Second time around

Robert Hatch, MD, MPH, celebrates his recent honor with his wife, Sue.

It’s safe to say Robert Hatch, M.D., M.P.H., has come a long way from his self-proclaimed “hopeless nerd” status. A former chess club member who admits he once had a hard time understanding people, he now has touched the lives of countless of students in UF’s College of Medicine. And he has two awards to prove it.

Hatch won the College of Medicine’s Hippocratic Award April 27 in a ceremony held at Wilmot Gardens. It was the second time he received the award. Considered the highest honor a graduating class of medical students can convey to a faculty member, the Hippocratic Award recognizes a teacher’s professionalism, humanism and prowess. In the 41 years the award has been presented, only eight faculty members have won the award more than once.

“It’s an incredible honor,” said Hatch, a professor of community health and family medicine. “I owe it all to my wife, my office staff and my students. The work they have done is nothing short of amazing.”

Mary Wood, a fourth-year medical student who spoke about Hatch at the event, said his ability to listen allowed him to shine. He took the extra time, listened to their diagnoses and thoughts, and took to heart their hopes and dreams, she said.

“I’m happy if an attending even remembers my name,” said Andrew Romano, another fourth-year medical student. “But Dr. Hatch conducts himself in a way where he teaches us about life and medicine at the same time. You have to ask yourself just how he does it.”

For Hatch, teaching doesn’t just happen in a classroom or clinic, Romano said. As an avid triathlete, Hatch has taken students out on runs to discuss medicine, only to end up “schooling” them in the home stretch. Hatch even participated in their tackle football game during their first year of medical school.

“We all decided there was no way we were going to tackle this guy as our professor,” Romano said. “It wasn’t until he started tackling us that we understood he would be down on our level.”

Plans to designate a specific section of the garden for the award’s presentation are in the works. A plaque honoring the award’s recipients is located in front of Shands at UF by a sycamore tree given to the College of Medicine by the minister of agriculture of Greece. It was a tree from the island of Cos under which Hippocrates taught medicine, according to legend. As the tree in front of Shands has grown rather large, it cannot be moved. But a sapling from the tree is now planted in the gardens to commemorate this special honor.