June 22, 2017
I would be remiss if I did not start this Study Break with some comments about Dr. Ben Chu. This week Dr. Chu announced that he is stepping down as president and CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System to pursue his longtime interests in health and public policy with a focus on enhanced access to high-quality care and overall improvement in population health. I first met Dr. Chu when he moved to Houston last year. I have been impressed by his extraordinary background, his broad understanding of the issues in healthcare today, his dedication to a close Memorial Hermann-university partnership, and his quiet demeanor and humility. It is important to recognize that the partnership between UTHealth and Memorial Hermann remains strong, with continued commitment from Memorial Hermann to the university. Chuck Stokes has been named interim president and CEO. We are fortunate to have Chuck’s many years of experience, as well as able leadership on the TMC campus. We are all here to help Chuck and his team make the coming months of transition as smooth as they can be.
The best part of my job is the opportunity to meet and get to know colleagues doing meaningful work across the six schools of UTHealth and beyond. Below are some examples from the past two weeks.
I met Dr. Alanna Morrison, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences and director of the Human Genetics Center at the UTHealth School of Public Health, for the first time this week. She leads one of the four departments at the School of Public Health. We are fortunate to have a statewide SPH with many opportunities for research and practice. Dr. Morrison and I talked about areas where the medical school and SPH might enhance collaborations.
Together with Drs. Jon Tyson, Trey Miller, and Ricardo Mosquera, I recently met with Dr. David Buck, associate professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and founder and adviser to Healthcare for the Homeless. This student-run clinic was created in 1999 by Dr. Buck with a group of students from Baylor College of Medicine and our medical school. Today it is staffed by students from the two medical schools in addition to students from the UTHealth School of Public Health and the University of Houston College of Pharmacy, providing free primary care health services for the Houston homeless at four shelters as well as street outreach.
All six of the UTHealth deans meet on a regular basis. Last week I had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Dean Lorraine Frazier of the UTHealth School of Nursing. Under Dean Frazier’s leadership, the school is growing with year-to-year increases in the size of the nursing school class. Dean Frazier is proposing a closer link with McGovern Medical School faculty and nurse practitioners to meet the growing need for clinical experiences for nurse practitioner students. She presented this proposal to our clinical chairs who were warmly receptive.
I had a quick weekend trip to Washington, D.C. to attend a meeting of the Nominating Committee of the National Academy of Medicine/Institute of Medicine. The committee prepared the final ballot for this year’s election, which will elect 65 members to the NAM. The nominations for 2019 begin in November, but it’s not too early to start considering names of senior faculty from UTHealth to propose for nomination.
Back at the medical school, in the Department of Neurology, Drs. Sean Savitz and Louise McCullough provided me with an update on the new Stroke Institute, and I attended a neurology town hall meeting that was led by Dr. Colasurdo. We are fortunate to have several outstanding departments working to advance neuro services and neurosciences—Neurology, Neurosurgery, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and others. It is wonderful to see the growth in innovative clinical and research programs in neurosciences and a growing partnership between clinicians and scientists working to make a difference in patients’ lives.
I heard a fascinating lecture by Dr. Zev Rymer, visiting professor in our Department Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Rymer is the director of Research Planning Engineering in Neuroscience; professor Physician Medicine and Rehabilitation, Physiology and Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University Institute of Neuroscience; and director, Sensory Motor Performance Program at the Shirley Ryan Abilitylab in Chicago.
I was delighted to meet with Dr. Marshall Hicks, interim president of UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Hicks, professor and Levit Family Distinguished Chair in Diagnostic Imaging, has served as division head of Diagnostic Imaging at MD Anderson since 2010 and played a leading role in the development of the institution’s Shared Governance Committee. I was struck by his commitment to the importance of MD Anderson’s mission, his respect and admiration for the MDA faculty, and his interest in building collaborations with us.
This is graduation season for our residents and fellows. Please join me in congratulating our graduates and wishing them well in the next chapter of their lives and careers.
I hope you will be able to attend the Women Faculty Forum Awards Ceremony at 4 p.m. July 5 in the Fifth Floor Gallery. The event, which honors our accomplished women faculty, is sponsored by the Office of Faculty Affairs. This year’s honorees are: Carmen Dessauer, Ph.D., for Excellence in Basic Science; Amber Luong, M.D., Ph.D., and Julie Kaplow, Ph.D., for Excellence in Clinical Science; and Jennifer Swails, M.D., is receiving the Rising Star Award.
I’ll end with a fascinating story. When I was at the annual pediatric academic societies meeting this past May, I attended the presidential address of the Society for Pediatric Research (SPR). After the talk, I went to congratulate Dr. Shari Barkin, outgoing SPR president and speaker, for a wonderful talk. We started to chat and she remarked on the new name of our school—and a personal family connection to the McGoverns. Her father, Dr. Gilbert Barkin, was Dr. John McGovern’s first fellow in pediatric allergy when Dr. McGovern moved from George Washington University to Houston in the mid-1950s. Her parents got to know both John and Kathrine McGovern well, and Shari met them as a child. I couldn’t resist inviting Dr. Barkin to be a pediatric grand rounds speaker. She visited this week and gave an outstanding talk on “Pediatric obesity—from cells to society.” But the absolute highlight of my week was an intimate dinner with Shari and Mrs. Kathy McGovern—reminiscing about old times and looking at wonderful old photographs that Shari brought—a really special evening.