Dr. Karen Burnett: Hudson-Penn Award for Excellence in Surgery

First, Dr. Karen Burnett was an electrical engineering student, then a nursing student, a patient-care assistant and a registered nurse in the burn unit at Parkland Memorial Hospital. In the end, or perhaps near the end, however, she became a doctor.

The June 2005 UT Southwestern graduate said she enjoyed the bond shared among fellow health professionals so much that she changed her college major and eventually chose to become a physician.

Dr. Karen Burnett

Now, in recognition of her hard work and determination in medicine, Dr. Burnett was selected at this year's recipient of the Hudson-Penn Award for Excellence in Surgery.

"It is truly an honor, especially considering the talents and accomplishments of my classmates and the previous recipients" said Dr. Burnett, a 31-year-old native of Portland, Maine.

The Hudson-Penn 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. The award recognizes academic achievement, outstanding clinical skills and a caring attitude toward patients and includes a framed certificate and $500.

"I cannot speak in high enough terms about Karen," said Dr. Patricia Bergen, associate professor of surgery. "She was a hands-down favorite among our residents and faculty. She was recruited by many top surgery programs, but we are proud to say she decided to stay here and will be a leader and star among our residents."

Dr. Burnett majored in electrical engineering in 1992 at the University of Maine, but she changed her major to nursing two years later and transferred to St. Joseph's College in Windham, Maine. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in nursing in May 1997.

She worked as a patient-care assistant from 1995-97, followed by four years as a registered nurse in the Burn Intensive Care Unit of Parkland Memorial Hospital. In late 1999, she decided to pursue medical school and began taking prerequisite courses at UT Arlington.

"My interest in surgery began during my early years at Parkland and intensified during my third-year clerkship," Dr. Burnett said. "I am interested in the surgical diseases and pathology and enjoy the technical aspects and challenges in the operating room, the decisiveness and passionate work ethic of surgeons, and the opportunity to offer definitive treatment to my patients."

Besides medical school, Dr. Burnett served as an anatomy teaching assistant and was a tutor for anatomy and physiology courses.

"I was overjoyed to be accepted at Southwestern Medical School and have had a truly amazing experience during my four years here," Dr. Burnett said. "I've had the opportunity to meet so many gracious, gifted and dedicated people."