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Shooting for excellence: From basketball pro to medical resident, aspiring surgeon reaches for new heights

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Krystle Henderson
A leader on the collegiate and professional basketball court, Krystle Henderson, MD ’23, looks forward to blazing a new trail as a physician.

A graduate of The University of Texas at Austin where she served as captain of the women’s basketball team, Krystle always loved science and held a fascination with the workings of the human body. After an overseas career in professional basketball, she returned to the United States and worked as an emergency medical technician before setting out to pursue her dream at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston.

“On my interview day, I interacted with students and faculty who instantly made the school feel like home and the right fit for me,” Krystle says.

Driven to apply the qualities her athletic career had cultivated—leadership, teamwork, communication, solving problems in high-stress situations, and an eagerness to embrace challenges—Krystle chose to pursue a specialty in general surgery.

“It offers a unique opportunity to combine clinical knowledge and technical skills to provide definitive treatment for patients,” she says.

Krystle’s passion for mentorship and addressing disparities in surgical care led her to become highly involved student organizations at the school—including the Gold Humanism Honor Society Mentorship Program, Frontera de Salud Pre-Med Mentorship Program and Building the Next Generation of Academic Physicians.

As she began looking toward residency during her final year of medical school, a scholarship from The Dierks Surgical Scholarship Fund allowed her to travel to potential programs to see the environment firsthand. She matched to her first choice, general surgery at Dell Medical School at UT Austin.

“I'm grateful for the opportunity to train as a surgeon and provide excellent health care to the same community that once supported me as a student-athlete,” she says.

McGovern Medical School strives to recruit more exceptional students like Krystle, many of whom may not have the resources to further their education. Student assistance funds like The Dierks Surgical Scholarship Fund can help students pay for tuition, living expenses, textbooks, or—as in Krystle’s case—costs related to residency. With the average medical student carrying more than $100,000 in debt after graduation, scholarships help reduce that burden.

"Scholarships make an incredible difference for our students,” says LaTanya J. Love, MD, Dean of Education at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. “They have enormous responsibilities with their coursework and clinical requirements, so removing some of the financial burden also alleviates a significant source of stress.”

Full-tuition scholarships in particular—which cover tuition for all four years of medical school—provide the ideal solution. The school has set a goal to expand upon its one existing full-ride scholarship to offer 20 such awards, which will further establish it as a highly sought destination for the most committed future physicians.

“Full-tuition scholarships can transform a student’s life,” Love says. “The ability to attend medical school at a greatly reduced cost serves as a huge draw to potential students and opens significant opportunities for new graduates.”

As Krystle pursues her surgical specialty, she carries with her the many experiences at McGovern Medical School that will shape her for years to come.

“My time there helped me grow not only as a physician, but also as a person,” she says. “I am excited to use the skills and medical knowledge I gained to deliver quality patient-centered care to my future patients.”

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