Take 5 with Keith Argenbright, M.D.

Keith Argenbright, M.D., is originally from Dallas but now lives in Fort Worth with his wife, two children, and a 9-year-old golden retriever, Memphis. Dr. Argenbright recently received the 2014 Regents Outstanding Teaching Award, which recognizes educators in the state’s top institutions for mentoring and personal commitment to students and the learning process.

He is the Chair of the Career Development Committee as well as the Director of Leadership, Mentoring, and Career Development for the Center for Translational Medicine’s Education Program. The CTM is honored to have Dr. Argenbright as an educator and mentor. Keep up the good work!

Keith Argenbright, M.D.
Keith Argenbright, M.D.

Tell me about yourself.

I define myself first as a husband (27 years – cumulative) and father (two kids), next as physician, followed by a mentor and teacher.

Where did you attend college? What degrees do you have?

I attended college at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, and medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans. I went back to school again seven years ago and received a business degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

How long have you been at UTSW? How long have you been a part of the CTM’s education program?

I was recruited to UT Southwestern seven years ago, and am proud to be on the faculty with a primary appointment in the Simmons Cancer Center and secondary appointment in Clinical Sciences. I have been a part of the CTM education program for six years.

What is your role in the CTM’s education program?

I serve as the Chair of the Career Development Committee as well as the Leadership and Mentoring Director.

How did you get involved as an advisor?

By accident, I think. I was having a conversation with Dr. Bob Toto one day, and he asked me if I would become more involved with the advisory component. I said yes, one thing led to another, and here we are.

What is the best advice you would give a junior investigator on pursuing his or her career in research?

Several things. First, make sure this is something you really want to do. It is a very exciting career path, but a very difficult one. So, ask yourself your true motivations for pursuing clinical research.

Second, focus your time in the beginning of your career very narrowly. Once you have some wins under your belt – i.e. grants, publications, etc. – you can start to explore a little. I actually refer to this as the “Yin Postulate” after my good friend and colleague Helen Yin, Ph.D., who often gives this advice to students.

What is your favorite part of working with clinical research students?

The best part of my job is that I get to meet personally with all the students in our program – they are all so bright and full of energy. I think they help me more than I do them. I consider them all my friends.

If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?

Sorry, I don’t go backward, only forward. My wife and I haven’t been to the Maldives yet … that might be a cool place to travel to.

Being the Director of the Moncrief Cancer Institute in Fort Worth and an Associate Professor of Clinical Sciences at UTSW, you have a busy schedule. How do you manage your work load and family life?

This would have been rough a few years ago, but my kids are grown and my wife works full time at the Texas Ballet Theatre in development. We do have a 9-year-old golden retriever, and I try to have “special time” with her on the weekends. Also, I have a great team at Moncrief and UTSW that helps me keep everything straight.

Do the CTM trainees have access to the Moncrief Cancer Institute? In what ways?

Absolutely. Many of the research projects and population health initiatives involve CTM trainees – we would like even more. If anyone is interested in cancer studies, all they have to do is come see me – I will find a place for them.

What is your teaching philosophy?

It actually isn’t mine, but comes out of Harvard Business School and is called “participant-centered learning.” Basically, it means that the focus in the classroom isn’t on me, but on the students learning from one another. I just try to ask the right questions – 99 percent of the time, someone in the class has the right answer, I just sit back and let it happen.

What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?

Those who know me well know that I enjoy the Colorado mountains, both in the summer and winter. I try to get there often.

For more information about the CTM’s Education Program please contact Amy Mackenroth at amy.mackenroth@utsouthwestern.edu.