Dr. Nora Edwards Renthal: Endocrine Society Medical Student Achievement Award
By Jeff Carlton
Dr. Nora Edwards Renthal had spent four years studying the role of microRNAs in pregnancy and had waited months for a thesis committee meeting to share her research with top UT Southwestern Medical Center faculty members.
So, despite having had a baby just 24 hours earlier, when it came time for that critical meeting, she wasn’t about to miss it. With her husband, her father, and day-old son waiting outside the conference room, she convinced her committee that she was ready to defend her thesis.
“It was my thought that they would give me the OK to write up my thesis, so it was a pretty important meeting,” said Dr. Renthal, winner of the Endocrine Society Medical Student Achievement Award. “I couldn’t just cancel on these people. That’s why I did this crazy thing and left the hospital early.”
Dr. Renthal, 30, has packed more life experiences into her time at UT Southwestern than seems humanly possible. The physicianscientist– a graduate of Dallas’ Greenhill School and UT Austin – successfully pursued her medical degree and a doctorate in genetics and development. Her innovative research led to studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Immunogenetics.
In her “spare” time, Dr. Renthal worked with the Women in Science and Medicine Advisory Committee to expand lactation services on campus and in UT Southwestern’s hospitals. She created and chaired a monthly mentorship series, providing opportunities for women in the Medical Scientist Training Program to interact with female faculty members. Dr. Renthal also organized and spoke at ayearly science symposium aimed at girls in middle school and high school, an effort that last year won her the Ida M. Green Award, given for high-quality research and service to the community.
Along the way, she married Dr. William Renthal, a 2011 UT Southwestern graduate who also earned a medical degree and doctorate and who now is a neurology resident at the medical center. Together, they have two children: a 5-year-old daughter, Amber, and a 2-year-old son, Sawyer.
Up next is a pediatric residency at UT Southwestern. Dr. Renthal then hopes to land a fellowship in pediatric endocrinology.
“Nora is a very creative and resourceful scientist, and that is what makes her stand out to me,” said Dr. Carole Mendelson, Professor of Biochemistry and Obstetrics and Gynecology and Dr. Renthal’s mentor for her Ph.D. research. “But she also is a really terrific role model and mentor for other students and trainees. She pretty much does it all.”
Dr. Renthal’s explanation for managing to juggle motherhood, medical school, Ph.D. studies, cutting-edge research, advocacy for lactation services, and mentoring both fellow physician-scientists and school-age girls is simple.
“I feel like I do better when I have more things to do,” Dr. Renthal said. “And if I spend a Saturday telling young women that a career in science and medicine is possible for them, then I feel more determined when I go to work on Monday. I have to prove to them that what I said on Saturday is true.”