Dr. Karla Keaney and Dr. Rodrigo Interiano: Class of 2005 & 2006 Leadership Award

By Erin Prather Stafford

Years before their time at UT Southwestern Medical School, Dr. Karla Batarse Keaney and Dr. Rodrigo Interiano attended elementary school together in Houston. Although they knew each other growing up, their friendship has been strengthened while they served as co-presidents of the Class of 2010.

Together Drs. Keaney and Interiano are the recipients of this year’s Class of 2005 & 2006 Leadership Award. The award was created to honor class presidents for their leadership and commitment to service.

From left: Drs. Rodrigo Interiano, Karla Batarse Keaney

“UT Southwestern Medical School has been very fortunate to have Karla and Rodrigo as the co-presidents of the Class of 2010,” said Wes Norred, vice president for student and alumni affairs. “They have been excellent leaders. During their tenure, we have been through two cycles of the Six Year Plan development, two re-accreditation visits and a careful review of the grading system and other important issues affecting students. Karla and Rodrigo have provided effective and wise leadership. They are highly regarded by their colleagues, the faculty and the administration. Perhaps even more important, they will be superb physicians.”

Dr. Karla Batarse Keaney

When Dr. Keaney was 15, her grandmother traveled from El Salvador to the United States for medical appointments. Dr. Keaney tagged along to translate. The teenager realized she was fascinated by the interaction between patient and doctor, and for the first time she considered a career in medicine.

Years later, Dr. Keaney elected to attend UT Southwestern Medical School because of its clinical reputation and the opportunity to work with a large and diverse population. Her chosen specialty is pediatrics and she will begin a residency this summer at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

“I chose pediatrics because it was the rotation where everything felt right,” Dr. Keaney said. “I realized one morning while going to a pediatric clerkship that I was happy, excited, and felt this is what I’ve been looking for these last few years.”

In addition to earning a medical degree this year, Dr. Keaney married her college sweetheart, Brendan Keaney. While unsure of what the future holds, she envisions herself eventually working in an academic institution. Dr. Keaney is also interested in health care policy and in assisting those in underserved communities. She credits her parents for encouraging her to pursue a medical degree and for teaching her how to overcome obstacles with poise, respect, dignity and grace.

Regarding her time at UT Southwestern, Dr. Keaney offered the following reflections: “What I’ve learned in the classroom and how it’s applied to a clinical setting is unparalleled and will serve me well throughout life. I cannot wait to see what amazing things my fellow classmates will accomplish. I am a better person and doctor for knowing them and the faculty and staff members. It’s been a privilege to serve my class and I am grateful for the opportunity to have done so.”

Dr. Rodrigo Interiano

Born in San Salvador, El Salvador, Dr. Interiano always knew he wanted to become a doctor. After his family resettled in the Houston area, Dr. Interiano watched his father, an internist, interact with patients and live up to the family motto of “student for life.”

“Medicine allows you to be studying continuously to further your education, which is in the best interest of patients,” he said. “My father taught me what it means to be dedicated to patients. The rapport he built and the way his patients revered him never made me doubt how much I wanted to be a physician. I came to UT Southwestern because I knew the school would challenge me to be a better physician.”

During medical school, Dr. Interiano traveled to Ghana to study the country’s management of HIV and AIDS. He credits the experience with opening his eyes to both the country’s cultural beauty and to practicing medicine in a foreign country. Dr. Interiano hopes to one day open a Third World or Salvadoran clinic.

He has been matched to the University of Tennessee Memphis Health Science Center in the categorical general surgery program. Dr. Interiano chose general surgery as his specialty because he is attracted to the idea that surgery can relieve patients of the ailments associated with disease or other causes of pain.

Dr. Interiano is not the only graduate in his household. His wife, Ashley, is graduating from UT Dallas with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience. The couple married this past December, and she will relocate with him to Memphis.

Dr. Interiano says he has immensely enjoyed working with UT Southwestern faculty, staff and Dr. Keaney while serving as co-president of the Class of 2010.

“It has been a real honor to be seen as someone willing to lead,” he said. “My classmates have been so supportive and are really the brains behind all the projects we’ve accomplished. There will be some amazing physicians coming out of our class. The faculty and staff have also been encouraging. Without their guidance and patience we would not have reached the end of this chapter in our careers successfully.”