January 29, 2016
I hope you had the chance to get some treats at our New Year cookie reception Wednesday. I smiled when I saw the McGovern Medical School name on a cookie – a first! It was a great opportunity to get together with staff, students, and faculty. Special thanks to the many volunteers. This event is a great tradition, which I hope to do more than once a year.
Speaking of the John P. McGovern Foundation, I learned that the transformational gift to our medical school is the 280th gift by the foundation to UTHealth. The McGoverns and their foundation have had an amazing history of support for our institution’s missions, people, and pursuit of health care excellence. We are all so fortunate to be part of the McGovern legacy.
Looking to the future, President Colasurdo and I recently had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Bobby Robbins and other leaders from the Texas Medical Center to discuss expanded clinical research activities across the Texas Medical Center. We are privileged to work within the largest medical complex in the world with outstanding colleagues from multiple institutions.
Plans for research expansion were on the agenda as I met with Dr. Mike Blackburn this week. In addition to serving as dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Blackburn is the new chief academic officer and executive vice president at UTHealth. In his new role, he is eager to support McGovern Medical School as we emphasize research – bolstering existing research programs, supporting investigators, and establishing new areas of innovation.
Innovative research was celebrated today at the annual Webber Prize luncheon, which honors the outstanding talents of our student scientists. I am incredibly impressed by our students’ skills and their mentors’ dedication – congratulations to all of the winners and participants.
Recruiting outstanding faculty is one of the most important (and most satisfying and fun) roles of medical school leaders – division chiefs, department chairs, and deans. Several of our departments have active faculty searches, with excellent candidates being invited to visit. Eric Solberg, vice president of academic and research affairs, has shared the details of new university guidelines for recruitment and will be sending out more information on the changes.
I have asked our department chairs to send me “wow” stories – stories of innovative research, clinical, and educational projects, as well as information on rising faculty stars. I invite everyone to send me their good news. My plan is to share these “wow” stories with our donors and friends. I know we have much to be proud of – I just need to know about it!
Speaking of proud moments, I have three to share with you:
- Dr. Nneka Ifejika, associate professor in the departments of neurology and physical medicine and rehabilitation, will be the keynote speaker at the student research forum of the national Conference on Health Disparities, where she will speak about successes and failures in clinical research.
- Dr. Sean Savitz, professor of neurology, and Dr. Ponnada Narayana, professor of diagnostic and interventional imaging, have joined forces to create an imaging analysis center. Funded with more than $2 million from industry, this collaborative program will combine expertise in neurology and imaging to promote research at UTHealth.
- Dr. Kuojen Tsao, associate professor of pediatric surgery, has established a novel partnership with the March of Dimes to develop their first Center on Perinatal Safety. The center will leverage the commitment and expertise of Memorial Hermann and UTHealth to establish a model for education and training in patient safety throughout the perinatal continuum of care.
The highlight of my week was visiting TIRR Memorial Hermann for the first time. I attended the Rehabilitation Innovation Grant Awards Ceremony and an open house for the NeuroRecovery Research Center. Dr. Gerard Francisco, chair of our Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, gave me a personal tour and we visited with Carl Josehart, hospital CEO. I was very impressed by the strong partnership between TIRR and UT, which supports an outstanding clinical program, training in PM&R, and exciting research programs.
Lastly, I want to say a fond farewell and best wishes to Dr. David Gorenstein. After 47 years of academic service, his last day on the job is today. This medical school and the IMM have been the beneficiaries of Dr. Gorenstein’s hard work, innovative outlook, and collaborative spirit.