Dr. Liliana Nañez: Hudson-Penn Award for Excellence in Surgery

By Russell Rian

Dr. Liliana Nañez, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, was the youngest of three siblings on the family dairy farm.

“I didn’t really have anybody going to college before me. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, honestly,” said Dr. Nañez, whose family moved to Houston when she was 8.

As she progressed through elementary and middle schools, she developed a knack for science and, at the suggestion of a teacher, applied to the area’s magnet high school, the Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions, which is named for the famed heart surgeon.

Dr. Liliana Nañez

“At that point, I didn’t know I wanted to be a doctor but I said, ‘I’ll go there,’ and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. That started a domino effect. I got into college, and in college I got into the Texas Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP) that guaranteed admission to medical school,” she said. “Gradually, little by little, I realized I could achieve this dream of mine to get into medical school and become a doctor. Every time I got to the next level, it was really difficult, but it turned out to be achievable, and more of my dream came true.”

Throughout her journey, Dr. Nañez has fostered a natural inclination toward community service as well, helping with local humane societies and summer programs for children; rotating through internal medicine and emergency rooms while in high school; and establishing a number of community projects while president of the National Network of Latin American Medical Students.

“I love science, and what I like about medicine is that you use science to help people,” she said. “I really enjoy the patient interaction.”

In recognition of her hard work and determination in medicine, Dr. Nañez is the recipient of the 2010 Hudson-Penn Award for Excellence in Surgery, which recognizes academic achievement, outstanding clinical skills and a caring attitude toward patients.

The award, established in 1979, is named for Dr. Lee Hudson, chief of surgery at Parkland Memorial Hospital when UT Southwestern was founded, and for Robert Penn, Dr. Hudson’s brother-in-law.

“Liliana is a mature young woman who has extracted herself from multiple cultural and economic challenges with fierce determination not only to succeed in her academic goals, but to far surpass academically her peers who have not encountered such obstacles,” said Dr. Sergio Huerta, assistant professor of surgery. “Her personal and academic record reveals that Liliana will be unstoppable in achieving any goals she sets for herself.”

Dr. Nañez, who was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society, will return to UT Southwestern for her general surgery residency. “What I like about this institution is its involvement with the community – especially with the minority communities,” she said. “I really enjoyed my experience at Parkland. We have outstanding faculty.”

Dr. Nañez also enjoys teaching and research, so her dream these days is to become a permanent fixture in academic medicine.

“My goal is to become an academic surgeon,” she said, “and I would like to continue serving minority communities in a place like Parkland.”