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Executive Updates

Executive Updates
from Dr. Byington

March 2017: Health Science Center Executive Update


I hope that you all enjoyed Spring Break, had a well-deserved time of rest and relaxation and are recharged for the remainder of the academic year. I would like to take this opportunity to update you all on a few recent issues of interest:

85th Legislative Session

In January, the Texas Legislature convened its 85th legislative session. As many of you know, the state is facing significant fiscal challenges and our Health Science Center faced initial reductions of up to 20% as proposed in Senate Bill 1 as filed, while the House version of the budget had the HSC at flat funding compared with current levels. Of particular concern is proposed elimination of Special Item funding SB1, which would eliminate dedicated state support to a number of HSC colleges, programs and campuses. I was honored to have the opportunity to represent the HSC and to testify before the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees where I was able to publicly voice my concerns about the proposed cuts. We expect to see modified budgets finalized by the two committees in the coming days. As the two chambers move forward with their respective budget proposals, we will continue to work closely with elected officials, and we are preparing today, based on the current budget proposals.

As part of our preparations, we made the difficult decision to notify 50 applicants on our alternate list that we must freeze additional acceptances to our medical school. This represents potentially a 25 percent reduction in our incoming class size. In addition to the impact on medical students, the College of Pharmacy, the College of Nursing Forensic Health Care Education, Research and Intervention Program, health education centers in Corpus Christi and McAllen, and community-based programs like Healthy South Texas could also be impacted because of their reliance on special item funding.

I want to express my sincere appreciation to our faculty, staff, students and former students who have been supportive during these challenging budgetary times. We will all continue to work closely with elected officials throughout this session, and I ask that those wishing to contact our elected officials on behalf of the HSC coordinate with Jenny Jones, associate vice president of governmental and public affairs ( or 512-542-7834).

Rest assured, while we will not know the final outcome before the end of the regular session on May 29, our steadfast commitment to increase access, lower costs and reduce health disparities in Texas continues.

Match Day 2017-College of Medicine

Last week marked an important milestone for 179 future Aggie physicians as they learned where they will do their residency training. This annual rite of passage is always an exciting and emotional day. I'm happy to report that our medical students matched in residency positions coast-to-coast from New York to California, with 58% remaining in Texas. Additionally, half of our students who were matched into Texas defined primary care residencies. These placements are significant given the state's critical shortage of primary care physicians. I was delighted to share this life-changing day with the campus deans, teachers, friends and families of our students, and I look forward to watching our students contribute to the health of the state and the nation.

Aggie FNPs secure 100% pass rate

The College of Nursing's inaugural class of Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) earned a 100% first-time pass rate on the American Academy of Nurse Practitioner national board certification exam. These students scored above the national averages in all areas and importantly, 60% of the inaugural class is working in medically underserved or health care provider shortage areas. Our College of Nursing continues to meet the growing demands for highly educated FNPs to fill the health care provider shortage gap in Texas and beyond.

College of Dentistry-among most diverse in nation

The College of Dentistry has a two-decade history of building successful community outreach and pipeline programs for recruitment and retention of students, faculty and staff. These have resulted in the college being named one of the most diverse dental schools in the country. The college's impressive diversity plan was recently presented to President Young, and I applaud their dedication to create an inclusive environment for faculty, staff, students and patients who represent a vast array of backgrounds and add to the diversity of ideas on our campuses. The College of Dentistry is truly leading the way!

Public Health faculty member breaks down new health care legislation

Timothy Callaghan, PhD, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health, recently appeared on KBTX-TV to break down the American Health Care Act, the bill set forward to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Dr. Callaghan did a wonderful job of explaining the new health care legislation in the interview, which you can watch here.

Pharmacy researcher in STAT News contest

Texas A&M's own Ravi Kumar, PhD, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the Rangel College of Pharmacy, recently represented Texas A&M in STAT Madness, an online, bracket-style competition run by the Boston Globe's national health and science publication, STAT News, to find the best innovation in science and medicine. Dr. Kumar was one of 32 entries chosen to compete with his research on improving drug delivery through the development of nanosystems that can more easily cross the gastrointestinal tract. Please join me in congratulating our colleague Dr. Kumar for a job well done.

DeHyrdraTect wins SXSW innovation competition

I am always extremely impressed when students-on top of their heavy school workload-pursue innovative ways to make health care better for all. Congratulations to third-year medical student Nga Tang, who was part of a team of Texas A&M students that won the latest Aggies Invent competition with their dehydration detecting pacifier at South by Southwest (SXSW). The pacifier measures the ionic conductivity of a child's saliva and is now patent pending. The DeHydraTect team, which also includes students from the College of Engineering, is an excellent example of the power of interdisciplinary collaborations. We can look forward to more examples of this type of innovation when we launch the EnMed program.

HSC faculty named Presidential Impact Fellows

Texas A&M has announced a new faculty honor: Presidential Impact Fellows. The new award, which is among the most prestigious ever presented at Texas A&M, was awarded to four faculty members at the Health Science Center. Join me in congratulating Chunlin Qin, DDS, PhD, and Jian Q. (Jerry) Feng, PhD, both professors in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the College of Dentistry, Farida Sohrabji, PhD, professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the College of Medicine, and Mansoor Khan, RPh, PhD, professor at the Rangel College of Pharmacy and vice dean of the Bryan-College Station campus. These scholars enhance this dynamic inaugural class of Impact Fellows.

Chancellor's Century Council

Earlier this month, I was honored to attend the 30th year Chancellor's Century Council (CCC) alongside leadership from A&M System schools and entities, as well as individuals interested in advancing higher education in the state. I was delighted to share with the group my vision to build a 21st century patient-centered and research-driven health enterprise at Texas A&M. I look forward to working with the CCC to support the Chancellor as we work to bring together the health-related capacities and functions of our university and System for the first time. I would also like to share the Chancellor's Challenge for each college to identify at least 10 new CCC members by the start of the next academic year. That means 50 new members for the Health Science Center! See the CCC website to join.

New Chief of Staff named

It is my privilege to announce Mike Robbins as our new Chief of Staff. After two decades of service in the U.S. Air Force, Mike retired as a Colonel and transitioned to serving as Chief of Staff at World Vision, one of the largest non-profit development and advocacy organizations in the world. Most recently, Mike served as Senior Business Manager at Microsoft, where he provided executive communications support for the corporate vice president responsible for the Bing platform. Mike received his MBA from Chapman University in California and a Master of Military Operational Art and Science from Air University in Alabama. He was also a National Security Fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Mike officially begins on April 3, 2017.

In closing, thank you for all you do to make the Health Science Center a success and one that adds value to those we serve. For real-time updates, please follow me on Twitter @carrie_byington and visit the Vital Record news site.

With warmest wishes,

Carrie L. Byington, MD