Many guide way for 2005 winner of foundation's coveted Ho Din
A symphony of influences prepared Dr. Michael Herman for a career in medicine. The winner of Southwestern Medical Foundation's Ho Din Award, the highest honor for a graduating medical student, acknowledges:
His dermatologist father, Dr. Peter Herman -- "and the joy I saw him take in his patients when I was a child." His nurse mother, Tova -- "She drove me to all the other schools for my advanced math courses."
His teachers -- "I was lucky to have the best, even in elementary school."
High school football -- "I was a 265-pound offensive tackle at Coronado High in El Paso, slow as mud; I knew I wasn't going anywhere in football."
Harvard College, where he graduated magna cum laude in 2001 with a Bachelor in Arts in biochemical sciences and "highest honors" for his senior thesis, a summary of which he presented in 2000 at the American Heart Association scientific sessions -- "I was quite honored."
His UT Southwestern professors -- "so responsive to students" -- and Parkland Memorial Hospital -- "nowhere has such a diversity of people, situations and disease."
And, finally, his favorite composer, Frederic Francois Chopin, whose Ballade in G Minor he finds "an incredibly challenging but beautiful piece."
"I don't think there is a Chopin piece I don't like. He tends to be a little more quiet, but every once in a while he gives you an opportunity to bang away at the keys.
"I was probably better at banging away," said Dr. Herman, a finalist in statewide piano competitions.
Banging away. Football aside, that might best describe Dr. Herman's crescendo of interests and achievements, in part: training for marathons (and dropping 75 pounds), learning foreign languages (Spanish and German), achieving top marks in clinical rotations and the classroom -- one of two in his medical school class of 211 maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade-point average through four years; organizing medical school activities, serving on the executive curriculum committee, as class officer, and as president of Texas Gamma Chapter of Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honorary society; tutoring kids in Dallas' low-income areas and counseling minors on pregnancy options.
"I try to work as hard as I can and not hold myself to any outside standards."
Southwestern Medical Foundation has bestowed the Ho Din Award annually since 1943 in honor of its first president, Dr. E.H. Cary. It honors the graduating student who exhibits the unique personal qualities of great physicians -- knowledge, understanding and compassion.
The award -- Ho Din is a Greek acronym representing "the spirit of medical wisdom" -- includes a certificate, gold key charm and $7,500.
"This wasn't something I expected." Dr. Herman said. "A number of my classmates could have won it."
Paul Bass, chairman of the foundation, said: "Once again, I'm encouraged by the future of medicine in this country when I see the tremendous achievements by Michael Herman. He is not only highly intelligent, but one who can apply his knowledge toward the delivery of compassionate and competent patient care."
Dr. Jeffrey Cadeddu, associate professor of urology and a mentor of Dr. Herman, added: "Michael Herman exhibits the qualities one wants to see in every physician -- an unwavering commitment to family, his profession and patients. I am fortunate to have worked with him."
His parents stressed the importance of education and opportunity, but never pressured him or his two older sisters into medicine.
"I remember I would go to my dad's office as a kid. He was kind of old school. He really got to know about his patients, their family -- and they got to know our family.
"I saw a lot of reward in helping them out with their problems. I saw the joy it brought him, and I remember those relationships being something special."
His parents have strong backgrounds in biology, "which sparked an interest in me, and proved that by being a physician you could combine an interest in science and biology with the desire to help people in a meaningful and unique way."
Dr. Herman wants to make a wide impact.
"I hope what I do in medicine is not just to benefit my practice. I hope I can improve the quality of life and health care.
"Maybe I'll find that in teaching -- serving on the curriculum committee was something I particularly found rewarding. I really like research, too."
Dr. Herman and his fiancée will move to New York City where on June 13 he begins a six-year residency in urology at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Cornell Campus. "Urology is a great combination of surgery and medicine. What I especially enjoy about it is the fact that urologists have great, long-term follow up with their patients."
In September he will marry Liz Chase, a former sixth-grade math teacher at a South Dallas charter school. Dr. Herman and Ms. Chase met at a Halloween party in Boston when they were seniors in college, she at Barnard College in New York City.
"We met, had a great conversation, and as they say, the rest is history. She's been just a great support to me in medical school."
One of their first planned Big Apple purchases? "An upright piano or keyboard."
He sees a medley of corollaries between music and medicine.
"Music teaches you patience," he said. "You have to practice a lot before you see any type of return. I think it also helps cultivate the more humanitarian side of medicine.
"You become more involved in music, you become more involved in the literary side of things. And that helps you think more about your interaction with patients besides just what disease does this person have. You think how it affects them, what their social situation is. It makes you care that much more."
For future patients, that's no doubt music to the ear.