Dr. Krista Alexander: North Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians Award for Outstanding Medical Student in Psychiatry

Rolland C. Reynolds Path­ology Award

By Rachel Skei Donihoo

As she describes her life as a student at UT South­western, her formidable accom­plish­ments and the endless possibilities for the future, Dr. Krista Alexander can’t help but blurt out, “Life is so exciting!”

“Blown away” by the options and her own good fortune, she says she can’t wait to embark on a medical career many years — and continents — in the making.

Dr. Krista Alexander

The 36-year-old Texas native, who has traveled the globe exploring her love of languages and people, says she knew that one day her varied interests would lead her to a career in medi­cine. Although she didn’t begin medi­cal school until a decade after gradu­ating summa cum laude with a bache­lor’s degree in linguistics and Spanish from Rice University, she insists it is the lessons learned on her journey that prepared her for the next phase of her life.

“I’ve had some wonderful adven­tures, but there is still so much to learn,” said Dr. Alexander, who has served as a volunteer English teacher in Taiwan, an apprentice midwife in Northern Europe and an international affairs liaison for the city of Houston. “Linguistics was my first love, but I realized fairly early on that I wanted something more than just a scholarly pursuit; I wanted a life of hands-on service. Medicine gives me the best of both. I came to UT Southwestern after realizing that I needed more than curiosity and compassion to make a difference in people’s lives. I needed mastery of a set of useful skills, which I’ll be work­ing toward for the rest of my life.”

That enthusiasm for medicine, knowledge and the world around her has earned Dr. Alexander two presti­gious student honors, the 2010 North Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians Award for Outstanding Medical Stu­dent in Psychiatry (an honor she shares with classmate Dr. Kala Bailey) and the Rolland C. Reynolds Path­ology Award. The Reynolds award, which includes $1,500, was named after the pathology professor who was revered for his sincere interest in his fellow man and for his desire to make the world a better place.

Dr. Alexander also was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, the national med­i­cal honor society. She served as the committee chair of Project Remedy, a new AOA-sponsored program at UT South­western that salvages opened but unused surgical supplies for dis­tribution to medical facilities in the developing world.

“Krista is a terrific doctor who sees beyond her patients to their family and the community in which they live,” said Dr. James Richardson, professor of pathology, molecular biology and plastic surgery. “She will strive to empower her patients and families as they deal with illness and disease through her enormous capa­city for caring.”

After graduation, Dr. Alexander and her husband, UT Southwestern Ph.D. candidate Peter Alexander, will relocate to North Carolina. She is one of only four students accepted to Duke University’s combined resi­dency program in internal medicine and psychiatry. She said the five-year program will enable her to explore her “cluster of interests,” which in­clude women’s health, autoimmune diseases, oncology, geriatrics and palli­ative care, and the inter­rela­tionship between physical health and mental illness.

“There are so many things that appeal to me right now, so it will be interesting to see where further training takes me,” she said.

During her time in medical school, Dr. Alexander became co-president of the Psychiatry Student Interest Group with Dr. Bailey. Together they applied for and received a $5,000 grant to implement a mental health screening, evaluation and referral program for a free medi­cal clinic run by UT South­west­ern students at North Dallas Shared Ministries.

This initiative is one of the things that has made her a standout, ex­plained Dr. Adam Brenner, associate professor of psychiatry and director of medical student education in psy­chi­atry. “Krista has wonderful energy and a true compassion for the people around her. Her intelligence, pro­fession­alism and enthusiasm for learning have been an inspiration to our faculty and her fellow students. She is uniquely deserving of the honors she has been given.”