The Scoop: A Publication of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston

Pinell receives McGovern award

Octavio Pinell, M.D.

Dr. Octavio Pinell, right, receives his award from Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo.

Octavio Pinell, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, is this year’s winner of the John P. McGovern Award. Marking his seventh receipt of this award, Pinell has won the award more than any Medical School faculty member.

The John P. McGovern Award is given annually to the outstanding clinical faculty member as chosen by the senior class. Pinell, professor and director of undergraduate education in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, has received the award in 2008, 2006, 2004, 2001, 1999, 1997, and 1995—nearly every other year since he joined the Medical School in 1994.

Students are not allowed to elect consecutive-year winners.

Pinell received his medical degree from the Universidad Nacional de Nicaragua and did residencies at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York and Spring Grove Hospital in Maryland.

Since 1980, he has received more than 20 teaching awards—most bestowed upon him by those who know, his students.

“Teaching is about sharing knowledge—and that's what motivates me,” he said.

Pinell teaches students throughout their medical careers, from lectures in the second year to fourth-year electives and directing the department's clerkship program, where students help to evaluate new acute patients at the UT Harris County Psychiatric Center. “Seeing patients and moving the teaching to the examining rooms is an important step,” Pinell said.

The award is made possible by an endowment from the McGovern Foundation. McGovern, founder of the McGovern Allergy Clinic, maintained a deep interest in excellence in teaching at the health science center, where he held faculty appointments.

Previous recipients include Alberto Puig, M.D., Ph.D., 2005; Frank C. Arnett Jr., M.D., 2003, 2000; Eugene Toy, M.D., 2002; Edward Yeomans, M.D., 1998; John F. Donnelly, M.D., 1996, 1993, 1990; James T. Willerson, M.D., 1994; John M. Passmore, M.D., 1992; and Herbert L. DuPont, M.D., 1991.

— Darla Brown, Office of Communications, Medical School

Post Comment

New grant to study venous insufficiency role in multiple sclerosis

Dr. Jerry Wolinsky

Dr. Jerry Wolinsky

The Medical School is one of three institutions in the United States to receive an initial grant to study chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) in multiple sclerosis (MS). The grant is part of an over $2.3 million joint commitment from the National MS Society and the MS Society of Canada.

According to the National MS Society, the new studies will carry out significant steps needed to confirm the phenomenon originally described by Dr. Paolo Zamboni and resolve the questions raised by him and others whether CCSVI is a cause of MS, or related to MS.

Dr. Jerry Wolinsky, the Bartels Family and Opal C. Rankin Professor of Neurology, is principal investigator of a study that will attempt to reproduce the ultrasound approach used by Zamboni to investigate the association of CCSVI with major clinical types of MS and in non-MS control groups. The research team also will test whether other imaging methods—such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—can confirm the ultrasound findings while identifying the most reliable technique to screen for CCSVI.

“The team of accomplished investigators assembled at UTHealth is interdisciplinary and dedicated to understanding the uniqueness and importance of this observation for patients with multiple sclerosis. We are humbled by the support shown by the National MS Society that we will be able to help unravel its significance for understanding the disease,” said Wolinsky, a member of the faculty of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and director of the MS Research Group.

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, interrupting the flow of information within the brain and from the brain to the body. It affects more than 400,000 people in the United States and 2.1 million in the world.

The studies’ goals are to resolve conflicting data from previous research, such as how frequently CCSVI occurs in MS and how often it occurs in people who do not have MS. If blockages are found, the Society said in a press release, the findings will speed the way to determining whether therapeutic trials to correct them will be helpful in improving, or altering, the MS disease process.

The two other U.S. institutions receiving two-year grants beginning July 1 are the Cleveland Clinic and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Four institutions in Canada also have been awarded research grants. To learn more about all funded grants and about CCSVI, visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website.

— Deborah Mann Lake, Media Relations, Office of Institutional Advancement

Post Comment

UT Physicians launches new website

UT Physicians new consumer website

UT Physicians has debuted a new consumer website aimed at improving the patient experience.

Located at and launched June 15, the site features a searchable database of all 948 clinical faculty members by name or specialty.

“The new website presents many opportunities for reaching our patients with information about our physicians and services, and we will update it regularly with news, events, and additional features,” said Rose Hochner, assistant to the dean for marketing and institutional advancement.

Post Comment

Human Frontier Science grant supports collaborative research on cell division

Dr. William Margolin

Dr. William Margolin

A Medical School researcher is the co-recipient of a highly competitive Human Frontier Science Program grant to build an artificial bacterial environment to mimic bacterial division.

