Dr. Bret Michael Evers: Vernie A. Stembridge, M.D., Scholarship Award in Pathology

By Kerry Gunnels

Dr. Bret Michael Evers

When he was a high school student in New Orleans, Dr. Bret Michael Evers thought he wanted to be a marine biologist.

But by the time he left Texas A&M University with a degree in biochemistry and genetics in 2004, he knew his path would lead him in a different direction.

It led him to UT Southwestern Medical School, where he is the 2012 recipient of the Vernie A. Stembridge, M.D., Scholarship Award in Pathology.

The Stembridge Award is named for the former Pathology chair who died in 2000. The award, established by friends and colleagues of Dr. Stembridge who endowed a scholarship in his name, includes $1,500. It is given to the most outstanding graduating medical student whose performance in the sophomore Pathology course was exemplary and who is interested in pursuing a pathology career.

Dr. Evers, who graduates with both an MD and a PhD, will remain at UT Southwestern. He has joined the Pathology residency program, in which he will complete both a residency in anatomic pathology and a fellowship in neuropathology.

His interest in science began when his parents bought him his first microscope at age 10. That ignited a lifelong passion for the laboratory and for research.

Initially, marine biology fired Dr. Evers’ imagination. But exposure to the wonders of the laboratory eventually convinced him that fieldwork could not compete with the joy of discovery and the sense of accomplishment gained in a medical research lab.

At UT Southwestern, he was in the integrative biology graduate program. His PhD research focused on lipid metabolism, developmental biology, and molecular genetics. He also found himself drawn to pathology.

“In pathology, one approaches a disease from the molecular and cellular levels, and thus understands disease intimately and can extrapolate these findings to the patient and his symptoms,” Dr. Evers said. “As an MD/PhD, I feel pathology is the best bridge between patient bed and laboratory bench. It is the field where one’s research efforts can be most easily translated into novel medical advances. It is both of these aspects of pathology that really inspired me to pursue my dual career in pathology and science.”

He credits Dr. James Richardson, Professor of Pathology, Molecular Biology, and Plastic Surgery, with encouraging his pathology studies.

Dr. Evers vividly recalls one day in Dr. Richardson’s office, when the professor turned the microscope over to him and said, “You drive.”

“I was both intimidated and excited at the same time,” Dr. Evers said. “But as we sat there, with me driving the scope and pointing out all of the aberrant morphology present … something inside of me clicked, and I knew from that point onward that pathology and research are what I am called to do.”

Dr. Richardson says the young medical student/scientist showed promise.

“When Bret brought his slides to me for analysis, he sat at the microscope and opened his notebook, not to take notes but to show me the pencil sketches he had made of the lesions he found,” Dr. Richardson said. “I knew immediately that Bret related to patterns of morphologic change – an attribute important for pathologists.”

Dr. Evers and his wife, Virginia, have an 8-month-old son, Zachary, who is a curly-haired charmer. One of the reasons he wanted to stay at UT Southwestern was the family-friendly atmosphere.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie here,” Dr. Evers said. “It feels like a family. That was important to me. To us.”