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
January 28, 2011 | from the Office of Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo

Distributed every other Friday via e-mail to all Medical School employees, students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows, UT 2 Me is Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo's update of news and items of interest. He also welcomes feedback via e-mail or comments.

I hope your New Year is off to a great start. 2011 has already brought several leadership changes and new appointments, many of which will bring a closer alignment between the Medical School and the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases (IMM). With that in mind, this issue of UT2Me is dedicated to the topic of the IMM, and I invited Dr. John Hancock, the new vice dean for research for the Medical School and interim director of the IMM, to answer a few questions – some of which were posed at a recent town hall meeting held for IMM faculty.

Q: John, you recently met with all of the center directors of the IMM – how are the directors feeling about being a part of the Medical School? And could you use a word or two to describe each of the directors?
A: The IMM center directors had questions regarding the institute’s financial stability, whether the IMM would remain an independent unit with its own identity, and about working relationships with the Medical School faculty and staff. They expressed a need for collegiality and transparency.

There is a great deal of exciting science going on at the IMM led by outstanding center directors: Dr. Eva Sevick, Center for Molecular Imaging, has a wide ranging, highly innovative translational program; Dr. A.J. Marian, Center for Cardiovascular Genetics, has a passionate interest in the clinical genetics of cardiomyopathies; Dr. Perry Bickel, Diabetes and Obesity Research, has recruited some terrific young faculty working in a research area that is of major importance to the broader Medical School; Dr. Rick Wetsel , Center for Immunology and Autoimmune Diseases, has deep roots within the IMM and is highly respected by the scientific community; Dr. Eric Boerwinkle, of the School of Public Health, Human Genetics, has a world-class reputation; Dr. Paul Simmons, Center for Stem Cell Biology, is a fantastic leader in his field and is well positioned to deliver real translational outcomes ; Drs. Jim Liu and Zhiqiang An are two highly talented investigators who recently have joined us to lead the Texas Therapeutics Institute of which we all have great expectations; and finally Dr. David Gorenstein, Center Proteomics and Systems Biology, who in addition to driving a novel research program, is truly a great leader, team builder,  and collaborator.

Q: How does this new structure change the IMM?
A: Increasing collaborative efforts between the IMM and the Medical School will ultimately strengthen both institutions and yield measurable scientific returns. For instance, there are tremendous opportunities for collaboration between Dr. Simmons’ stem cell program and the regenerative medicine team led by Dr. John Holcomb, Dr. Dong Kim, and Dr. Charles Cox. I look forward to working closely with Dr. John Byrne—with his expertise and leadership in the Medical School’s educational programs, postdoctoral affairs, and research committee—and with Dr. David Gorenstein—who is terrific at building bridges both internally and externally—as we seek to identify and support additional opportunities for integration.

Q: Where are we on the issue of tenure for IMM faculty?
A: We are working diligently to bring a tenure structure to the IMM as quickly as possible. To that end, we are planning a special meeting with the Medical School’s Faculty Appointments, Promotions & Tenure Committee to address the faculty status of each of the IMM faculty and resolve the situation over a short period of time. Keeping with the premise of collaboration, I personally believe it will be important for IMM faculty to have a department appointment within the Medical School—giving our scientists an additional point of contact with the school’s researchers, clinicians, and students.

Q: What about support from the state and the community? Will the IMM be a priority?
A: This facility was created for this community and by this community—in particular the efforts of Beth Robertson, Dr. Tom Caskey, and Dr. Jim Willerson to name a few —and I am certain that we will continue to have the community’s support. It is our responsibility to honor their investment by working together to produce the very best science. All research programs will be carefully reviewed during the budgetary process, and as Dr. Gorenstein said at the IMM town hall meeting, it will be up to the investigators to build strong programs and create collaborations. I have no doubt that each of our programs will be strengthened by the support of the Medical School‘s research enterprise.

Q: Where do you see the IMM in 5 years?
A: Bigger and stronger. The IMM is a fantastic place to do science, the core facilities are outstanding, and there are no limits for discovery. With the Medical School and IMM working together, I believe we can go even further toward realizing our potential. I see a very bright future for the IMM, and I am very privileged and honored to serve as interim director.

I want to thank Dr. Hancock for taking on this responsibility. We believe in the vision and mission of the IMM, and what was only a concept five years ago has become a world-class structure filled with talented investigators.

The mission and vision of the IMM is not changing. I want to reassure everyone that our overarching goal is to strengthen both the IMM and the Medical School by sharing resources and improving collaborations. As we approach a challenging state budget, this type of improved efficiency and other innovative paths for new business are what will make us stronger. Protecting and rewarding our most productive people and programs are our highest priorities. I encourage you not to be distracted by this budgetary outlook and to continue your great work toward a brighter future.

Have a great weekend,


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