Dr. Thomas McKnight honored at Annual Family Medicine Koefoot Banquet

The Marion D. and Theodore Koefoot, Jr., M.D. Outstanding Preceptor in Rural Family Medicine Award was presented by the University of Nebraska Medical Center Department of Family Medicine at the annual banquet on Wednesday, April 28.

This year’s recipient was Dr. Thomas A. McKnight. Dr. McKnight is an invaluable preceptor practicing at Prairie Fields Family Medicine in Fremont, Nebraska.

“The Department of Family Medicine is proud to recognize Dr. McKnight with the Koefoot Award. He embodies the well-rounded qualities and the commitment to training the next generation of physicians for Nebraska that all of our volunteer preceptors uphold,” Department of Family Medicine Chair Dr. Michael Sitorius said.

The Koefoot Award was created in 2005 in memory of Dr. Theodore Koefoot. He was a charter preceptor for UNMC’s rural family medicine preceptorship. This award is granted to a rural Nebraska family physician who provides outstanding teaching and mentoring of medical students during their Family Medicine rural preceptorship and serves as an outstanding community physician. The award was established through a gift made to the University of Nebraska Foundation by Dr. Koefoot’s wife, Marion, and his family, Gretchen and Nick Vondrak, Sarah and Gary Gernhart, Stephanie and Nicholas Vondrak, and Suzanne and Brad Hansen.

Marion and Dr. Koefoot’s grandchildren Sarah Gernhart, MD, Suzanne Hansen, and Nicholas Vondrak were in attendance to recognize the importance of Family Medicine and acknowledge the influence of a preceptor’s family to the medical student experience.

True to the spirit of family medicine, Dr. McKnight’s wife, Evelyn, has also had an integral part in the next generation of medical students.

“Evelyn has been a gracious host to the many students who have joined our supper table and who lived with us throughout their rotation,” McKnight said.

Dr. McKnight is a 1977 graduate of UNMC along with several members of the Department of Family Medicine. Chair, Dr. Michael Sitorius, his wife Marilyn, Dr. Ivan Abdouch, and Drs. Paul and Audrey Paulman were all in attendance to recognize their classmate.

The highlight of the evening included testimonies from several students who spent their rotations with Dr. McKnight. His impact carries over when students interact with patients in Fremont.

“Working with Dr. McKnight was one of the best experiences I had as a junior medical student.  He leads by example, demonstrating the hard work, compassion and dedication necessary to be a family physician,” third-year medical student James Reinecke said. “He treats medical students with respect and actively involves his junior medical students in designing an assessment and plan, making him a highly effective clinical educator.”

Dr. McKnight is praised for establishing strong connects with his students and viewing them as colleagues.

“Dr. McKnight is an amazing Family Medicine physician and an excellent mentor. He treated me like a peer instead of a medical student from day one,” third-year UNMC medical student Cody Banks said.

The relationship between student and mentor often continues on long after students have left Prairie Fields Family Medicine.

“Patients still ask me about students, years after they have graduated,” McKnight said. “Many more than one hundred students I have mentored over my career have become my lifelong friends.”

Dr. McKnight has given countless hours to the education of UNMC medical students. But after 35 years, it is he who is most gracious.

“For all these many gratifying experiences, I thank the students who have spent precious months of their four years of medical school with me. I thank the Department of Family Medicine for their confidence in me. Our work is not done, and I am eager to continue to mentor the next generation of family physicians,” he said.

Several other medical students were also recognized by the department. Blake Cover received the James L. Leahy Award, given to an outstanding senior medical student who will enter the Family Medicine House Officer program at this medical center. Kaitlin Hahn, received the Fay Smith award given to a graduating UNMC medical student who has completed a family medicine clerkship and who will be entering a family medicine residency program. Weston Keller received the Rodney A. Sitorius, MD, and Virginia H. Sitorius Scholarship while Matthew Stephany was the recipient of the Audrey and Paul Paulman Scholarship.

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