Dr. Janet Orrock: Eliot Goldings Award in Rheumatology

By Jeff Carlton

Dr. Janet Orrock’s medical training began early, as a 6-year-old tagging along with her trailblazing grandmother on house calls.

Dr. Janet Orrock
Dr. Janet Orrock

Her grandmother, Dr. Janet Sutton, was a 1939 graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School, where she specialized in family medicine. According to family members, she later became the first female doctor in Bartow, Fla., where she continued seeing patients up until retirement, when she was in her mid-80s.

“Some of my first memories are going on house calls with her,” said Dr. Orrock, who eventually graduated from Highland Park High School. “She was a pioneer, and she definitely was my inspiration. My grandma was pretty instrumental in getting me to where I am.”

In winning the Eliot Goldings Award in Rheumatology, Dr. Orrock was recognized by UT Southwestern faculty for her “true aptitude for synthesizing the complex medical histories, symptoms, and medical details of the complicated patients she saw in the rheumatology clinic,” said Dr. Alisa Gotte, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics. “Her skills were so advanced that she was charged with evaluating new patients in the rheumatology clinic, which are the most complicated patients with the most information synthesis required.”

Although her relationship with her grandmother piqued her interest in medicine at an early age, Dr. Orrock, 26, did not follow a conventional path to medical school. As an undergraduate at Georgetown University, she double majored in art history and Spanish. She briefly considered a career in art, spending a summer working at a contemporary gallery in Spain.

Her fluency in Spanish came in handy in the rheumatology clinic, where “she demonstrated a true willingness to be helpful” by serving as a translator for Spanish-speaking patients, Dr. Gotte said. “She was very generous in this regard.”

But Dr. Orrock says her art training also has proved valuable in her medical career.

“Art history made me appreciate the value of appearance of a patient in your assessment. It helps you recognize patterns and helps train your brain,” she said. “With patients, there are some things that are basic, like whether the patient is stable or not. And then there are little things – like tattoos or style of dress – that can give you a lot of valuable clues about your patient.”

After graduation, Dr. Orrock will return to Washington, D.C., to serve a pediatric residency at Children’s National Medical Center. She said she is considering a subspecialty in rheumatology.

“That’s based on my experiences here,” she said. “I’m really proud of my UT Southwestern education and excited to put it to use in the future.”