UTHealth President Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD, honored four McGovern Medical School faculty with the university’s highest awards for teaching, research, and clinical care during a special ceremony Jan. 8 at the Cooley Center.

Susan H. Landry, PhD, director of the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI), received the President’s Scholar Award for Excellence in Research; Len Cleary, PhD, associate dean of educational programs, received the President’s Scholar Award for Excellence in Teaching; Mark E. Wong, DDS, FACD, FACS, professor in the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, received the President’s Scholar Award for Excellence in Clinical Service; and Richard J. Andrassy, MD, FACS, FAAP, FACN, FICS, chair of the Department of Surgery, received the President’s Recognition of Excellence Award.

“It’s amazing how these four individuals have contributed to our university in their own ways,” Colasurdo said during the luncheon, where each awardee was recognized for their leadership.

Kevin A. Morano, PhD, associate vice president for Faculty Affairs & Development, the Roger J. Bulger, MD Distinguished Professor and Distinguished Teaching Professor of The University of Texas System, introduced the 2018 recipients of the President’s Scholar Awards.

“The selection criteria is rigorous, requiring evidence of innovation, recognition, exemplary service to faculty, students, and patients, and the elevation of the stature of UTHealth among our peers in Texas, the nation, and across the world,” Morano said.

The awards acknowledge contributions of outstanding scholars and emphasize the fundamental importance of research, teaching, and clinical excellence to UTHealth.

Landry, the founder of CLI, also is the Albert & Margaret Alkek Distinguished Chair in Early Childhood Development and the Michael Matthew Knight Memorial Professor in Pediatrics.

“The underlying theme of the multiple nomination letters was Dr. Landry’s tenacity in challenging prevailing attitudes about early childhood education by providing solid, elegant, evidence-based research on a scale that could not be challenged,” Morano said. “Through large-scale, data-driven research, she has helped close the large socio-economic gap in school readiness for young children in Texas.”

In accepting the award, Landry acknowledged the faculty and staff who share her passion for helping children develop to their full potential.

“I am truly honored to receive this award and consider it a tremendous recognition of the research I have done here at UTHealth,” Landry said.

Cleary, who also is professor of neurobiology and anatomy, was lauded for his efforts in the medical school curriculum overhaul, which included leading more than 100 faculty, students and staff in the effort.

“He shepherded the new curriculum as students experienced it from orientation through pre-clinical, and monitored and documented student performance comparing to national standards,” Morano said.

Cleary, who has served his entire academic career at McGovern Medical School, humbly accepted the award, acknowledging the team effort and thanking faculty leaders who have championed his own career as well as the education of medical students. He also recognized his wife, Susan Andrew, MD, and their sons.

“I am very grateful indeed for the opportunities and for the collaborations that have made it possible to take advantage of those opportunities,” Cleary said.

Wong primarily serves UTHealth as professor and chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the UTHealth School of Dentistry. He holds the Dr. Bernard and Gloria P. Katz Chair in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and is the director of residency training.

His collaborative efforts include leveraging Harris Health relationships to establish an oral surgery outpatient clinic on Monroe Street and establishing the integrated facial/trauma/rigid fixation TMC-wide annual teaching program.

Wong acknowledged the impact the other three awardees have made on his personal and professional life. He also thanked faculty, staff, and his family for their infinite support.

“Whenever you want a good and real quote about life, look no further than Mark Twain, who said, ‘To do good is noble. To tell others to do good is even nobler and much less trouble.’ I am aspiring to be Mark Twain,” Wong said.

Andrassy, executive vice dean of clinical affairs, Denton A. Cooley, MD Chair in Surgery, Jack H. Mayfield, MD Distinguished University Chair in Surgery, and Dr. Thomas D. Cronin Chair in Plastic Surgery, received the President’s Recognition of Excellence Award, which recognizes overall exemplary dedication and service to the institution, while demonstrating longstanding excellence.

Kevin P. Lally, MD, MS, FACS, professor and chair of the Department of Pediatric Surgery, the A.G. McNeese Chair in Pediatric Surgery, and the Richard J. Andrassy, MD Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Surgery, introduced his longtime friend and colleague.

“Since his arrival in Houston in 1985, his accomplishments and contributions to UTHealth have been enormous. His academic achievements alone are outstanding. His track record as an educator and mentor is equally outstanding,” Lally said. “What truly stands out, though, is his dedication to this university.”

Lally noted that Andrassy is the longest serving chair of a surgery department in the country, is quick to step into leadership roles when needed, and also made significant contributions to the formation of UT Physicians.

“He is a rare combination of a highly effective leader and a truly nice guy,” Lally said.

“It has been a privilege to be here all these years,” Andrassy said. He thanked Colasurdo, McGovern Medical School Dean Barbara J. Stoll, faculty, staff, and also his family for their support. He also acknowledged Elizabeth “Mickey” Clouser, longtime executive services administrator in the Department of Surgery.

Michael Blackburn, PhD, executive vice president and chief academic officer, gave closing remarks, congratulating the awardees, thanking each of their families, and recognizing previous winners of the President’s Scholar Awards.

“I am proud to be your colleague, and we thank you for your service to the university,” Blackburn said.