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

Surgeon general to speak at commencement

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin will deliver the commencement address at this year’s Medical School graduation May 29. This is the first time a surgeon general has addressed a graduating class of the Medical School.

Benjamin, founder and CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Alabama, was nominated as surgeon general by President Barack Obama July 13, 2009. She previously had served as chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States and as the associate dean for rural health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

As the president of the Medical Association of Alabama, she was the first African-American woman elected president of a state medical society.

“For nearly two decades, Dr. Regina Benjamin has seen in a very personal way what is broken about our health care system,” said President Obama in his remarks nominating Benjamin. “She's seen an increasing number of patients who've had health insurance their entire lives suddenly lose it because they lost their jobs or because it's simply become too expensive. She's been a relentless promoter of prevention and wellness programs, having treated too many costly and—diseases and complications that didn't have to happen. And she's witnessed the shortage of primary care physicians in the rural and underserved areas where she works.”

Commencement will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center at 10 a.m. Faculty regalia may be ordered through Student Affairs by March 1 without a late fee.

— Darla Brown, Office of Communications, Medical School

UT cardiologist honored on 20th anniversary of Preventive Cardiology Forum

Dr. Francisco Fuentes

Dr. Francisco Fuentes

Twenty years ago, Dr. Francisco Fuentes created a forum to provide the most current information about cardiovascular disease prevention to those who are on the front lines of fighting heart disease.

Made possible by a five-year award from the National Institutes of Health, it started as a free event with about 50 attendees. Two decades later, the annual Preventive Cardiology Forum at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston is considered one of the largest and most comprehensive courses in preventive cardiology in the United States.

The forum connects education, research, prevention, and patient care, offering solutions to combat the leading cause of death in the United States. Providing lifesaving information, it has benefited thousands of health care professionals from Houston to the Rio Grande Valley, along with their patients.

“It’s not a stretch at all to say that the Preventive Cardiology Forum saves lives,” said Dr. L. Maximilian Buja, professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and executive director of the Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library. “A key way to reach as many people as possible with lifesaving information about cardiovascular health is to educate the primary health care providers. This has a multiplying effect out in the community.”

On Feb. 13 during Preventive Cardiology Forum XX, Buja presented Fuentes with a plaque to recognize his dedication to cardiology education and community health. Fuentes is the Theodore & Maureen O’Driscoll-Levy Endowed Professor in Cardiology Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center.

“He is an extremely dedicated physician who really has patient care at the foremost of his professional activities,” Buja said. “Furthermore, I think he is clearly trying to improve the health of our community through public health measures by getting the word out to primary care providers about the importance of cardiovascular health. This forum has been helping to educate primary care providers for 20 years and has been highly successful.”

Throughout the years, Fuentes and collaborators at Texas Medical Center institutions have provided updates on topics including obesity and weight-loss, stress management, and smoking cessation. Speakers share details on research discoveries, risk factors, and multidisciplinary approaches to the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease. Oftentimes patients are invited to give testimonies.

“To hear from the patients, it reminds us as health care providers how important this information is because it does save lives,” Fuentes said.

After the speakers’ presentations, Fuentes, the program director, moderates a panel discussion. Continuing medical education is available to all participants, and a partnership with the American Heart Association has made it possible to sustain the free program.

“The Houston division of the American Heart Association is proud to have been a part of Dr. Fuentes’ Preventive Cardiology Forum,” said Amber Baker, executive director of the American Heart Association South Central Affiliate. “We count Dr. Fuentes among our most treasured local volunteers, one who is always ready to do an interview with Univision or volunteer his time at one of our causes. We congratulate Dr. Fuentes on 20 outstanding years of providing free professional and public education through his Preventive Cardiology Forum.”

Recently, Fuentes’ team began Webcasting the forum so that healthcare providers in Lufkin, El Paso, and Brownsville could participate. The next goal is to expand the program into Mexico.

In addition to the work he does as founder of the Preventive Cardiology Forum, since 1978 Fuentes has been educating his own patients about heart health at the UT Cardiovascular Medicine clinic, Memorial Hermann, Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, and the Houston-based San Jose Clinic, where he routinely volunteers.

For information about next year’s Preventive Cardiology Forum, e-mail

— Meredith Raine, Office of Institutional Advancement, Media Relations

Goldman receives Texas Radiological Society gold medal

Dr. Stanford Goldman

Dr. Stanford Goldman

Dr. Stanford Goldman, professor of diagnostic and interventional imaging and urology, is this year’s recipient of the Texas Radiological Society’s Gold Medal award for Outstanding Service to Radiology and Radiologists in Texas.

The Texas Radiological Society is the oldest state radiological society in the United States and the second largest chapter in the American College of Radiology. The Gold Medal award is the highest honor bestowed by the Texas Radiological Society.

Goldman also serves as an adjunct professor of radiology and urology at Baylor College of Medicine and as clinical professor of radiology at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The medal will be awarded at the 97th Annual Scientific Meeting awards banquet at The Woodlands March 26.

Grant supports bone graft research to treat battlefield injuries

The Airlift Research Foundation has awarded $200,000 to a Dental Branch researcher to work collaboratively with Medical School faculty on developing infection-resistant bone grafts to treat battlefield injuries.

