Roanoke alum lands award for teaching future doctors
Dr. Paris Butler spends his days and nights in a long white coat or hospital scrubs, performing surgeries and tending to patients as a resident physician in general surgery at the University of Virginia Health System. But when he's not working, he'll pull up a chair in the library or cafeteria with small groups of medical students to offer advice and answer questions.
Butler, a 2000 graduate of Roanoke College, is a mentor and teacher to future doctors at the Charlottesville university, where students observe his surgeries and may even lend a hand with sewing a wound or handling a laparoscope.
His skill with students caught the attention of UVA's teaching community. The university gave Butler, 33, the Resident Teaching award during a banquet in April to recognize teachers. Butler was chosen among 800 residents for the annual award that spotlights a noteworthy medical teacher.
Butler's hands-on approach to teaching helped him nab this honor, which is based largely on nominations from students. When Ehsan Benrashid, a UVA medical student, worked with Butler last fall, the resident routinely invited Benrashid and several other aspiring doctors to meet in the medical center's cafeteria to talk about aspects of surgery. Despite his own long hours, Butler carved out personal time to meet with the students.
"It is pretty atypical for any resident to do that," Benrashid said. "He made you feel very comfortable, no matter who you were."
Another student, Kasandra Hanna, a recent UVA medical school graduate, said she learned a necessary skill from Butler-how to stay calm under pressure.
"I never once saw him lose his temper or deliver harsh words to anyone," she wrote in a nomination letter for Butler, a 2004 graduate of UVA's medical school.
Still, Butler exudes a certain humility through his work that is unique to his profession, said Dr. Susan Kirk, associate dean for graduate medical education at the UVA Health System, who headed the committee that chose him for the award.
"We don't always see that in physicians," Kirk said. "He sort of emulates this caring, devoted role model towards his patients that students see."
Butler, a member of the board of trustees at Roanoke College, will finish his UVA residency program in May 2012. The next month, he will head to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he begins a fellowship program for plastic surgery, a discipline in which he eventually wants to specialize.
While Butler is forging his own professional path, he said teaching future doctors is rewarding. It also helps him to understand the medical field better.
"I had a lot of good residents that taught me," Butler said. "You can have an impact on the next generation of folks coming up."