Physician's medical career takes off after long delay

Todd Cutler's path to becoming a physician began long before most of his classmates were out of elementary school.

His senior year in college, he began studying for the MCAT. That was in 1985.

It wasn't until 10 years later that Dr. Cutler decided to pick up where he left off and begin the journey back to medical school.                                                                                  

Dr. Todd Cutler, winner of the 2005 Iatros Award, began his residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital this summer.                                          

"I'd always wanted to go to medical school, and it was the right time for me," said Dr. Cutler, 42.

His easy-going attitude and hard work contributed to him being named by his classmates as the winner of the 2005 Iatros Award, sponsored by the UT Southwestern Medical School Alumni Association. It's the only award in which a winner is elected each year by classmates based on the winner's ability to work with others, clinical prowess and patient care.

It's easy to see why Dr. Cutler was chosen for his rapport with patients and classmates. His relaxed, friendly and approachable attitude is readily apparent -- something the father of two attributes to his experiences outside the classrooms and medical center clinics.

He graduated from high school in Mount Pleasant -- a small town in East Texas just an hour and a half from the Arkansas border.

"I married my high school sweetheart, Kathy, in 1982," he said.

A few years later while he was attending East Texas State University, now Texas A&M Commerce, he and his wife had the first of their two children. He decided to wait on plans for medical school so he could enjoy time with Matt and Laurie, his son and daughter.

Rather than medicine, he pursued his pilot's license and became a corporate pilot in the Dallas area for several years.

"A company I was working for at the time offered me the opportunity to train to become a pilot," Dr. Cutler said. "When I did, they offered me the position."

He attributes his life experiences with his knack for relating to patients. "I think it's made a huge difference for me," he said.

In 1995 he applied to the UT Arlington to begin retaking some prerequisite classes that wouldn't transfer because they were more than 10 years old -- a fact that still elicits a chuckle when he thinks about it.

Working full time and going to school wasn't easy, he said, but he fell into an interesting research opportunity while attending UTA.

"I got really interested in neuroscience research and worked in a laboratory here at UT Southwestern part time for two years," he said.

The lab work helped acquaint him with the campus, and when he applied for medical school in 2000, he was accepted.

A rotation in pediatric emergency medicine and the neonatal intensive care unit sealed his decision to specialize in high-risk obstetrics.

"I was really interested in preventing premature deliveries and in treating patients with difficult pregnancies," Dr. Cutler said. "I also love surgery, so this is the best of both worlds because I still get to see patients as a primary care specialist and perform surgeries."

He began his residency this summer at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

When he talks about his protracted takeoff to becoming a doctor, he likes to insert a little levity.

"I'll always be able to fly airplanes," he said. "It's always good to have a back-up plan."