January 11, 2018
Today I’d like to feature one of our most esteemed and beloved physician-scientists.
Dr. Heinrich Taegtmeyer, professor of medicine, is a skilled and active cardiologist, a wonderful teacher, and a very productive scientist. Quite remarkable—he has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for 45 years. His project, “Axes of Oncometabolism in the Heart,” recently was re-funded by the NIH through 2021.
Dr. Taegtmeyer leads a research group that he lovingly calls the “Small Lab with Big Ideas.” He treats every member of his lab like family—and members of his lab consider him a thoughtful colleague, a mentor, and also a friend.
I met Dr. Taegtmeyer very soon after I moved to Houston when he came to my office to talk about the importance of nurturing and supporting young physician-scientists. He sent me his CV to review sometime after our first meeting. I was impressed that he received his M.D. from the University of Freiburg in Germany and his doctorate of philosophy from the University of Oxford. As I read on, I was delighted to learn of a personal connection. After moving to the United States, Dr. Taegtmeyer completed a rotating internship at Somerset Hospital in Somerville, New Jersey—the town my husband grew up in. I smile as I think that Dr. Taegtmeyer was a student and friend of my father-in-law, orthopedic surgeon Dr. George Glass, a senior member of the medical staff at the time—small world.
Dr. Taegtmeyer talks about receiving his first NIH investigator-initiated grant in 1976, as a young faculty member in Boston.
“At that time, I was 35 years old and an instructor. After graduating from medical school in Freiburg (Germany), I served a rotating internship at Somerset Hospital, a residency on the 2 & 4 (Harvard) Medical Service at the Boston City Hospital in Boston, and a cardiology fellowship at the Brigham. The late Ed Sonnenblick was instrumental in the early stages of my career, and later on, it was Hans Krebs in Oxford with whom I earned my Ph.D. In 1982, I needed a job, and the best job for me was in Houston, where I have been ever since. I owe everything I aspire to be to my teachers and mentors, and I continue to draw strength from their examples. They taught me more than research: To serve and to learn in a competitive environment. It may sound tacky, but it is true.”
Dr. Taegtmeyer has been a leader in cardiology and a leader at UT. Twice, he was elected chair of our Faculty Senate. He is well-known for his work on the wide spectrum of metabolism in and outside the heart. He lives up to his belief, “we never stop learning.”
“It was important to me to obtain all credentials for an academic career early on,” he says. “Because of this, I am able to continue to see patients, teach students, residents, and fellows, and run my ‘Small Lab with Big Ideas.’ I am very grateful for all those opportunities, as I am grateful to my peers and to my patients. Some patients have trusted me now for over 30 years and taught me more than any medical textbook.”
A faculty member at McGovern Medical School and at our MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Taegtmeyer is that rare triple treat – clinician, researcher, and teacher. He has published more than 300 articles and trained more than 100 graduate and medical students, postdocs, and clinical fellows, resulting in more than a few full professors and department chairs.
We talk about the challenges of our physician-scientists and the uncertainty of their future. Medical advances will be determined by the experienced and educated hands of physician-scientists like Dr. Taegtmeyer, who have wisdom in both in the lab and at the patients’ bedside.
Dr. Taegtmeyer’s career (and kindness) is an inspiration to young physicians and scientists—and to his colleagues.