Four University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) alumni will receive the 2012 College of Medicine Outstanding Alumni Award. Kelly Hunt, MD, Jon H. Robertson, MD, Bobby Higgs, MD, and Joseph A. Smith, MD, will be honored at the Alumni Awards Luncheon at noon on Friday, Oct. 12 at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tenn.
"These alumni not only serve as role models for colleagues and students, but also have distinguished themselves, and the UT Health Science Center in all areas of our mission: education, research, patient care and community service," said David Stern, MD, executive dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine. "We salute, Drs. Hunt, Robertson, Higgs, and Smith, who have each made such a significant contribution to UTHSC."
Dr. Kelly Hunt
Dr. Hunt (Class of '86) received her medical degree with highest honors from UTHSC in 1986. From 1986 to 1993, she completed her postgraduate training at the UCLA School of Medicine. From 1994 to 1996, she was a surgical oncology fellow at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She joined the faculty of MD Anderson in 1996. Along with being professor of surgery in the Department of Surgical Oncology, Dr. Hunt is also the chief of the Surgical Breast Section in the department and the associate medical director at the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center. She has an active role in the Breast Cancer Research Program, which is a collaboration of 84 physicians and scientists.
With a focus on breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, Dr. Hunt is one of the pioneers in establishing the technique of sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy in breast cancer. She helped introduce the technique at MD Anderson. She has demonstrated that SLN surgery after chemotherapy provides an improved assessment of response and results in fewer lymph node dissections for patients who have a complete response after chemotherapy. This approach has resulted in decreased morbidity and improved quality of life, and has become the standard of treatment at MD Anderson.
As chair of the Breast Committee for the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (ACOSOG), Dr. Hunt is involved in the development of practice-changing clinical trials. Through her work with ACOSOG, Dr. Hunt has had the opportunity to mentor young investigators in clinical and translational research studies. As a clinician-scientist and a leader in national clinical trials, Dr. Hunt has made a significant impact on how breast cancer patients are treated, but she said finding a cure for cancer is at the top of her "to do" list.
Dr. Jon H. Robertson, MD
Dr. Robertson, (Class of '71), began his neurosurgical residency at UTHSC in 1975 after spending two years as a general practice and emergency room physician at the City of Memphis Hospitals. He attended Southwestern College (now Rhodes) in Memphis, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1968. Immediately following his residency training in neurosurgery in 1979, Dr. Robertson became a member of the Semmes-Murphey Neurologic and Spine Institute and an assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at UTHSC. He was promoted to associate professor in 1984, and after serving a year as interim chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery became chair 1997.
Although he retired from UTHSC in 2011, Dr. Robertson has continued his tenure as an affiliated faculty member and he continues to practice at Semmes-Murphey. He has served as a board member at Semmes-Murphey for the past two decades, as well as on the board of the Medical Education & Research Institute in Memphis. Dr. Robertson said his work ethic has been his greatest strength, evidenced by his dedication to many professional organizations, including the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Society of University Neurosurgeons, and the Society of Neurological Surgeons. Dr. Robertson is also an author, having written for nearly 50 publications and as well as the books, Lasers in Neurosurgery and Cranial Base Surgery. He has co-authored 25 book chapters, and has given approximately 200 presentations at meetings worldwide.
Dr. Bobby Higgs
Dr. Higgs (Class of '56) practiced with his partner, Jesse "Kippy" Miller, MD, in a pediatric clinic for 20 years before joining the Jackson Clinic in Jackson, Tenn. After 35 years as a pediatrician, Dr. Higgs retired in 1997.
"My interest in pediatrics only intensified during my family practice residency at the University of Colorado," he said. "Young people are generally honest, entertaining, and candid, so it has been a joy to be a pediatrician."
During his career, he was engaged in numerous professional organizations including the American Board of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Tennessee Medical Association, the Tennessee Pediatric Society, and the University of Tennessee Medical Alumni Council. He served as the alternate chairman of the Tennessee chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics from 1983 to 1985 and as chapter chairman from 1985 to 1988. Dr. Higgs also served as president of the West Tennessee Consolidated Medical Assembly.
While he is no longer practicing at the clinic, Dr. Higgs continues to follow his passion of reaching out to others in need. For more than a decade, he has dedicated countless hours as a volunteer at West Tennessee Healthcare Hospice. On Monday mornings, he counsels and mentors troubled teens at Youth Town, a Christian residential treatment center, and on Sundays he ministers to those in prison.
Dr. Joseph A. Smith
Dr. Smith (Class of '74) received his medical degree from UTHSC and completed two years of surgery residency at the University of Texas Southwestern, followed by a urology residency at the University of Utah, and a fellowship in urologic oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
A professor of surgery and chairman of the Department of Urologic Surgery at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Smith holds the distinguished William L. Bray Chair in Urologic Surgery. For 26 consecutive years, he has been on the Best Doctors in America list by Castle Connolly. He was also listed among the Top 5 surgeons for cancer care in the country by Time magazine. Under his leadership, his department at Vanderbilt has been recognized as a Top 10 national program by U.S. News & World Report.
Dr. Smith has dedicated numerous hours of service as president of various professional organizations, including the Southeastern Section of the American Urological Association, the Society of Urologic Oncology, and the American Board of Urology. He also served as chairman of the Residency Review Committee of the American Board of Medical Specialties. An author of six books, Dr. Smith is an associate editor of the Journal of Urology and the editor of Hinman's Atlas of Urologic Surgery, the most widely used surgical text in urology.