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Executive Updates

Executive Updates
from Dr. Byington

May 2019: Executive Update

HSC Community,

We are preparing to wind down the spring semester and celebrate a new class of Texas A&M graduates. As we near the end of the academic year, we have much to be proud of with 745 Health Science Center students expected to graduate, and four commissioning to serve in the Armed Forces.

2019 has proven itself a year of making great progress toward our priorities and goals. I thank you all for helping us reach new heights in education, innovation and discovery. Here are some recent accomplishments and noteworthy updates across our components:

Rural health moonshot agreement and projects with BCBSTX finalized

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) and the Texas A&M University Health Science Center have finalized the agreement for a new joint project that will research and identify innovative care delivery strategies to improve rural health care across the state. The initial projects under consideration will evaluate past issues, present struggles and future solutions to improve the quality of rural health care. Those projects include:

    • Tackling Distance: Post Closure Access and Innovative Community Care Researchers will use community engagement to assess health care needs of vulnerable communities and design innovative interventions that improve local access to vital health services. The program will use added trained emergency medical technicians, community health workers and telemedicine to support continuing local providers and pre-need transfer agreements. The Health Science Center will further explore innovative transportation systems such as autonomous vehicles, drones and tele-enabled ambulances as potential solutions to overcome difficulties plaguing rural areas.
    • What Happens to Population Health after Hospital Closure Researchers will analyze claims data to evaluate the costs of common conditions before and after hospital closures, including evaluating mortality rates in communities that have closed hospitals.
    • Using Collaboration to Preserve Right-Sized Access This project’s goal is to create a care network that will allow a group of communities in northwestern Texas to maintain local access to care without becoming part of a larger health system.
    • Empowering Communities for Chronic Disease Management:  This project will evaluate a diabetes care management program through the Healthy South Texas initiative that will empower individuals to be meaningful partners in the management of their diabetes through technology-based solutions.

System Policy 21.06

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents unanimously passed System policy 21.06, Clinical Healthcare Operations. This policy provides a regulatory and compliance framework for the implementation of the Health Science Center interprofessional faculty practice plan. This is a commitment by the System to the excellence brought forth by interprofessional activity, and recognizes and respects that all health care providers are vital to transformative health care. With System policy 21.06 passed, we move to the next phase of the process which is review of the governing articles by the President and Chancellor or designees. The proposed governing articles have been submitted to the Provost, President and Chancellor, and we await the outcome of their review. Dr. Steven Brown and I have been meeting with faculty across the colleges to discuss next steps and look forward to working with all of the colleges towards implementation.

Ramos named assistant vice president of research for the Health Science Center

Kenneth Ramos, MD, PhD, PharmB, will serve as associate vice president of research for the Health Science Center. In this capacity, Dr. Ramos will oversee the research efforts at all of our five colleges as we grow innovation and discovery across the institution through scholarship and sustained growth of our extramural research funding.

Dr. Ramos, as  had been previously announced, is also leading the Institute of Biosciences and Technology (IBT) in Houston and serving as assistant vice chancellor for health services at The Texas A&M University System. His experience and knowledge, as well as his leadership and vision, will be instrumental as we continue to seek excellence across all aspects of our institution.

TMC3 redesigned to better cultivate a “live, work and play” atmosphere

Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects brings to life a new design for TMC3 that builds on an earlier plan resembling a double helix, by redefining outdoor spaces for the 37-acre biomedical research campus. The new design will work to create a landmark and destination in the city of Houston. In addition to the new architecture firm, TMC3 will also be working with commercial real estate firm Transwestern, and general contractor Vaughn Construction a company with local ties and whom we are working with on various Health Science Center related projects including the MREBII building in Bryan and the 1020 Holcombe building in Houston. The full scope of the project includes multiple medical research and office buildings, retail space, a hotel and conference center, and residential tower. Texas A&M is proud to be a partner in this innovative venture that will transform the TMC and offer our faculty, staff and students exciting new opportunities for discovery and learning.

School of Public health named a finalist for the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health award for outstanding community service

The Texas A&M School of Public Health was selected as one of two finalists for the  Harrison C. Spencer Award for Outstanding Community Service. The distinguished award is presented annually by the  Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) to an ASPPH-member school or program that has demonstrated major institutional commitment to engage with their community to improve public health and well-being. Texas A&M was selected for the School of Public Health’s work in  Texas A&M Healthy South Texas. The school was recognized at the ASPPH Awards Luncheon along with award recipient, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Development support grows

Overall in 2018, gifts to the Texas A&M University Health Science Center’s colleges totaled more than $14.4 million. This was a large increase over the slightly more than $4 million given in 2017, which itself was nearly twice the amount in 2016. We can attribute much of this growth to the Health Science Center’s focus on  three priority areas—rural population health, military health and innovation through engineering—along with  interprofessional education.

