September 22, 2016
I spent Friday night at a gala in Houston celebrating the 150th anniversary of the American University in Beirut and honoring AUB’s President, Dr. Fadlo Khuri, a friend and former colleague. AUB is an inspiring place that has brought the best in American education to the Middle East, promoting Western ideals and open mindedness, educating students from all walks of life. AUB’s graduates, many of whom are leaders in their fields, are dedicated to making a difference in the world. It was an inspiring evening that reminded me how incredibly privileged we are to work at UTHealth—this wonderful health university dedicated to making a difference in the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, biomedical science and informatics, and public health.
Amazing work is going on at our Harris Health affiliated teaching hospital, LBJ, where our monthly clinical chairs meeting was held this week. Dr. Tien Ko, vice chief of staff, chief of surgery, and Jack H. Mayfield M.D. Distinguished Professor in Surgery, welcomed our faculty. Dr. Mohammad Zare, chief of staff for Ambulatory Care Services at Harris Health System, and Dr. Peter Doyle, assistant dean for Harris County Programs and chief of anesthesiology, presented an overview of clinical programs and highlights from each of our departments. Dr. Gabriel Aisenberg, associate professor of medicine, described a new program to promote research among residents in the Department of Internal Medicine, and Kathy Franco, director of UTHealth’s Clinical Research Unit, discussed research opportunities at LBJ and support available through our CCTS. George Masi, president and CEO of the Harris Health System, presented an overview of the challenges and opportunities for Harris Health, and Alan Vierling, executive vice president and administrator of LBJ Hospital, and Dr. Michael Gardner, executive vice president and administrator of Ambulatory Care Services, were available to answer questions about inpatient and outpatient programs. Dr. Carmel Dyer, chief of staff, associate dean for Harris County Programs and Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Chair in Gerontology and Nancy P. & Vincent F. Guinee, M.D. Distinguished Chair, wrapped up the meeting and thanked our faculty and staff for everything they do every single day. LBJ is a remarkable place with mission-driven faculty and staff—people dedicated to providing outstanding care to the underserved—an inspirational group.
We had a wonderful evening at the McGovern Centennial Gardens last week with none other than Mrs. McGovern herself as we honored supporters of the upcoming UTHealth gala, including gala chairs, Kathy O’Neil and Phil Ferguson. Mrs. McGovern will be honored at this year’s UTHealth Constellation Gala (Nov. 4).
Another development function of recent note was a House Calls event, where we take our experts to our friends in the community. Infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance were the special focus this month, and our featured experts and speakers were real rock stars. Dr. Luis Ostrosky and Dr. Cesar Arias, both professors of internal medicine, gave engaging and compelling presentations of timely importance.
As our medical school continues to grow, Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Michael Blackburn, Claire Brunson, and I are on a mission to identify space, walking the hallways seeking ways to use our McGovern Medical School space most effectively for research and education. I have asked each of our department chairs to review their existing space to see if they can help find space for our most pressing needs. We need everyone’s help.
Speaking of growth, I recently attended a panel discussion “From Volume to Value” featuring Dr. Benjamin Chu, Memorial Hermann System president and CEO, and sponsored by Modern Healthcare. UTHealth was represented by Dr. Jose Garcia, Julie Page, Andrew Casas, Dr. Jiajie Zhang, Delbert Endres, and Dr. Tom Murphy. We were proud to be singled out by Dr. Chu among an audience of hundreds as his clinical partners.
Congratulations to Dr. Heinrich Taegtmeyer, professor of cardiovascular medicine, and postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Anja Karlstaedt for their recent publication in PNAS showing how some cancers affecting the blood can cause heart damage. Their work is a reminder of the power and importance of the physician scientist.
This month was the changing of the guard for the Faculty Senate as we said farewell to outgoing chair Dr. George Williams, associate professor of anesthesiology – I will miss his enthusiasm and commitment! As I told Dr. Williams, our school could make millions if we could only patent his boundless energy. We welcome Dr. Heidi Kaplan, associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, as our new Faculty Senate chair. I was delighted to have my first formal meeting with her.
Thank you to all who came out for our first ice cream social last week—held in the medical school and at LBJ. The ice cream and the camaraderie were both sweet. I have never seen so many smiling faces. We’ll do this again next year!