In Touch: An update from the Dean of The University of Texas Medical School at Houston

MARCH 31, 2008

Dear Alumni, Parents and Friends:

Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, Jr.

Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D., Dean

I am pleased to provide you an update of the Medical School as the new dean. You may know that I was appointed dean Sept. 1, 2007, and for the first few months I have been listening to you and all of the constituents of the Medical School. I have met with the department chairs, the faculty, the staff, the student leaders, the postdocs, the parents’ organization, the alumni, the development board, and the residents and fellows.

If I have not spoken to you yet, feel free to e-mail me at Critiques, comments, questions, accolades – please send them my way. As we are creating a culture of excellence here at the Medical School, communication is key. I want to hear from you, and as an ambassador of this medical school, I challenge you to help spread the good news about The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

This is such an exciting time in our history, and we are seizing upon momentum and opportunity to achieve the highest standards in education, patient care, and research. In December 2007, the Medical School closed the final chapter on our recovery from Tropical Storm Allison with the opening of our new research space. This six-story building is now home to investigators in the neurosciences, regenerative and stem cell research, infectious disease, and integrative biology and pharmacology. This building will provide us with much-needed space to grow our research program, giving us the opportunity to attract and add talented scientists to our already gifted faculty.

The groundbreaking for the UT Medical School's
New Research Space Click here for larger image.

The Medical School’s research funding has been steadily increasing over the past few years – this is an amazing feat considering the increase in competition for fewer federal dollars. Our school was the only institution in the Texas Medical Center and the UT System’s cadre of health centers to increase its research funding over the last year. This achievement is a testament to the incredible talent of our scientists – both basic science and clinical.

We are forging new paths in patient care. With the support of our research enterprise, our faculty are able to treat patients with the latest protocols. Our faculty are the physicians of choice for the star athletes in Houston. Kevin Everett, the Buffalo Bills football player who suffered a life-threatening dislocation and fracture of his cervical spine during a game, has made remarkable progress in the hands of our faculty in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Memorial Hermann TIRR. And Houston Rockets center Yao Ming knows he is in the best hands with our very own Dr. Tom Clanton and the team of specialists that make up the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Yes, our physicians treat the famous, but they are available to all who want the best for their health. The more than 700 physicians we boast in 80 specialties comprise our clinical component called UT Physicians. Our goal is to create the best clinical experience in the Texas Medical Center, and I invite you to look to UT Physicians the next time you or a loved one needs a doctor’s appointment. My aim is that you will have such a great experience with UT Physicians, that you will become a rallying ambassador not only of the Medical School but also of its UT Physicians clinics as we work hard to improve our standard of quality care.

We are looking forward to soon offering personalized medicine and care to patients who would be treated according to their genetic profile. While pharmacogenomics testing is not widely available, the potential applications of this powerful team approach to patient care will enhance our ability to treat and prevent human diseases.  I will keep you updated on this exciting program.

On the education front, I am very pleased to report that our class selected to enter Medical School this fall is one of our highest achieving. Our students are second-to-none and can compete with students at any medical school in the country. A new program to better prepare our students for medical specialties is the scholarly concentration program, which will debut in the fall. These programs, led by multidisciplinary groups of faculty, will allow our medical students to gain an earlier and in-depth introduction to their chosen specialties. The competitive program will be an accompaniment to our existing curriculum and will be supported through scholarships and our faculty Academy of Educators.

Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, Jr.

Dr. John Hancock

Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, Jr.

Dr. Carin Hagberg

In the past few months, we have selected new leadership for the departments of Otorhinolaryngology, Integrative Biology and Pharmacology, Anesthesiology, and Neurosurgery. These new leaders are creating centers of excellence in their respective departments.  With their help and others, we are planning to grow our clinical services – but never at the expense of quality.

In addition to fortifying our faculty ranks, we are working on raising money for the school through the generosity of our alumni and friends. This is also an area of great opportunity – the current giving rate of our alumni is 1 percent – the lowest of all UT System schools. The aim of the Office of Development and Alumni Relations is to increase that to 8-11 percent – comparable to our peer institutions.

Philanthropic dollars are how talented students are recruited, how professors are retained, how bridging funds are granted to promote research, and how special projects and initiatives are funded for the good of the school. I encourage you to join me in partnership with the development office as they ramp up this effort – I have donated $10,000 to establish a scholarship in children’s health.

We are strengthened with the talent to pursue our missions of excellence in education, patient care, and research, but we cannot achieve these goals alone. We need ambassadors, we need support. We have an ambitious mandate, and it takes the support of you, our friends, to help us turn these wonderful opportunities into reality. 

You are all players on this team, which is strong and vibrant and working together in our pursuit of excellence. I welcome, and rely upon, your feedback, support, and involvement.



Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D., Dean
H. Wayne Hightower Distinguished Professor in the Medical Sciences
David R. Park Professorship in Pediatric Medicine



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