Dr. Jennifer Chong: R. Michael Ragsdale, M.D., Outstanding Graduate Award in Family Medicine

By Erin Prather Stafford

Family medicine is a perfect marriage of interests for Dr. Jennifer Chong. The Houston native earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from Rice University. While there she volunteered at both Texas Children’s Hospital and HOPE health clinic, which assists underserved patients. She is passionate about human interaction and always knew her career would focus on helping others.

Dr. Jennifer Chong
Dr. Jennifer Chong

“As a primary care physician, I am responsible for all aspects of a patient’s health,” said Dr. Chong. “This includes mental health, and having a psychology degree has been helpful when talking to patients and understanding their choices and behaviors. I feel fortunate to have a career I believe in that allows me to utilize many different skills.”

Her dedication to family medicine helped her earn the 2012 R. Michael Ragsdale, M.D., Outstanding Graduate Award in Family Medicine. The award, given annually to an outstanding graduate student in family practice, was created in memory of a Dallas family physician who served as a mentor to many students at UT Southwestern Medical Center. It includes a $500 scholarship from the Dallas chapter of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians Foundation.

Dr. Chong’s interest in medicine stems from watching her father build strong relationships with his patients. She vividly remembers them going to the grocery store together and seeing him talk with those he had cared for.

“My father, an internist, had long-term relationships with nearly all of his patients,” she said. “I realized in medical school that I wanted the same experience in my practice, which definitely influenced my decision to go into primary care. I also like the diversity of cases and assisting patients with finding specialists who can make their lives better.”

“Quality of benevolence and compassion are easily detectible when you interact with Jennifer,” said Dr. Manjula Julka, Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine. “She has a strong desire to serve the community and will make an outstanding family physician."

Dr. Dan Sepdham, Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine, concurred: “Jennifer had more than the baseline level of knowledge you would expect from a student, and she could take it two to three steps deeper than expected. Jennifer has also been very active in community service as a student. She has the right blend of intellect and compassion to make a great family physician.”

Among her many extracurricular activities at UT Southwestern, Dr. Chong participated in United to Serve and even found time to revitalize a volunteer tutoring program at a local underserved elementary school. She recruited fellow classmates to volunteer and tutor students weekly in math, science, history, and English.

Following graduation, she will return to Houston to begin her residency at Methodist Hospital. Dr. Chong also is planning her wedding to Randy Chung, a third-year medical student at UT Southwestern, whom she met when they were undergraduates at Rice. The couple became engaged on New Year’s Eve.

In reflecting on the future, Dr. Chong reaffirms her dedication to helping others.

“I do see myself running a clinic that serves disadvantaged populations,” she said. “The faculty at UT Southwestern aided me in reaffirming my passion for primary care and offered guidance in how to line up all of my interests. It’s meant a lot to have faculty care that much and do everything they can to ensure my classmates and I have successful futures.”