Dr. Daniel Babu: Vernie A. Stembridge, M.D., Scholarship Awardin Pathology

By Amanda Siegfried

When Dr. Daniel Babu entered college at UT Austin, he intended to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry and pursue an academic teaching career. But that changed during his senior year when, he says, he was “bitten by the medicine bug.”

After earning a Bachelor of Science in chemistry with a minor in classics, Dr. Babu worked for a dermatologist at UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, not far from his hometown of Missouri City. There he performed basic research and participated in a clinical project related to alopecia areata, an incurable skin disorder that causes hair to fall out in patches.

“I quickly grew to love research and appreciate its role in advancing medicine,” Dr. Babu said. “The physicians and scientists with whom I worked at M.D. Anderson were very inspiring, and working in an academic setting showed me there was indeed a place for teaching in medicine.”

When it came time to apply for medical school, he said he knew from the start he wanted to attend UT Southwestern, “because of its wealth of clinical and research opportunities.” Once in medical school, he initially considered specializing in hematology-oncology but quickly found that pathology was a good fit for his interests and curiosity, as well as his passion for teaching.

“I enjoyed the process of ‘decoding’ what I saw under the microscope and coming up with diagnoses, and I relished the intellectual challenges that came with it,” Dr. Babu said. “I saw for myself how treatment plans hinged on the final word of the pathology team, and that was a responsibility I thought would be exciting to take on.

“In addition, as a pathologist, you need to be a scientist as well as an educator, because you’re constantly sharing your knowledge of disease processes with colleagues. It fits in well with my original intentions of being a teacher.”

Dr. Babu is the recipient of the 2010 Vernie A. Stembridge, M.D., Scholarship Award in Pathology, named for the former pathology chair who died in 2000. Friends and colleagues of Dr. Stembridge endowed a scholarship in his name, an award that includes $1,500. It is given to the most outstanding graduating medical student, whose performance in the sophomore pathology course was exemplary and who is interested in pursuing a career in pathology.

“Daniel is an excellent student, and following his experience in pathology electives, he realized that this specialty matches his aptitudes and skills,” said Dr. James Richardson, professor of pathology, molecular biology and plastic surgery, and course director for the second-year medical student pathology course. “Pathology offers him the opportunity to have a direct impact on patient care as well as time to educate others through one-on-one instruction.”

In July, Dr. Babu will begin a combined anatomic and clinical pathology residency at the Cleveland Clinic. He said he looks forward to a career in academic medicine.