Alumni Spotlight: Catherine Harrell, M.D. (BA ’06)
When offering advice to aspiring physicians, Catherine Harrell, M.D. (BA ’06), a seasoned dermatologist and University Scholars alumna, advocates for a unique approach: do not major in a science.
“When I stand up in front of an auditorium of students who all want to pursue medicine, I always tell them to get their education in the liberal arts,” Harrell said. “By studying the liberal arts, you learn how to think, reason, and approach issues in a multifaceted way. Obtain a well-rounded education and then seek vocational training.”
Harrell's unorthodox guidance finds its roots in her gratitude for the comprehensive education she received during her time as a University Scholar in the Honors College.
"The University Scholars program drew me to the Honors College,” Harrell said. “I was able to take classes that ranged from courses about Hitler and the Holocaust to an anthropology course about Native Americans to a wide variety of psychology classes. I loved getting the opportunity to study logic, literature, and philosophy outside of my pre-med requirements, and that breadth of education has prevented me from narrowing myself just to medicine.”
Harrell’s love of for the liberal arts has translated into her day-to-day practice as a dermatologist because she is able to connect with her patients on a variety of topics.
“I love people, which is why I think I love the liberal arts,” Harrell said. “What I enjoy about my day is having side conversations with my patients about their families or someplace they've traveled or a book they've read or talking about history. It builds rapport and helps them to feel connected to their physician. Ultimately, I think being able to build those relationships with my patients helps them to feel empowered in the process and improves their care when they feel like they can trust the person they are talking to.”
Today, Harrell owns a dermatology practice, Dermatology Specialists of Fort Worth, and leads a team of four dermatologists, a nurse practitioner, a cosmetic nurse injector, and an esthetician.
“I’m pretty proud of the business and practice we have built,” Harrell said. “Doctors generally lack leadership and business training. I have had to learn a lot of those skills through the school of hard knocks, but we just moved into a huge 13,000-square-foot office building this year. I am really excited for the future of the practice.”
Honors College Dean Douglas Henry, Ph.D. notes that Harrell epitomizes the holistic success of which alumni are capable.
“Dr. Harrell’s education as a University Scholar was broad and deep, rigorous and faithful, immediately engaging and of lasting value,” Henry said. “As the beneficiary of an exemplary Christian liberal arts education, she left Baylor well prepared for success in many areas of life. This includes not only her medical school achievements, but her humane practice of medicine, her effective leading and managing of others, and her praiseworthy fulfillment of the roles of wife, mother, church member, and civic leader.”
Outside of building her practice, Harrell enjoys teaching as an Assistant Professor at the TCU Burnett School of Medicine. She is also Past President of the Texas Dermatological Society and continues to serve on its board and is a member of several other professional societies including the American Academy of Dermatology, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Texas Medical Association, and Tarrant County Medical Society.
“I enjoy serving with all of these different organizations because doctors aren’t just doctors,” Harrell said. “We need people who are advocates. We need people who are politicians. We need people who are in the business world, and it's the same thing with being a Christian as well. We need to have our hands in all these places because that's how we're the most effective at sharing the Gospel too.”
Outside of her work as a physician, Harrell also enjoys encouraging college students to make the most of their four years in college.
“I love speaking with my patients who are about to go off to college,” Harrell said. “I always tell them that they will never get this chance again to learn from experts in a variety of fields. College is the most incredible opportunity, and if I could, I would go back and do it all again.”
Dr. Harrell resides in Fort Worth with her husband, Jason, and her two sons. To learn more about Dr. Harrell’s practice visit Dermatology Specialists of Fort Worth.