Pettigrew named Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award Winner

Roderic I. Pettigrew, PhD, MD, CEO of Engineering Health, executive dean for Engineering Medicine (EnMed), and Robert A. Welch Chair in chemistry won the annual Southeastern Conference (SEC) Faculty Achievement Award for Texas A&M University. The award recognizes professors with outstanding records in research and scholarship. He was selected based on his innovative thinking and transformative plans for EnMed. This award celebrates his role as an innovative thought-leader.

Students lead community service, dental care event

The College of Dentistry’s chapter of the American Student Dental Association held “Give Kids a Smile” on Feb. 16. Students provided free dental care to children coming from underserved communities who don’t otherwise get regular dental treatment. Dentistry students provided preventative treatment, such as tooth sealants and fluoride varnish. The students also held “tooth talks,” which taught children about oral hygiene. Approximately 77 children were treated, and 178 sealants were placed.

Health Science Center students host friendly competition

Texas A&M Health Science Center furthers its commitment to interprofessional education both in the classroom and on the field with the first annual inaugural powder puff game between the Texas A&M colleges of medicine and nursing. Held out at Veteran’s Park in College Station, this student led event brought on a friendly competition that raised funds in support of Scotty’s House—a non-profit Child Advocacy Center (CAC)—all in an effort to give back to the community.

Health Science Center students take third at National CLARION Competition

Soumya Pathuri, Texas A&M College of Medicine, Macy Anderson, Texas A&M College of Nursing, and Travis Burdick, Texas A&M School of Public Health, represented Texas A&M on a national level at this year’s National Clarion Competition, taking home third place. Clarion case competitions allow interprofessional student teams to compete by presenting a root cause analysis of a fictitious sentinel event that focuses on issues of quality and patient safety in health care.

College of Medicine Latino students represent on a national level

Students from Texas A&M College of Medicine advanced our diversity efforts during this year’s Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) national conference and the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) conference. The Texas A&M Chapter took home the LMSA Southwest Region Chapter of the Year award, and through engagement with young Latino students from across the nation aspiring to be health professionals, to advancing the conversation around residencies and serving in leadership positions for these associations, Texas A&M students are putting in the groundwork that will have lasting impact on our communities.

Pharmacy students create a Public Health Committee to provide community service

College of Pharmacy students helped found and create a new public health committee aimed at developing new relationships and learning about the constructs that facilitate the social and physical environment in which pharmacy students are developing patient care skills. Students assisted in recovery and restoration events in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and decided to continue its momentum in the public health arena, leading to the official formation of the first committee. The committee held its first Pharmacy Public Health Symposium, bringing together College of Pharmacy faculty as well as Texas A&M System affiliates and community health care providers to speak on initiatives that can benefit from pharmacy students’ participation.

Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium awards Health Science Center grant for monitoring technology

Texas A&M University Health Science Center received a $439,999 collaborative grant on “Assessing the utility and effectiveness of monitoring technology for reducing caregiver burden for Alzheimer’s disease”. Focused on how technology can ease the burdens of caregiving, this multi-site pilot study is funded by the Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders through the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium (TARCC). The goal is to prepare family caregivers to respond effectively in situations in which their loved ones are at safety risk due to wandering. Co-PI’s for this grant include Marcia Ory, PhD, MPH, and Matthew Smith, PhD, MPH, CHES, FAAHB, FGSA.

Nancy Downing reappointed to Texas Forensic Science Commission

Our expertise in forensic health care continues to advance. Nancy Downing, PhD, RN, SANE-A,   associate professor with the college of nursing was appointed by Texas Governor Greg Abbot to the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Downing was one of four appointments made by the governor. When Downing was first appointed in 2016, she was believed to be the first forensic nurse and forensic nurse educator to serve. We are grateful for the efforts made by Dr. Downing in this very important area of health care for Texas.

Association of Former Students University-Level Distinguished Achievement Awards

I am pleased to share the news that two of our faculty members have received Association of Former Students Awards for 2019:

  • Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching: Weijung Chen, PhD, College of Medicine
  • Distinguished Achievement Award for Individual Student Engagement: Rebecca Burns, DNP, MSN, RN, College of Nursing

President’s Meritorious Service Awards

The President's Meritorious Service Awards recognize and reward staff for their commendable service to our university. Recipients of this award demonstrated their commitment to the Aggie core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service. To each of these members of the health science center, I am sincerely thankful for all that you do for the faculty, staff and students of Texas A&M. 

  • Megan Doyel, Clinical Learning Resource Center, Health Science Center 
  • Cheryl Howell, Baylor Health Sciences Library, College of Dentistry 
  • Haley Williams, Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, College of Medicine

Our accomplishments cannot be achieved without our dedicated faculty, staff and students who excel in so many diverse areas of health care.Thank you for your continued commitment to the Health Science Center and our future together. As always, for real-time updates, please follow me on Twitter  @carrie_byington and visit the  Vital Record news site.

Best Wishes,
Carrie L. Byington ’85, MD