Three involved Health Professions students earn Schermerhorn Award

One of the most interesting facets of the student body at UT Southwestern School of Health Professions is that so many students arrive with more than just a college education. Many have established themselves in other careers before making the turn to health care.

Two of the three 2014 Schermerhorn Scholarship Award winners fit that bill, but all ended up in Dallas because of the reputation of the school. Brandy Borque in the Rehabilitation Counseling program, Seth Watson in the Physical Therapy program, and Jessica Chen in the Clinical Nutrition program, are all heavily involved in academics and leadership roles, and in volunteer enterprises, in Dallas and elsewhere.

Dr. Raul Caetano, Dean of UT Southwestern School of Health Professions (second from right), is joined by 2014 Schermerhorn Award winners Jessica Chen, Seth Watson, and Brandy Borque.
Dr. Raul Caetano, Dean of UT Southwestern School of Health Professions (second from right), is joined by 2014 Schermerhorn Award winners Jessica Chen, Seth Watson, and Brandy Borque.

The Schermerhorn Scholarship Award is named for the late Dr. John Schermerhorn. During a long career at UT Southwestern, he served as Dean of the School of Health Professions – which was then the UT Southwestern Allied Health Sciences School – from 1971 to 1986.

Each year, outstanding students are honored with the award. Winners receive $500, and their names are engraved on a plaque in the School of Health Professions conference room alongside portraits of past deans. They were recognized at the recent Capra Research Symposium.

Brandy Borque

After a career working in and running restaurants, bars, and clubs in Dallas, a jarring event brought Ms. Borque to UT Southwestern and eventually to a new career. Her dad, Jerry Borque, underwent hours of surgery to repair two aortic aneurysms at the medical center, followed by seven days in the Intensive Care Unit. Ms. Borque was there virtually the entire time, following her father’s progress, and that experience planted a seed.

Now a student in the Masters of Rehabilitation Counseling program, she still recalls her father’s recovery as “the greatest thing I’ve ever been
given,” and she wants to give back in any way she can.

The Malakoff native – who earned a degree in psychology at UT Tyler – is editor of the North Texas Volunteer Newsletter for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, teaches iPad and social skills to disabled adults at Cornerstone Ranch in McKinney, and is Vice President of the North Texas Area Rehabilitation Association. She’s on track to graduate in December.

Seth Watson

A graduate of Texas A&M University who earned a degree in kinesiology and motor behavior before enrolling in the School of Health Professions. Mr. Watson is a native of Teague who wanted to come to UT Southwestern since his high school days.

He played a year of football at Howard Payne University before transferring to College Station, and a career as a physical therapist is his longtime dream.

“I was introduced to the integrated education model here, where people from all three schools – medical school, graduate school and health professions – get together periodically to learn,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of that.”

Now closing in on a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree – he’s set to graduate in December – he can look back on having rehabbed a shoulder injury while in high school and use that experience to understand what people under his care are experiencing.

“As physical therapists, we have to understand the behavioral changes facing people who are trying to recover their skills,” said Mr. Watson, who serves as Secretary of the Texas Student Physical Therapy Organization. “It’s hard at the beginning, and I know that, but we can help people get through those things.”

Jessica Chen

A 2006 graduate of UT Austin – with a degree in biochemistry – Ms. Chen grew up in the Houston suburb of Katy, and is now in the Masters of Clinical Nutrition program and is President of the Student Dietetic Association, with designs on a career in diabetes management.

While in Austin, she worked in data analysis at a lab. She learned from a career advisor that there was another option out there.

“I always wanted to work in health care, and I’m very interested in food science and cooking,” she said, “but I didn’t even know that dietetics was a profession.”

A Master of Clinical Nutrition degree was what she needed, and the reason she came to the School of Health Professions.

“I quit working and went back to school for clinical nutrition,” she said. “I visited the campus, spoke to some of the professors, and knew that this was the place for me.”

Ms. Chen and her husband have kept two households, with him working in Austin, and her in Dallas as a student. Her principal volunteering interest is with a nutrition education program of Austin’s Capitol Area Food Bank.

“I’ve volunteered with the community garden,” she said, “but I feel personally connected to the food bank’s mission and to the nutrition program’s work to provide education to those who are at risk.”