March 05, 2020
McGovern Medical School is in the midst of a season of wonderful events.
The highlight of my week was a very special event in honor of Dr. Hazim J. Safi. A group of the world’s experts in cardiovascular and aortic surgery gathered at the Medical School yesterday for a Festschrift Lecture, Reflections on Contributions and Advancements to Cardiovascular Medicine. As noted by Dr. Anthony Estrera, a Festschrift is a commemorative lecture that results in a book of essays written by colleagues who know the work and contributions of the person being honored. Yesterday’s event will result in such a book but was much more than that – it was an opportunity for friends and colleagues to celebrate Dr. Safi and the indelible mark he has made on the profession. This medical school and countless patients, colleagues, students, and trainees are grateful to Dr. Safi for serving as the founding chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery and for his many contributions to science and medicine.
The 14th annual Houston Aortic Symposium, Frontiers in Cardiovascular Diseases, started by Dr. Safi and hosted by symposium chairs Drs. Hazim Safi and David McPherson, together with program directors Drs. Ali Azizzadeh and Anthony Estrera begins today. Experts from around the world are in Houston to discuss and share the latest in aortic diseases at this prestigious scientific meeting.
Another one of our founding chairs, Dr. Richard Ruiz, was celebrated last week in recognition of his life and career. A lovely event at the Houston Country Club was the venue for colleagues and friends to thank Dr. Ruiz’s for his many decades of service and to congratulate him on his retirement. Of note, Dr. Ruiz was here – on staff at Hermann Hospital – before the Medical School started in 1971. As part of our Time Capsule history videos, he shared what influenced him to become a doctor and an ophthalmologist.
We had an inspiring visit from the American Pediatric Society’s (APS) John Howland Award recipient, Dr. David K. Stevenson, Feb. 25. Dr. Stevenson is professor of pediatrics and associate dean for child health at Stanford University, where he also leads a March of Dimes-sponsored prematurity research center. He spoke on “Solving the Puzzle of Preterm Birth” and met with junior faculty and trainees during his visit. Our medical school was one of two schools selected by APS for the inaugural Howland visiting professorships – a wonderful tribute to our department and new chair, Dr. Mary Aitken.
It was standing room only for two distinguished scientists who visited campus over the last two weeks. Dr. Jennifer Doudna, Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair in Biomedical and Health Sciences at University of California, Berkeley and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, was this year’s Ernst Knobil Distinguished Lecturer. Dr. Doudna has been a leading figure in the development of CRISPR technology and CRISPR-mediated gene editing. She gave an exciting overview of CRISPR systems and their current and future uses. Dr. Judith Campisi, professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, presented the Cheves Smythe Distinguished Lecture, speaking on aging and the susceptibility to chronic disease. Her wonderful talk focused on the role of senescent cells and the possibility of “senolytic” drugs to extend our “healthspan.”
Finally, it was a proud day for us all Monday as we celebrated our fourth annual McGovern Day in the Leather Lounge with faculty, staff, students, and distinguished guests. What an honor to welcome our friends from the McGovern Foundation, including Mrs. Kathy McGovern, Bill Shrader, Julia Mitchell, Sheila Lewis, and Dyan Caldwell. We heard firsthand about the impact of the McGovern Foundation gift from five of our McGovern Distinguished Chairs, Dr. Ben Bobrow, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine; Dr. Jorge Salazar, director of the Division of Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery; Dr. Sam Lhatoo, professor of neurology; Dr. Holger Eltzschig, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology; and Dr. Balveen Kaur, professor of neurosurgery. Finally, Callie Simon, a first-year medical student and recipient of a McGovern Foundation full-ride scholarship, gave an inspiring talk about her journey to medical school and what the McGovern gift means to her.
What a perfect time to be part of this vibrant medical school. Thanks to each of you.