Dr. Shayla Derousseau: Pepper Jenkins Outstanding Medical Student Award in Anesthesiology and Pain Management

By Kerry Gunnels

Dr. Shayla Derousseau

Dr. Shayla Derousseau says she’s always been intrigued by the idea of being a doctor. 

It doesn’t run in her family. Dr. Derousseau, the 2012 recipient of the Pepper Jenkins Outstanding Medical Student Award in Anesthesiology and Pain Management, is the first in her family to become a physician. 

But she probably won’t be the last. Her younger brother graduated from UT Austin in May and enters medical school in August. She takes goodnatured credit for influencing his decision.

“It’s because of me, I’m sure of it,” Dr. Derousseau said with a grin. “Perhaps he’d say something different.”

For Dr. Derousseau, her decision to pursue a medical career was solidified after she participated in the Physician Scribe Program while a student at Texas Christian University. The program, which calls for students to shadow physicians and observe their interactions with patients and health care colleagues, convinced her to become a doctor.

As a Grapevine resident, she had heard about UT Southwestern Medical Center all her life, so her decision to apply here was a natural one.

“It’s the best medical school in Texas, and one of the best in the nation, so it’s pretty natural to want to come here,” she said. The Jenkins Award is named for the physician, now deceased, who established the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Management and served as its chairman from 1949 to 1981.

It goes to a student seeking a career in anesthesiology who had an exemplary performance in medical school, takes an empathetic approach to patient care and who exhibits the characteristics of leadership, scholarship, and thirst for knowledge exemplified by the award’s namesake.

“Shayla has all of the characteristics we look for in the Pepper Jenkins Award winner,” said Dr. Charles Whitten, Chairman of Anesthesiology and Pain Management. “She has an infectious personality. Dr. Jenkins was charismatic – Shayla in her own unique way is as well. She has provided great leadership for our student interest group in Anesthesiology and Pain Management. She has been an advocate for the department while on the residency interview trail. She has great interpersonal skills and will provide solid leadership in an outstanding incoming intern class.

“She has a very positive outlook on life and will develop into a quality clinician.” 

Dr. Derousseau, who will remain at  UT Southwestern to pursue a residency in Anesthesiology, said that when she joined a student interest group in anesthesiology at the beginning of medical school, she just clicked with the faculty anesthesiologists who addressed the students. They shared common interests, personalities, and goals. “It seemed a good fit,” she said.

But she also believes her participation on a select women’s softball team before college might have played a role in her attraction to anesthesiology. As a pitcher who played all over the country, Dr. Derousseau experienced the satisfaction and exhilaration of being on an elite team.

“In the operating room, surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses – all working together as a team for the benefit of the patient – that’s probably what appealed to me,” she said.

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Dr. Whitten holds the Margaret Milam McDermott Distinguished Chair in Anesthesiology and Pain Management.

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