New Dedman Family Scholars in Clinical Care Named

Both of UT Southwestern’s 2017 Dedman Family Scholars in Clinical Care knew they wanted to be doctors from an early age – one was inspired by her grandmother and the other by a high school internship.

Dr. Pearlie Chong
Dr. Pearlie Chong

The Scholars are Dr. Pearlie Chong, who joined UTSW in March as Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, and Dr. Alexandra Callan, who came on board Sept. 1 as Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery.

The Dedman Foundation established the Dedman Family Endowed Program for Scholars in Clinical Care in 2009 with a $12 million gift to Southwestern Medical Foundation. The gift was matched to create a $24 million endowment to help recruit the most promising early-career physicians to UT Southwestern and launch their careers under the mentorship of senior clinicians and clinical scientists. The program includes a four-year grant worth up to $150,000 a year for each recipient to cover research expenses and salaries.

Dr. Chong, who grew up in Malaysia, developed an interest in medicine as a child. “My maternal grandmother had health issues and I wanted to take care of her,” she said. “That desire to take care of each patient just like how my grandmother would have liked to have been treated has been my philosophy and driven me to strive to be a better physician.”

After receiving her M.D. from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada, Dr. Chong completed an internal medicine residency at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pa., and an infectious diseases fellowship at Georgetown University Medical Center. She went on to complete a transplant infectious diseases fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. 

Prior to being recruited to UT Southwestern, Dr. Chong was a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she co-created the Immunocompromised Host Infectious Diseases Program.

Dr. Chong plans to study and better characterize chronic norovirus infections in solid organ transplant patients, an infection that can cause significant morbidity in immunocompromised hosts due to lack of effective antiviral treatment. Dr. Chong and her team will collect and analyze stool samples from transplant patients and attempt to identify risk factors for chronic norovirus infections. These risk factors include host, transplant, and viral-related characteristics.

“We will be biobanking these specimens for future research as we gain an understanding of norovirus infection in this immunocompromised patient population,” she said.

Dr. Alexandra Callan
Dr. Alexandra Callan

Dr. Callan, who grew up in The Woodlands, Texas, knew she wanted to become an orthopaedic surgeon after shadowing one during a high school internship. She never imagined pursuing a career as an orthopaedic oncologist until her sister was diagnosed with a meningioma. Experiencing a tumor diagnosis and surgery from the patient/family member perspective sparked her aspirations. She wanted to use her surgical skills to resect tumors and make a meaningful impact in patients’ lives.

She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.S. in science pre-professional studies, earned her M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, and completed an orthopaedic surgery residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and an orthopaedic oncology fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The opportunity to start a Multidisciplinary Sarcoma Program and build an Orthopaedic Oncology Division drew Dr. Callan to UTSW.

Dr. Callan will use her Dedman award to develop a prospective sarcoma and musculoskeletal oncology database that incorporates patient-reported outcomes and functional scores utilizing new digital and web-based technology.

“Patients always want to know what to expect. By building this database of patients and their surgeries and then tracking their outcomes, we can help design better education so patients know what to expect before surgery, after surgery, and into the future,” she said.