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Watson new director of South Texas Poison Center (9/22/98)

William A. Watson, PharmD, became administrative director of the South Texas Poison Center on
August 1, 1998, replacing Dr. John Thompson.

Dr. Watson is no stranger to South Texas. In 1982, he was assistant professor of pharmacology and medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and assistant director of its Drug Information Service. He was also adjunct professor at the College of Pharmacy at UT Austin.

He left Texas in 1985 to accept adjunct clinical assistant professorships in pharmacy and anesthesiology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was recipient of the Doctor of Pharmacy Program Teaching Award. He also became program director of anesthesiology and toxicology research at the Clinical Pharmacokinetics Laboratory at Millard Fillmore Hospital, Buffalo, N.Y.

"After three years I moved from Millard Fillmore Hospital to the University of Missouri at Kansas City, which is affiliated with two county hospitals in Kansas City," Dr. Watson explained. "Over the last ten years I was the clinical toxicologist in the department of emergency medicine at Truman Medical Center, co-director of the research program and in charge of the database for the emergency department.

"For the last six years, I've been clinical professor of pharmacy and emergency medicine at Truman Medical Center," Dr. Watson added. In 1992, he was given the University of Kansas City Trustees Award for Excellence in Teaching.

A native of North Dakota, Dr. Watson earned his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Utah at Salt Lake City. He was recipient of the Merck Award for Excellence in Research in the College of Pharmacy. He also completed a residency in hospital pharmacy at the University of Nebraska Hospital and Clinics in Omaha.

Early in his career, Dr. Watson was a Burroughs Welcome fellow at the University of Utah, one of two non-physicians awarded fellowships by this philanthropic organization which traditionally sponsors physicians. Going into the fellowship with a clinical degree, Dr. Watson spent two years in an immunology and toxicology laboratory while also completing a fellowship at the Inter-Mountain Regional Poison Control Center in Salt Lake City.

As director of the South Texas Poison Center, Dr. Watson and Miguel Fernandez, MD, medical director of the Center and assistant professor of surgery at the Health Science Center, are re-evaluating the goals of the center.

"All poison centers have three missions," Dr. Watson said "The first is to provide referral information, assistance and guidance to the public and health professionals when there is a potential poisoning, the second is to provide information on prevention and treatment to health professionals and to the public, and the third is research to decrease the frequency and severity of poisonings.

"Most childhood poisons don't need to be treated," he stated. "By providing poison information over the telephone, the health care system saves approximately seven dollars for every dollar it costs to maintain the South Texas Poison Center. We will enhance the general health of everyone in the region by trying to prevent poisoning. Once someone is poisoned, however, we will make certain proper treatment is received.

"One of my main areas of interest is substance abuse in rural populations," he continued. "By documenting substance abuse and how it is different in different groups of people we will be aware of which drugs are popular and concentrate on prevention and treatment. This is important in South Texas because of the area's unique language and cultural issues compared to most of the United States. More than half our staff is bilingual, which allows us to more effectively serve South Texas."

Since 1966, Dr. Watson has worked with the World Health Organization's international program on chemical safety and its poison prevention and treatment program and has expanded his interest in research to identify the cultural and geographical differences in poisonings.

"These are the Center's overall goals," Dr. Watson said, "but we are also identifying other areas that need to be studied. For instance, two of our specialists are very interested in Africanized bees because there have been people severely stung, and there has been one death from bee stings in the area. This is an example of the new and changing phenomena in poisonings. My understanding is that cross breeding has developed behavior in all bees similar to Africanized bees. All bees have become more aggressive."

Note: For poison information, call the South Texas Poison Center at (210) POISON1 (764-7661).

Contact: Jan Elkins (210) 567-2570