Dr. Julius Ejiofor: Hudson-Penn Award for Excellence in Surgery
By Erin Prather Stafford
Dr. Julius Ejiofor grew up in the African nation of Cameroon and saw firsthand how a shortage of doctors can lead to deaths caused by preventable diseases.
“It was out of this deficiency that my passion and goal for a career in medicine was born,” Dr. Ejiofor said. “Obtaining an education was not easy since it involved walking a long distance to school. I had to either make the trek daily or stay at home without an education. I chose to walk because my mind was set on becoming a doctor.”
Dr. Ejiofor is the recipient of the 2012 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.
During his senior year in high school, Dr. Ejiofor watched a friend die from osteosarcoma, a tumor that usually develops during the period of rapid growth in adolescence. The experience further solidified his dedication to medicine and inspired him to apply for college in the United States. At 17, he left Cameroon and enrolled at El Centro College in Dallas before transferring to Southern Methodist University, where he graduated with a degree in biochemistry.
Along the way, he took nursing courses and eventually became a licensed vocational nurse, which allowed him to work part time while attending school.
Early in his medical school career at UT Southwestern, he was drawn to surgery. During a third-year clerkship, he knew for certain it would be his specialty.
“The ability of surgeons to alleviate pain, improve life, and cure diseases with their hands resonated deeply with me,” he said. “I simply cannot see myself in any other profession other than surgery.”
Dr. Robert Rege, Chairman of Surgery, called Dr. Ejiofor “a remarkable individual who has overcome considerable challenges to educate himself and obtain his life goal to become a physician.”
“His dedication, enthusiasm, and hard work not only have enabled him to obtain his preliminary education in his homeland of Cameroon, to come to the United States and obtain higher education, but they have placed him at the top of his medical school class at UT Southwestern,” Dr. Rege said. “He clearly has all the characteristics required to become an excellent surgeon, and we are proud to name him the Hudson-Penn surgical student this year.”
Dr. Ejiofor, who was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society, will leave Dallas for a general surgery residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School in Boston. He will do a subsequent fellowship in either cardiac or vascular surgery. One day, Dr. Ejiofor plans to participate in global health missions, especially to Cameroon.
“My experience at UT Southwestern has exceeded all expectations,” he said. “The medical school has provided me and my classmates with a solid foundation upon which we can build our careers. I sincerely thank all the people who have helped me get here today. I couldn’t have done it without their kindness, love, and generosity. There is a saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ I am an example of that truth. Most of all, I thank God for guiding and blessing me.”
Dr. Rege holds the Hall and Mary Lucile Shannon Distinguished Chair in Surgery.