Dr. William Margolin, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, is heading up one of four labs worldwide funded with a three-year grant to pursue this innovative work.

“Although cell division is well characterized in terms of its individual components, our interdisciplinary synthetic biology approach is novel,” Margolin said. “In this project, we propose to assemble several of these proteins on natural and artificial membranes in a ‘bottom up’ approach, and in a complementary ‘top down’ approach, use chromosome-free bacteria as ‘biovessels’ to reconstitute the cell division machine and the regulation of its placement.”

Margolin said the research will further understanding of how bacterial cells, such as E. coli, divide, and how the process is regulated in time and space.

“Our work will have broader implications for synthetic biology and development of new antimicrobials,” Margolin added. “By understanding more about how the parts of the machine work, we can spur the design of new antimicrobials against these targets, which could mean new treatments for bacterial diseases.”

The Human Frontier Science Program is an international program of research support implemented by the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) based in Strasbourg, France, aimed at promoting intercontinental collaboration and training. HFSPO receives financial support from the governments of research councils of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, UK, United States, as well as from the European Union.

The grant is led by principal investigator Miguel Vicente at Centro Nacional de Biotecnología in Madrid, Spain; a second lab also is in Madrid headed up by Dr. German Rivas, and the fourth investigator is Dr. Petra Schwille at the Technical University of Dresden.

“A key to our success in obtaining this grant may have been the meeting of our team members in Dresden last summer,” Margolin said, adding that he is hosting a Ph.D. student from Vicente’s lab in his lab for 6 months. “It will not be easy to collaborate internationally, but the HFSP strongly encourages team members to meet once a year and have a plan in place for sharing their results. Because our application was one of only 25 chosen out of over 600 pre-applications, I think we have a good overall plan in place, and I am confident that we can make good progress.”

The bacterial division project was one among the 25 projects selected worldwide in 2010 by the Human Frontier Science Program and described as “a very interesting and challenging interdisciplinary project to test the basic machinery of bacterial cell division in vitro.”

— Darla Brown, Office of Communications, Medical School

Post Comment

UT Physicians opens doors in Sienna Plantation

UT Physicians opens doors in Sienna Plantation

Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo and Andrew Casas launch the newest UT Physicians office at Sienna Plantation in Missouri City.





Read and post comments on our articles.

Subscribe to Scoop Name:

Email Address:

Add me to the UT to Me list

Events to Know

June 24

PALS Course.
8:30 a.m., PerSys Medical Training Center.
Visit the website or call 713.723.6000 for more information.

June 25

ACLS Course.
8:30 a.m., PerSys Medical Training Center.
Visit the website or call 713.723.6000 for more information.

June 30

Family & Community Medicine's Grand Rounds: Dr. Bela Patel, associate professor of internal medicine, presents, “Pulmonary Hypertension.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.

July 19

UTHealth Consortium on Aging: Dr. Timothy Quill (University of Rochester) presents, “Discussing Treatment Preferences with Patients who want ‘Everything.’”
Noon–1 p.m., MSB 1.006.
Lunch provided.
“Talking with Patients about End-of-Life Issues: Balancing Honesty, Compassion and Hope.”
5:30–6:30 p.m., MSB 1.006.
Dinner provided.
1 Hour CME and 1 hour ethics/professional responsibility per presentation.
Register here.

July 22

Department of Surgery Grand Rounds: Dr. Charles Van Buren, professor and director of the Division of Immunology and Organ Transplant; Dr. Ronald Kerman, professor of surgery; and Dr. Bhamidipati Murthy, associate professor of internal medicine, present, “Living Donor Renal Transplant— Theory and Practice.”
7 a.m., MSB 3.001.
CME credit is available.


Ronald Kerman, Jacqueline Lappin, Stephen Katz, Jerome Saltarrelli, Noriel Acorda, Craig Adkins, Alfred John Eaton, IV, Phillip Erice, Esther Kelley, Eva McKissick, Jenna Mitchell, Kristah Miller, Luis Rodriguez, Nicholas Woolley, and Charles Van Buren received a Poster of Distinction award at the 2010 American Transplant Congress (ATC) – the Tenth Joint American Transplant Meeting for their poster titled, “Frequency of Identified Donor-Specific HLA Antibody in a Transplant Population: Their Impact on Clinical Outcome,” in San Diego May 4.

Scoop is a weekly electronic newsletter providing timely information to the Medical School.

Submit event items or news tips for Scoop by noon on Thursday preceding the week of publication in which you would like your event or news to appear (seven days in advance).

To submit content for Scoop, send an e-mail to

Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D.

Darla Brown
Director of Communications

Carlos Gonzalez
Web Developer II