August 11, 2016
This week I have been out and about meeting with many members of our faculty and leadership – learning more about our people and programs to share with you.
Dr. Pramod Dash, professor of neurobiology an anatomy, is one of our outstanding senior scientists. His very productive and well-funded laboratory group studies traumatic brain injury and memory. A faculty member since 1990, Dr. Dash is also the scientific director of Mission Connect/TIRR Consortium, which focuses on neuro-trauma research to improve the lives of patients with traumatic brain injury. He is working to establish a concussion center, focused on translational research, of this serious clinical and public health problem. I was delighted to visit his lab this week and to meet several engaged faculty and trainees.
I also met with Dr. Luis Ostrosky-Zeichner, professor and vice chair of medicine for quality, Division of Infectious Diseases and medical director for epidemiology, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. He is working to keep us all apprised of the latest news in emerging infectious threats through his Health Alert STAT emails, which are being sent on an as-needed basis to all clinical faculty, students, and residents. With Zika virus in the news and other emerging threats, it is imperative to be alert to the latest developments. If you would like to be added to the email distribution list, please let Dr. Ostrosky know.
George Masi, CEO of the Harris Health System, and I discussed long-term plans for LBJ Hospital this week. You may know that through the Affiliated Medical Services, the faculty of Houston’s two medical schools provide clinical care at Harris Health’s two hospitals: our faculty staffs LBJ Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine staffs Ben Taub Hospital. In addition, faculty, residents, and trainees provide care at Harris Health clinics and health centers throughout Harris County. Harris Health and the AMS partnership with the medical schools provides invaluable service to this community. This collaboration would not be possible without the leadership of our LBJ service chiefs. I am always delighted to visit LBJ and was glad to check in with them at their monthly meeting on Wednesday.
Our Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) is a wonderful and important collaboration between UTHealth and MD Anderson, led jointly by Deans Michael Blackburn and Michelle Barton. Our faculty offer a unique educational opportunity for future research scientists, combining the expertise of both UTHealth and MD Anderson – access to top research programs and preparation for careers across the biomedical job spectrum. I visited the graduate school this week to get an update on our MD/PhD program. Discussion was led by Deans Blackburn and Barton together with Drs. Dianna Milewicz, Russell Broaddus, Ruth Heidelberger, and Terry Walters. We recruit excellent students who work in a wonderfully collegial learning environment.
Most of our faculty and staff lead very busy lives, but I have to tell you about one of our Department of Surgery faculty, who not only has a busy clinical life but has dedicated himself to protecting our nation’s freedoms. Dr. Kulvinder Bajwa, assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Minimally Invasive and Elective General Surgery, is currently a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, Medical Corps, serving in the military since 1987, including serving as a trauma surgeon in Afghanistan and Iraq – twice, as well as state side in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Please give a thank you to Dr. Bajwa, as well as other veterans you may know. It is heartwarming to know there are quiet heroes (and heroines) within our midst.
Please join me in thanking Dr. Michael Fallon for his leadership and service. Dr. Fallon has served as the director of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition since 2008. Recently, Dr. Fallon accepted the position of inaugural chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix and will start there Aug. 29. On behalf of McGovern Medical School, we wish him the best in this next chapter of his career. Dr. Fallon built an excellent Division. The Division is in great hands under the interim leadership of Dr. Atilla Ertan, together with Drs. Nirav Thosani for GI advanced endoscopy, Ilan Nevah for hepatology services, and Sushovan Guha for MH-TMC inpatient. A search committee has been put together to start to look for an outstanding successor as permanent chief.
You may recall that in November of last year, UT System Chancellor McRaven unveiled his vision for the UT System, which included a program to seize opportunities in population health:
The UT Health Care Enterprise
Any fair assessment of the health of our state can only conclude that we are not as healthy as we ought to be. Compared to other states, we rank very poorly in some very important health categories. However, we have unquestionably some of the finest health care institutions in the nation – and in the world. We will improve the health of Texas by putting the collective power of our institutions to work.
We will develop a collaborative Health Care Enterprise that will leverage our size and expertise, and connect our regional capabilities to ensure we provide Texas, the nation and the world with the finest health care possible. In practical terms, this means collaboration among our health institutions along all lines of major health care functions – such as shared clinical information, shared service lines, clinical trials and telehealth.
We will incentivize and, where necessary, drive partnering so that we take full advantage of the phenomenal talent and expertise that exists around the enterprise – so that every doctor, every patient, every caregiver, knows that the quality care they give and the quality of care they receive is equal, regardless of their status or location.
On the UTHealth front, Dr. James Langabeer, professor of biomedical informatics and emergency medicine, is leading our efforts to develop a white paper to map how we will lead and collaborate within this broader framework. I met with Dr. Langabeer this week to discuss current UTHealth priorities and will keep you posted as new UTHealth programs in population health are developed.
Although it is still very early in the academic year, I met yesterday with leaders from Admissions and Student affairs to start thinking about next year’s commencement speakers. If you have suggestions for thoughtful, memorable speakers, please email me your ideas.