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Connie Aust, Dr. Wiffins-Dolvik and Dr. Sirinek

Sirinek establishes scholarship, chairs new faculty endowment campaign

August 2011

by Natalie Gutierrez

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Throughout the UT Health Science Center’s history, there have been many pioneers who have blazed the trail for the university’s current leaders and success. According to Kenneth R. Sirinek, M.D., Ph.D., one of the most influential of those leaders was J. Bradley Aust, M.D., Ph.D.

So in March 2010 when Dr. Sirinek was promoted to vice chairman for academic affairs and professional development in the Department of Surgery and named the J.B. Aust, M.D., Ph.D., Chair in Surgery, he promised himself he would go above and beyond to honor the memory of his late and great mentor, Dr. Aust, who passed away at the age of 83 that same year.

"I was part of the second generation of academic general surgeons recruited in 1979 by Dr. Aust to initiate and develop the research mission of the Health Science Center’s Department of Surgery, and to establish a national presence in academic surgery for this institution," Dr. Sirinek said. "Dr. Aust served as the ideal role model for young academic surgeons while creating a close-knit family atmosphere and collegiality among the faculty. He was one of the few consummate surgical academicians who excelled as a clinician, teacher, researcher and administrator."
Dr. Henrich pictured with Dr. Sirinek and his family
Health Science Center President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP (center), is pictured with Kenneth Sirinek, M.D., Ph.D. (left), accompanied by his wife, Peg, and their grandsons (front, left to right) Colten, Mason and Hunter Kraus..

Dr. Sirinek said he and his wife, Peggy, were well aware of the ever-increasing financial burdens placed on medical students, including a recent increase in tuition. In the past, they had supported their own undergraduate and graduate institutions. Being named to the Aust Chair served as a wake-up call to provide some financial support for the students at the Health Science Center.

In response to this, Dr. Sirinek and his wife donated $25,000 to establish the Dr. Ken and Peg Sirinek Endowed Scholarship in General Surgery at the Health Science Center. The endowment is the Department of Surgery’s first faculty-funded scholarship. Dr. Sirinek’s aim is to recognize the academic achievement of top students, encourage them to pursue a career in general surgery, and to provide them with financial relief at the same time.

"Through this endowment, I hope to keep Dr. Aust’s legacy alive and vibrant and to pass it on to the next generation of medical students, general surgery residents and my surgical colleagues," he said.

In addition to establishing this scholarship, Dr. Sirinek has agreed to a leadership role as chair of the newly organized School of Medicine Faculty Endowment Campaign. According to Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs, the goal of this effort will be to encourage and recruit faculty to financially support the Health Science Center and its students by establishing named scholarships in the School of Medicine.

Drs. Aust and Sirinek
(Left to right) Drs. Aust and Sirinek in 1982 at the UT Health Science Center.

J. Bradley Aust
1926 – 2010

Founding chair of the Department of Surgery

In 1965, F. Carter Pannill, M.D., who was dean of the UT Health Science Center’s School of Medicine at the time, gave J. Bradley Aust, M.D., M.S., Ph.D., a tour of a vast field, empty except for two tall silos, located on the outskirts of San Antonio. Then, he invited Dr. Aust to head a new Department of Surgery there. "The offer to help start a new medical school and develop the Department of Surgery was too good an opportunity to pass up," his colleagues said Dr. Aust later recounted. He became the founding chairman of the Department of Surgery in 1966.

For 30 years, he dedicated his time and talent to training more than 150 surgical residents and interns. "While building a highly productive department," his colleagues said, "he fostered an atmosphere of a true surgical family." He and his wife, Constance, were married for 60 years and had six children and 12 grandchildren. Dr. Aust died at the age of 83 on March 17, 2010.

For more information and to contribute to the School of Medicine Faculty Campaign, visit MakeLivesBetter.uthscsa.edu/medicine.

Kenneth R. Sirinek, M.D., Ph.D., is a practicing surgeon with UT Medicine San Antonio (UTMedicine.org), the clinical practice of the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.


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