April 21, 2016
What a week. I had seen the images of Houston flooding before but had no idea how quickly devastating these storms can be. Bayous overflowing, cars and people stranded, roads impassable. I hope you weathered the storm safely. My thoughts are with those of you who experienced damage.
Several meetings and events scheduled for Monday were postponed due to the storm. One of those was the Committee on the Status of Women banquet, honoring Dr. Jacqueline Hecht as this year’s winner of the Distinguished Professional Woman Award. Dr. Hecht is our bridge to the School of Dentistry, where she serves as associate dean of research. At McGovern Medical School she is professor of pediatrics and division director of the pediatric research center, as well as the holder of the Leah L. Lewis Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Research. Dr. Hecht’s research interests focus on the history and causes of genetic orthopedic disorders, dwarfing conditions, and orofacial disorders. She started the UT Genetic Counseling Program at the UT Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the only program in Texas. I look forward to celebrating her at the rescheduled event.
I am thrilled to let you know that two of our faculty are recipients of UT System STAR Awards. The UT System Board of Regents created the Faculty STARs (Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention) Program in 2004, approving an allocation of funds to be awarded to institutions to help attract and retain the best-qualified faculty. STAR Awards require an institutional match of funds provided to the faculty, which can be used for purchase of equipment and renovation of facilities. Dr. Cesar Arias, associate professor of internal medicine, infectious diseases, is the recipient of a UT System Translational Retention STAR Award. Dr. Arias is leading a new McGovern Medical School Center for Antimicrobial Resistance and Microbial Genomics. Dr. Anne Marie Krachler is the recipient of a UT System Rising STAR. She will join our faculty in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics September 1, coming to us from the University of Birmingham.
I had the pleasure to visit with Richard Smalling M.D., Ph.D., who has been on our faculty since 1980 and is a real tribute to the UT System (undergraduate from UT Austin; M.D. and Ph.D. from our school). Dr. Smalling is the model of a physician-scientist—after 35 years on faculty, he continues to be an active clinician, teacher, and researcher. His research group is involved with both clinical and basic research activities, spearheading and participating in important multicenter clinical trials and innovative bench research. Among many projects, the group has obtained funding for an investigational drug to perform a randomized trial evaluating ½ dose pre-hospital fibrinolytic therapy plus percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI, angioplasty with stent) compared to primary PCI in heart attack patients in Texas, and is also evaluating Transvascular Aortic Valve Replacement compared to open heart surgical replacement. In addition, they are collaborating with biomedical engineers on a variety of novel intravascular imaging tools and potential treatments to improve collateralization in ischemic limbs and are completing construction of a Structural Heart Engineering and Training Center for developing new techniques to repair or replace cardiac valves without open heart surgery.
I made my first visit to the Houston Zoo this week for an event honoring Memorial Hermann and Deborah Cannon, former CEO of the zoo and incoming MH Board Chair. What a wonderful zoo—I can’t wait to go back.
A highlight of my week was the IMMPact symposium Wednesday evening. The event featured lectures by three IMM faculty: Dr. Nicholas Justice speaking on “Stress and Alzheimer’s;” Dr. Eva Zsigmond on “Treating Macular Degeneration;” and Dr. Johnny Huard on “Reversing Aging.” They gave outstanding talks briefly describing fascinating research being done right here. A great crowd of interested community friends came out for the event, despite the unpredictable weather.
I attended my first Department of Anesthesiology grand rounds today to hear Visiting Professor Dr. Holger Eltzschig talk on, “Perioperative Organ Injury” an important and potentially devastating clinical problem. Dr. Eltzschig noted that mortality 30 days after surgery is the 3rd or 4th leading cause of death. I did not realize the public health importance of the problem.
This week is National Infant Immunization Week, an annual observance, sponsored by CDC and other organizations, to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs and partners in promoting healthy communities. Of note, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recently updated their recommended child and adolescent immunization schedule.
Enjoy the rest of the week. I’m hoping for sunshine.