Dr. Maggie Waung: American Academy of Neurology Medical Student Prize for Excellence in Neurology

By Aline McKenzie

In both the laboratory and the clinic, Dr. Maggie Waung looks to the past and to the future.

When faced with a problem, her mentors say, she thoroughly researches how it’s been handled before and comes up with new strategies when necessary.

Dr. Maggie Waung

At the same time, she is a caring advocate for patients.

Dr. Waung’s intellectual rigor and empathy have led to her being awarded the 2010 American Academy of Neurology Medical Student Prize for Excellence in Neurology. She also has been elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society.

“Maggie contributed significantly to the care of her patients,” said Dr. Mike Singer, assistant professor of neurology. “If her background reading showed something she thought might help, Maggie didn’t hesitate to bring it up.”

A native of Plano, Dr. Waung received her bachelor’s degree in physics from Wellesley College. As an undergraduate, she did laboratory research at both UT Southwestern and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I was intrigued by the basic sciences, but was also drawn to medicine,” she said. “I loved exploring the interplay between physiology and diseases, but I wanted a balance between the intellectual challenge and helping people.”

Dr. Waung said her family was the primary foundation of her success. “They believed in me wholeheartedly and challenged me to think bigger than myself.”

She chose UT Southwestern because of the Medical Scientist Training Program, which allowed her to earn both a medical degree and a doctorate.

Although she was interested initially in physiology, once she began her studies she became more interested in neurology and neuroscience, she said.

“I like the complexity of the problems,” she said. “At first, I thought a doctor couldn’t do much for patients with neurological disease, but during my rotations I realized how much these problems affect every aspect of a patient’s life. Even small interventions can make a huge difference, and there is a lot of creativity involved in caring for these patients.”

“Maggie is a thinker — an intellectual,” said Dr. Kim Huber, associate professor of neuroscience and Dr. Waung’s Ph.D. mentor.

“She asked deep questions about the brain and got a new way of culturing brain cells going for the lab. She really was committed to making discoveries as a graduate student,” said Dr. Huber, who is the Southwestern Medical Foundation Scholar in Medical Research, 2001-2005.

“She always researched a problem very thoroughly, plus she was just very nice.”