'Citizen of the world' wins MLK award

By Rachel Skei Donihoo

Second-year medical student Thomas Heyne views himself as a “citizen of the world,” whose mission is to serve others through civic activism and stewardship — much like one of his greatest role models, Martin Luther King Jr.

Second-year medical student Thomas Heyne (second from right) receives the 2010 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship for Community Service at ceremonies marking the 20th annual celebration on campus. Congratulating Mr. Heyne are (from left) Dr. Drew Alexander, Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky and
UT System Regent Printice Gary.

This passionate commitment to international medicine and a drive to create a “global community” have garnered him the 2010 Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship for Community Service at UT Southwestern.

After earning a master’s degree in theology at the University of Oxford, the Dallas native spent a year studying and teaching abroad on a Fulbright scholarship. During those and other travels, he said, he became increasingly aware of “levels of poverty and injustice unknown to many Americans.”

Inspired by the idea of serving the “poorest of the poor,” Mr. Heyne said he abandoned his original plan to become a professor and entered medical school with the dream of becoming a physician and working in developing countries.

Upon entering medical school, he immediately took action. He volunteered as a translator at the Monday Clinic and the Vickery Meadow Health Fair; as a shift manager in the Pediatric Interest Group health fair; as a publicist and translator for the United to Serve Committee; and as an assistant chaplain at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Still, Mr. Heyne said he was disappointed with the resources available to UT Southwestern students interested in global health and surprised by the “disconnect between the simple faith and love shown by many patients and the impassive science found too often in the medical community.” This spurred him to help launch a new student group, the St. Basil the Great Society. Twice a month, the group brings in speakers to discuss diverse topics such as AIDS in Swaziland or the symbiosis between religion and medicine in history.

Mr. Heyne also leads the International Health Interest Group and helped to create a survey and compile a database to connect students with international opportunities. He spent his spring break at the Mexican border, volunteering in makeshift clinics with several other UT Southwestern students. Last summer he volunteered at a Peruvian clinic dedicated solely to the poor; at spring break, he plans to do similar work in Haiti.

 Tracy Diaz, Rachelle Dorvil, and James Shaha

he MLK scholarship was presented by Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president of UT Southwestern, and Dr. Drew Alexander, assistant dean for community affairs, at an awards ceremony held on campus Jan. 14.

Other finalists for the award, now in its 20th year, were Tracy Diaz, a fourth-year medical student from Tulsa, Okla.; Rachelle Dorvil, a second-year medical student from Rowlett; and James Shaha, a third-year medical student from Draper, Utah.

UT System Regent Printice Gary was the guest speaker at the ceremony. Mr. Gary is the founding partner and CEO of Carleton Residential Properties. His numerous community service activities include service on the boards of Southwestern Medical Foundation and the United Negro College Fund. In 2006 Gov. Rick Perry appointed Mr. Gary to the Texas State Tax Reform Commission. A year later, the governor appointed Mr. Gary to the UT System Board of Regents.