Dr. Yunzhi “Peter” Yang, of the Dental Branch’s Houston Biomaterials Research Center, will work with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Milan Sen, trauma surgeon Dr. John Holcomb, and bioengineer Dr. Jodie Conyers. Yang, assistant professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry and Biomaterials, also will work with physiologist Dr. Joseph Wenke, manager of the Regenerative Medicine Task Area and the Orthopaedic Trauma Research Program at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research.

Together, they aim to develop a patented, infection-resistant, synthetic bone graft material strong enough to repair even load-bearing bones. If successful, the project could create the first clinically applicable prototype of a synthetic bone graft.

The foundation estimates that 82 percent of all war injuries in Afghanistan and Iraq involve extremities, with many injuries caused by roadside bombs or rocket-propelled grenades. Fractures of long bones are particularly difficult to treat. Sometimes the bones fail to grow back together, and infection develops. Soldiers may require multiple surgeries and extended periods for recuperation, and in some cases, full use of the injured leg is never regained. Severe infection may result in amputation.

Formed in 2009, Airlift Research Foundation is based in Pittsburgh and funds research on traumatic wartime limb injuries, with a stated goal of producing results in five years that immediately would benefit military personnel, as well as civilian accident victims.

— Rhonda Moran, Dental Branch

Head gear

The Texas Medical Association Foundation promotes bike safety with its recent Hard Hats for Little Heads campaign. University of Texas Medical School representatives Damon Jones (front), Dr. Zsila Sadighi, Kristin Luong, Kim Hawthorne (middle row), and Taylor Kelley (rear) brought bike helmets to fifth-graders at Whidby Elementary near the Texas Medical Center Feb. 11.

The Texas Medical Association Foundation promotes bike safety with its recent Hard Hats for Little Heads campaign. University of Texas Medical School representatives Damon Jones (front), Dr. Zsila Sadighi, Kristin Luong, Kim Hawthorne (middle row), and Taylor Kelley (back) brought bike helmets to fifth-graders at Whidby Elementary near the Texas Medical Center Feb. 11.
— Chris Matula, Office of Communications, Medical School


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Events to Know

February 25

Neurobiology and Anatomy Seminar Series: Dr. Donald Fox (University of Houston) presents, “Altered Cell Cycle Progression and Exit Increase Retinal Progenitor Cell Profliferation and Neuronal Differentiation.”
4 p.m., MSB 2.135.

February 26

PM&R Alliance Grand Rounds: Dr. Benoy Benny and Anand Gandhi present, “Role of Interventional Spine Procedures in PM&R.”
Noon–1 p.m., MSB B.605.

March 1

Center for Membrane Biology Seminar Series: Dr. Richard G. Brennan (M. D. Anderson Cancer Center) presents, “Structural Mechanisms of Bacterial Post Transcriptional Regulation: Phosphorylation, sRNA and Hfq.”
Noon, MSB 2.135.

March 3

Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Brett Stephens, assistant professor of internal medicine, presents, “Chronic Kidney Disease.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.

March 10

Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Josh Samuels, assistant professor of internal medicine, presents, “Hypertension and Obesity in Adolescents.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.

March 11

Dr. Jonathan Hiatt (David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA) presents, “Instrumental: A Tale of the Tools of our Trade Told in Verse.”
7 a.m., MSB 3.001.

March 15

Department of Biochemistry Seminar Series: Dr. David Gorenstein (Institute of Molecular Medicine) presents, “Thioaptamers and Proteomics for Diagnostics and Therapeutics: Immunomodulation.”
Noon, MSB 2.135.

March 17

Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Amber Podoll, assistant professor of internal medicine, presents, “Acute Renal Failure.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.

March 18

Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Seminar Series: Dr. Kumaran Ramamurthi (Center for Cancer Research/NIH) presents, “Morphogenesis in a bacterium.”
4 p.m., MSB 3.301.
Reception to follow in MSB 1.180.

March 22

Department of Biochemistry Seminar Series: Dr. Chen Dong (M. D. Anderson Cancer Center) presents, “Regulation of Immunity.”
Noon, MSB 2.135.

March 25

Department of Surgery Grand Rounds: Dr. Jacob Langer (University of Toronto) presents, “Controversies in the Management of Hirschsprung Disease.”
7 a.m., MSB 3.001.

March 31

Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Kevin Finkel, professor of internal medicine, presents, “Update on Renal Vascular Disease.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.

April 1

Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Seminar Series: Dr. C. Mark Ott (NASA-Johnson Space Center) presents, “Microbial risk assessment for the spaceflight environment.”
4 p.m., MSB 2.103.
Reception to follow in MSB 1.180.

On the Move

The Department of Psychiatry will relocate from the Mental Sciences Institute building to the new Behavioral Biomedical Sciences Building on the South Campus Monday, March 1. This will include all psychiatry clinics, education, and administrative offices. Phone numbers will change to the 486 exchange from the 500 exchange. The main department number will be 713.486.2500. The street address will be 1941 East Road, Houston, Texas 77054.

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