July 11, 2019
The McGovern Department of Neurology, led by Dr. Louise McCullough, operates one of the busiest clinical practices in Houston, in addition to managing a strong and growing research enterprise and competitive training programs. Dr. McCullough recently gave an overview of the department at our monthly clinical chairs meeting. Below are some highlights from her presentation:
She started with the department’s mission: “Our mission is to develop and provide cutting-edge therapies and personalized approaches to care for the residents of Texas, the region, and nationally. The department provides a collaborative home to clinicians, clinician scientists, and basic science researchers. We are dedicated to the education and mentorship of medical students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty as our goal is to educate the next generation of leaders in academic neurology.”
Neurology is home to the specialties of: epilepsy, movement disorders, multiple sclerosis, neuromuscular diseases, neurocognitive disorders, sleep, diagnostic neurology, stroke, endovascular neurology, and telemedicine. Outpatient care is provided at UT Physicians and Smith Clinic, with several sites in the community (Bellaire, Sienna, Memorial City, The Woodlands, and Cinco Ranch), and new services, including an elective lumbar puncture clinic at UTP. Inpatient services are staffed by McGovern physicians at LBJ General Hospital and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. Stroke care is being expanded throughout the Memorial Hermann Hospital System (MHHS), with the development of the Comprehensive Stroke Integrated System, led by Dr. Sean Savitz. Coverage of endovascular services is also provided by UT Physicians, Dr. Sunil Sheth, Dr. Gary Spiegel, and Dr. Yazan Alderazi at The Woodlands and Memorial City Hospital.
The department is comprised of 76 faculty – a more than 50 percent increase since Dr. McCullough began as chair in September of 2015. Training programs also have grown with 38 residents, 24 clinical fellows, and 29 postdoctoral research fellows. The residency expansion from 20 residents in 2015 to 40 residents in 2020, has been supported by a Texas educational expansion grant and has been championed by the residency program directors, Drs. John Lincoln and Suur Biliciler. Dr. McCullough noted that she has been working on faculty development and promotion, with a significant increase in numbers of faculty promotions (and tenure numbers) over the last two years.
The department has a strong and diverse research portfolio, with over $19 million in extramural grant support last year (including $16 million in federal grants). Departmental research spans basic, translational, and clinical studies. The department is interested in conducting research that matters. Among the clinical departments, Neurology has the largest percent of their overall budget from research funding; over 40 percent of the department’s budget comes from research contracts and grants.
Dr. McCullough highlighted some of the department’s UT System STAR recipients and recent faculty recruits, including Dr. Samden Lhatoo, director of the Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy program, and Dr. GQ Zhang, co-director together with Dr. Lhatoo and Dr. Nitin Tandon, of the new Texas Institute for Restorative Neurotechnology.
In an effort to improve access to patient care, Neurology has added residency clinics to UT Physicians as well as night resident coverage at Lyndon B. Johnson hospital. These efforts, among others, such as the new resident “Wise and Well” program initiated by one of the Neurology chief residents, Dr. Doha Ayish, are improving resident satisfaction as well as national test scores.
On the outpatient clinical side, the department has hired more providers and adjusted clinical staff in an effort to reduce patient wait times to two weeks for a new appointment. On the inpatient side at Memorial Hermann Hospital, the department has created templates and monthly service line meetings for General Neurology, Stroke, and Epilepsy to establish consistency and improve communication and metrics. All charges are now being done electronically. Length of stay and mortality rates remains in the top 5 of all academic hospitals in the nation.
The group’s teleneurology program, led by Dr. Teddy Wu, continues to grow, with 24 participating sites – 17 hospitals and 7 freestanding ERs. Four full-time faculty are dedicated to this program. Other teleneurology programs are in development, including tele-epilepsy, tele-sleep, and tele-behavioral screenings.
For the future, Dr. McCullough said she plans to increase the involvement of residents in research, with a recent submission of an NIH R25 application led by Dr. Lhatoo and Dr. Tandon in Neurosurgery to provide protected time for neuroscience research, both during and after residency. She plans to continue to build research collaborations with other departments, as well as recruit a vice chair of diversity and faculty development.
Please join me in thanking the entire neurology team for building a great department.