Dr. Mary Beth Westerman: John D. McConnell Award for Excellence in Urology

Medical school attracts people who want to compete. And given the hurdles between first thinking about undertaking such an endeavor and finally reciting the physician’s oath, a willingness to compete would hardly be considered a burden.

Dr. Mary Beth Westerman
Dr. Mary Beth Westerman

Dr. Mary Beth Westerman has been competing all her life, and her willingness to challenge herself helped her to claim the 2014 John D. McConnell Award for Excellence in Urology.

“She’s very industrious and resourceful,” said Dr. Gary Lemack, Program Director in Urology and in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery/Urology, and Professor of Urology, and of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics, and the Urology Residency Director. “She was a go-getter who stood out in a large group of outstanding students. Her varied life experiences before she got to UT Southwestern definitely helped her to bring something different to the table. She excelled on the floors, in the operating room, and in the research arena.”

Dr. Westerman grew up on Long Island, New York, and played soccer from the time she was 5; lacrosse at 12. When she arrived at Dartmouth College, she realized there was no women’s club lacrosse team – but she set that as a goal. It took her 18 months to get the women’s lacrosse club team up and running, but her devotion to that cause earned her the school’s Kenyon Jones Award, which goes annually to a student who exhibits a commitment to and love for recreational sport.

After she graduated in 2008 with a combined degree in chemistry and psychology, she joined Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., a global financial services firm that was, at that time, the fourth-largest investment bank in the U.S. She relocated to the firm’s Houston office and five days after she started Lehman was one of the first dominoes to fall in the financial crisis of 2008.

But months before, on the advice of her father, John Westerman, she had taken the Medical College Admission Test. So when one door closed, another door remained open.

It was during a surgical rotation in her third year at UT Southwestern Medical School that Dr. Westerman discovered her chosen specialty. “At that time, in January 2013, it all became clear to me that urology was the way I wanted to go.”

On Match Day she landed her first choice: A residency at the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, in Rochester, Minnesota. And there was another first choice: In April, Dr. Westerman married Chris Wiegmann, an energy trader with NextEra Energy Resources, a Florida-based wholesale electricity supplier.

The McConnell Award honors the clinician whom many in the department credit for the continued success of urology at UT Southwestern. Dr. McConnell (now CEO at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina) was the third leader of what was then a division at UT Southwestern. He oversaw the elevation of urology to department status, introduced a doctoral program, and increased grant support for basic research.