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Legislative Ladies Club visits UT Health Science Center

San Antonio (March 25, 2003) — About 40 spouses of Texas Legislature members visited The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio on March 18 to hear interesting reports on university research and clinical projects. The guests from the Legislative Ladies Club included Nadine Craddick, wife of House Speaker Tom Craddick.

"Thank you for your personal sacrifice for the people of Texas," Health Science Center President Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., said in his welcome address. "Less than 50 years after its inception, our Health Science Center has grown into a vitally important health education and medical research institution that serves San Antonio and 50,000 square miles of South Texas. The scientists you hear from today have already achieved great success, and we know they will continue to be national leaders in medical research. They may invent world-changing patents of the future or be future Nobel Laureates, or they may be instrumental in developing our nation's biodefense mechanisms during this critical time that our world faces."

The faculty speakers and topics were:

  • Abhay Gupta, M.D., department of surgery, who discussed reconstructive surgery for breast cancer patients (for more information, see "Restoring the Body" at;
  • C. Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D., department of orthopaedics, who commented on "tissue engineering" research to help the body heal itself by regenerating various types of tissue;
  • Steven Bailey, M.D., department of medicine, who outlined efforts to grow new blood vessels for supplying oxygen to the heart in coronary artery disease patients who have no other hope;
  • Gerald Dodd III, M.D., department of radiology, who spoke about radiothermal ablation of liver tumors in patients with liver malignancies of a certain size;
  • Sunil Ahuja, M.D., departments of medicine and microbiology-immunology, who discussed the search for genetic clues to explain differing rates of HIV/AIDS progression among individuals; and
  • Charles Rodriguez, Ph.D., external affairs, who provided information about the new Texas Medical Rangers volunteer group at the Health Science Center. Commissioned by Gov. Rick Perry, the Health Science Center Medical Rangers group is the first in the state.

After the talks, the Legislative Ladies Club visited laboratories addressing hypertension in post-menopausal women, neonatal intensive care, tissue typing, face masks for burn victims and development of a blood substitute.

On a visit to laboratories in the department of microbiology-immunology, Mrs. Craddick and other spouses heard about research of tularemia, a bioterrorism threat. Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella, a Class A pathogen that is extremely lethal and very easily aerosolized. Airborne tularemia is the most deadly form of the infection. It is commonly found in rabbits and has been encountered for years by hunters trapping rabbits.

Researchers aim to understand how these organisms spread and how the body defends itself against tularemia infection. The ultimate goal is development of treatments that are not dependent on antibiotics, because these organisms are resistant to antibiotics.

Joe Krier, president of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, told the Legislative Ladies Club that the medical/biosciences portion of San Antonio's economy is now $11.5 billion a year. The average wage in this sector of the economy is 15 percent higher than the average wage in San Antonio overall. "Texans should have a great feeling of stewardship for institutions such as the Health Science Center," Krier said.

Contact: Will Sansom