The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
The University of Texas Medical School at HoustonThe University of Texas Medical School at Houston
The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
June 1, 2009 | from the Office of Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo

Distributed on Fridays via e-mail to all Medical School employees, students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows, UT 2 Me is Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo's weekly update of news and items of interest. He also welcomes feedback through this two-way communication.

It was a pleasure to give our Class of 2009 a beautiful send-off at commencement this week. This is the reason we are all here – to produce outstanding physicians – and I thank all of you who participated to make this day such a special one for our graduating students and their families.
It is the commitment of our faculty and staff to teaching who “make it all happen.” The students appreciate your hard work, too. At commencement, Steve Jones, in the Office of Student Affairs, received a standing ovation for his friendship and support to our students.

 I want to thank the leadership of our friends and partners for sharing this important day in the life of our Medical School. Juanita Romans and Craig Cordola represented Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center; David Lopez and Dr. Jessie Tucker represented the Harris County Hospital District and LBJ General Hospital; Dr. William Fleming III, president of the Texas Medical Association, was there; as was Dr. Lewis Foxhall, president of the Harris County Medical Society. 

Commencement is always an exciting day, and it is great to observe all of the traditions and emotions the day brings. It was President Larry Kaiser’s first commencement with us, and I could tell he felt right at home – he was very engaged with our students and told them to think about the future of their profession and the service they can provide to our state. Former President James Willerson also was there and led the singing of The Eyes of Texas with his usual smile and pride – proud to be a part of this unique day even though he has moved on to be president and medical director of the Texas Heart Institute. Dr. Nicole McGinty, president of the alumni association, urged the graduates not to cut their ties with the Medical School. After apparently much practice, Dr. Margaret McNeese pronounced each graduate’s name perfectly – no small feat. Dr. Tucker, senior vice president of LBJ, was happy and curious to attend his first UT Medical School commencement. And it is always touching to see our first dean, Dr. Cheves Smythe, leading the stage party as chief marshal of the ceremony and representing the evolution of the vision and philosophy of our teaching program.

 Dr. Henry Strobel, our featured speaker, was eloquent as usual and shared three stories for the graduates to consider. I reminded our graduates of many of the messages I have shared in UT 2 Me from our friends and leaders – such as Dr. Red Duke reminding us to treat our patients as we want to be treated, Mayor Bill White telling us that building relationships is the best infrastructure, and Dr. Herbert Fred reminding us to welcome challenging patients and “demanding” faculty. With all of our speakers, I think the main message was the enormous opportunities our students now have as graduates of our Medical School.

Special student awards were bestowed to Michael Soileau, who received the Gold-Headed Cane Award; Nathan Priddy, who received the Hitoshi Nikaidoh, M.D. Award for Humanism in Medicine; and Kevin Hoffman, who received the Walter G. Sterling Award for Excellence. We are very proud of all of our graduates, and I know they will continue to make us proud as they represent their alma mater.

The Health Science Center held a special celebration this week to mark Dean Patricia Starck’s 25th year as dean of the School of Nursing. What an incredible accomplishment! Dr. Ken Shine and other leaders came to talk about her tremendous leadership and support of the nursing profession. Led by President Kaiser, it was truly an exceptional event for an exceptional individual to the Health Science Center and the field of nursing.

I want to make you aware of two of our faculty members who are getting out there in the community, raising our visibility and telling our stories. Dr. Ali Denktas, assistant professor of cardiology, is hosting an online chat about the symptoms of a heart attack at 6 p.m., June 3, on YouTube. And Dr. Adan Rios, associate professor of internal medicine, has developed a weekly radio show that is transmitted to Panama at 7 a.m. each Wednesday morning and is accessible on the Web.

Saturday morning - yes, I work weekends - I went driving with Andrew Casas to explore additional outreach clinical programs of our group practice, building upon the tremendous success of our Bellaire offices. Due to the increasing demand from the community, it is time for us to take our UT Physicians beyond the Texas Medical Center.

We had a meeting with the family residency program led by Dr. Carlos Moreno this week to discuss enriching our program and elevating it to the best in the nation.  After a series of these meetings, we will be ready to make specific recommendations about bolstering this program and linking it to our scholarly concentrations so that we may attract the best candidates for this very unique profession as it relates to the future of health care locally and throughout the state.

With Dr. Kaiser, I attended the annual medical humanities certificate program banquet, organized by Dr. Tom Cole and the McGovern Center for Health, Humanities, and the Human Spirit. It was another chance to see the high quality of our students and their dedication for this profession, especially the humanism component.

It was a great pleasure to once again to greet our summer research students. This year there are more than 120 students coming from all parts of the globe, including Japan and Romania. I want to thank Dr. Gary Rosenfeld for his leadership of this program, which provides these students an amazing opportunity to be introduced to the world of medicine.

I had a very nice and encouraging meeting with Dr. John Reveille and Dr. Frank Arnett related to the opening of a new center for immunobiology and autoimmunity. This is a natural expansion for the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunogenetics, which is known nationally for its academic programs and patient care. With support of good friends of our school and the Health Science Center and the effort of the Office of Institutional Advancement, we are close to announcing new centers of excellence that will make a tremendous difference in terms of our future offerings for research programs and clinical services in this field. I want to thank Dr. Arnett in his relentless leadership and passion of enriching our school.

Turning back to commencement, as I shook the nervous but happy hands of our students, each one told me “thank you very much.” The genuine sentiment of these words I received from each student goes to our people who are truly committed to the primary mission of UT - teaching our students and caring for them every day.

Class President Chad Whited told the audience, "I can't wait to see where the incredible energy and new vision of Dean Colasurdo will take our School.” Well, I can't wait to see our students' success in their future training and profession. Our commitment: We will make every effort to advance the quality of our educational programs in keeping with the tremendous quality and values of our students.

Have a great weekend,

Due to outreach visits and engagements with Dr. Kaiser and Memorial Hermann, the next issue of UT 2 Me will be in two weeks.

For archives of this newsletter, visit the Dean's Communications homepage.