Highest honor bestowed upon a medical student

The School of Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has revealed the five finalists who were selected by their peers in the graduating class to receive the prestigious 2013 Gold-Headed Cane Award — the highest honor bestowed upon a graduating medical student. The winner will be announced this Saturday, June 1, at the commencement ceremonies for the school.

“To be nominated by your peers for the Gold-Headed Cane Award is an extraordinary honor, and I am immensely proud of these finalists,” said Dr. Danny O. Jacobs, executive vice president and provost and dean of the School of Medicine. “All of these students have demonstrated a passion for patient care, academic excellence and community service.” Being nominated for this award is an honor in itself, and honorable mention is given to the finalists.

The Gold-Headed Cane Award has a long tradition at UTMB. The late Dr. Charles T. Stone Sr., professor emeritus of internal medicine, established the award in 1960. A gold ring engraved with the newest recipient's name is added to the staff of the cane to commemorate the occasion. The cane is on permanent display at the Moody Medical Library; recipients receive a replica.

The UTMB tradition honors the 18th century practice of presenting a gold-headed cane to the pre-eminent physician in English society. One such cane was continuously carried from 1689 to 1825 by five distinguished British physicians and now resides in the Royal College of Physicians in London.

2013 Gold-Headed Cane Award finalists:

Htin Aung


Htin Aung, who has served as one of the directors of the free clinic at St. Vincent’s House for the last two years, says volunteering has taught him so much about providing health care to the indigent population. “Growing up in an impoverished country like Burma really gives me perspective on the needs of the underprivileged. After my graduate medical training, I will be working toward establishing a free clinic in Burma using what I have learned from my volunteer experience.”

Aung is grateful for the many wonderful attending faculty who invested so much of their day to teaching students, residents and fellows. “They have been great models of professionalism during my medical school career, and I am inspired to follow them into an academic career.”

Aung will serve his residency in internal medicine at the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester, Minn.

Jason M. Burrows

Jason Burrows says children are the future of our society and he wants to care for infants, children and adolescents to promote and contribute to their health. As part of the Leadership Council and a student mentor for the “Name that Book” program, he was able to establish scholastic and social relationships with children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.

He envisions an academic career in pediatric critical medicine where he can practice clinical medicine, teach students and residents and expand the boundaries of medical knowledge.

Burrows will serve his residency in pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine-Denver.

Taylor S. Howard

Taylor Howard was a camp counselor at Camp Boggy Creek for ill children, caring for eight rambunctious 5th graders with HIV. “I can remember my thoughts racing about the circumstances these children had been born into. I hurt for them and was deeply moved by their unfair burden. With that in mind, I made a promise to a room full of sleeping 10 year olds: I would work to improve the quality and quantity of their days. I would become a pediatrician.”

Howard says he is honored and humbled to be considered for the Gold-Headed Cane Award and grateful to the wonderful faculty of UTMB who showed him what it meant to really take care of people.

Howard will serve his residency in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Jacqueline R. Nortman

Jacqueline Nortman says she is honored to have been nominated by her peers for the Gold-Headed Cane Award. “The qualities for which this award stands (Humility, Humanity, Fidelity) are ones that have been refined through my training at UTMB, particularly with patient and compassionate physicians, patients and peers with whom I have worked.”

She has volunteered at summer camps for medically disadvantaged children, encouraged grade-school children to develop independent learning skills and appreciate the joy of reading through Sir William Osler’s “Name that Book” competition and provided basic health care and counseling to the indigent members of the city of Galveston at the Luke Society Health Fair.

Nortman will serve her residency in pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

Bridget M. Wagner

Bridget Wagner feels honored to have learned from the patients she has met over the past few years, especially the children. “One of the things that sets pediatrics apart is the unique challenge of working with patients in a variety of developmental stages who cannot always communicate what they need and who all require different approaches to meet those needs.”

She says that seeing children outside of the hospital, watching them just be kids, reminds her of what she is striving toward as a physician: “Not just curing the disease, but trying to be a healing presence for them as we work to return these children to their usual state of health, playfulness and joy.”

Wagner will serve her residency in pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.