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Holy Cross' Culotta recognized by Medical School (5-26-01)

Stanley Culotta, M.D., a longtime educator who became a physician to help residents of San Antonio’s West Side, was honored Saturday as the 2001 Distinguished Alumnus of the Medical School of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He accepted the honor at the Medical School commencement at Trinity University’s Laurie Auditorium.

Dr. Culotta is principal of Holy Cross High School, where he has served in teaching and administrative positions for more than 40 years. “The West Side was a physician shortage area,” he said, recalling his entry into the Health Science Center Medical School in 1974. “I decided one way to help was to become a physician myself.” He graduated from the Medical School in 1978.

The Medical School’s Alumni Association board of directors selected Dr. Culotta for the honor. The purpose of the award is to recognize the outstanding contributions of a Medical School graduate in the areas of patient care, basic research, clinical research and/or health services administration. Honorees demonstrate the highest principles of the medical profession.

“This honor is a surprise,” said Dr. Culotta, also a Catholic brother. “It is very meaningful to have my peers recognize my work.”

Under his leadership, Holy Cross High School has gone from a small all-male school in financial trouble and on the brink of closure to a thriving school. Dr. Culotta was determined to keep the school open and affordable so that West Side students could have access to a college preparatory education. He involved faculty, students, parents and philanthropists – including Grammy award-winning singer Vikki Carr – in fund-raising efforts.

As Dr. Culotta helped to rescue the school from possible closure, he enhanced medical care offered in the community surrounding it. In 1981 he opened the Holy Cross Clinic, a storefront family practice clinic three-quarters of a mile from Holy Cross High School. Four years later, with the help of the Sisters of Holy Cross, and alumni of Holy Cross High School who had since graduated from medical school, Dr. Culotta’s small clinic expanded to become the outpatient service named Holy Cross Family Medical Center. The center now operates two locations, one on the West Side and one on the Northwest Side. The clinics daily provide medical services to more than 60 people, including children, the elderly and low-income families.

Dr. Culotta is preparing for a capital campaign to finance the building of a multi-million-dollar campus scheduled to open in 2005. The campus will replace the existing Holy Cross buildings.

A native of New Orleans, Dr. Culotta holds degrees from The University of Notre Dame, Our Lady of the Lake University, St. Edward’s University and the Health Science Center. He completed medical residency training at McAllen Methodist Hospital. He has received numerous awards, including the Jefferson Award and the Holy Cross Man of the Year Award. In 1999 Dr. Culotta was one of 10 educators in the nation to be named “An American Hero in Education” by Reader’s Digest magazine.

The rewards of becoming a physician are many, Dr. Culotta said to the Medical School graduates, but many rewards are not monetary or even prestigious. “Awards are an affirmation that you’re doing the right thing,” he said. He urged the new physicians to remember that every patient is a person who is important to someone and to communicate with patients in language the patients can understand. He asked the graduates to recall often why they became physicians.

Nearly 200 students received their medical degrees Saturday. Steven A. Wartman, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for academic and health affairs at UTHSC and dean of the Medical School, said the graduates now enter the sacred trust of caring for fellow human beings.

Contact: Natalie Gutierrez