Dr. Dan Quiat: Kurt Ian Wey, M.D. Pediatrics Award

By April Evans

Dan Quiat
Dr. Dan Quiat

Dr. Dan Quiat always knew he wanted to be a doctor, but during his undergraduate years at UT Austin he gained interest in basic science research while studying the growth and development of zebrafish. His mentor encouraged him to pursue a Ph.D., but his desire to care for patients left him yearning for work in both settings – the clinic and the laboratory.

“I didn’t know what my career path was going to be like,” Dr. Quiat said. “I knew that I wanted to be a doctor, but I also did not see myself leaving the research lab behind.”

Dr. Quiat majored in cell and molecular biology at UT Austin, then moved to Dallas to begin his eight-year tenure in UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Medical Scientist Training Program, where he earned both medical and doctorate degrees. The program combined Dr. Quiat’s desire to care for patients with the potential long-term implications of conducting research that might save their lives. He worked in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Olson, Chairman of Molecular Biology.

“When I got to UT Southwestern, I developed relationships with mentors who were true scientists and physicians,” said Dr. Quiat. “They were applying their scientific interests to their patient populations, and were trying to find answers to their patients’ problems in the lab. Seeing all this helped me realize that I’d made the right decision.”

His impressive body of work helped him become the 2014 recipient of the Kurt Ian Wey, M.D. Pediatrics Award, named in honor of a 1998 UT Southwestern graduate who died in an automobile accident. Established by the Wey family and friends, it recognizes a fourth-year medical student who shows empathy and compassion for sick children, has significant knowledge, and maintains a good sense of humor.

As an undergraduate researcher, Dr. Quiat spent many hours watching tiny zebrafish embryos come to life under a microscope. In the development span of 24 hours, a fish embryo forms along with a beating heart. Watching the heart develop left him with more questions than answers. His interest in the heart continued when he got to UT Southwestern. His studies led him to investigate genes that regulate how the heart contracts and their role in cardiac development. During his third-year of medical school, Dr. Quiat deferred a class and ended up taking a pediatric cardiology elective, which solidified his interest in the field.

“Dan is wonderful,” said Dr. Soumya Adhikari, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics. “He brings the same thoughtful, analytical approach to his patients as he does his investigative role, and is poised to be a leader in the field of pediatric cardiology one day. Despite this, he remains humble, grounded, and driven. He is leaving us to pursue his residency in Boston, but I will watch his career with a great deal of interest – I would love to see him come back to campus someday to help train the next generation of physician-scientists.”

After commencement, Dr. Quiat, his wife, Elizabeth, and their 10-month-old daughter, Noa, are moving to the Northeast, where he has accepted a pediatric residency at Harvard Medical School/Boston Children’s Hospital.

“Being a dad has really reinforced my decision to become a pediatrician,” Dr. Quiat said. “I really enjoy taking care of her and I think raising her will make me a better pediatrician.”

Outside of medicine and research, Dr. Quiat enjoys spending time with his young family, running marathons, and rock climbing.