match Day. “It was really exciting to celebrate that day with all our classmates and also humbling to find out all these amazing programs that our classmates were accepted into,” he said.

In June, Dr. Mathieu, the son of Richardson pediatrician Dr. Reese Mathieu III and Martha Mathieu, will start his residency in pediatrics at UT Southwestern/Children’s Medical Center.

Dr. Sivasankar, son of Shoba and Ramachandran Sivasankar, will start an emergency medicine residency at Stanford University. Long interested in global health, he said he found his calling through a program of the Emergency Medicine Student Association that allowed him to shadow in his non-class time.

“I was incredibly fortunate to work with Dr. Marshal Isaacs [Professor of Surgery and of Emergency Medicine and Medical Director of Dallas Fire-Rescue, the Irving Fire Department, and Prehospital Emergency Medical Services/BioTel at Parkland Health & Hospital System] on my first night. He took me under his wing and has been a mentor, a teacher, and, most importantly, a friend. He really helped me get where I am today,” Dr. Sivasankar said.

He summarized his leadership experience saying, “I don’t regret my decision to run with Reese one bit. We had fun doing what we’ve done together and we even have plans to work together in the future, wherever our future careers take us.”