October 23, 2000
Volume XXXIII, No. 36

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2000-2001 Academic Convocation

Howe praises HSC excellence
in his final address

Success is the product of excellent leadership, Dr. John P. Howe, III, said Oct. 4 during the last convocation he would convene as Health Science Center president.

Dr. Howe, who served the Health Science Center for 16 years and turned over the reins to Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa on Oct. 16, delivered the annual convocation address and announced the recipients of the Distinguished Scholar Award and the Barbara H. Bowman Scholarship. He praised faculty and staff for their commitment to lead boldly and work hard for the Health Science Center’s success.

"We need a rebirth of the American tradition of leadership at every level of government and in private life as well. The United States of America is unique in world history because it has a genius for leaders—many leaders on many levels," said Dr. Howe, quoting Ronald Reagan. "His words ring true today. We’ve seen a ‘genius for leaders’ here on our young campus and at our sites throughout South Texas. We’ve seen many leaders on many levels as we’ve engaged in teaching, research and clinical care. It is leadership at all levels that has distinguished the men and women of our Health Science Center family in this millennial year. It is leadership at all levels that will continue to distinguish us in the years ahead. I want to share but a glimpse of this tradition, as it reflects our excellence."

Dr. Howe noted the Health Science Center’s national recognition by Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine. "Our minority student enrollment is at an all-time high—41 percent," he said. "Hispanic Outlook awarded us ‘Honor Roll’ status for our leading role in the recruitment and retention of Hispanic faculty and students. This student enrollment has led to a continuation of our federal designation as an Hispanic-Serving Institution."

Hispanic undergraduate enrollment at the School of Nursing is 117 of a total of 328 students, or 35 percent. At the School of Allied Health Sciences, 78 of 212 students are Hispanic, for a 37 percent rate.

Next, Dr. Howe addressed the successful health careers-motivating program Med/Ed, which has an enrollment of nearly 500 outstanding high school students in Hidalgo and Starr counties and has expanded to include students in Cameron County. He credited Dr. Mario Ramirez’s leadership of the Med/Ed Program.

"Our faculty realized a record year for research awards and expenditures with a 25 percent increase in federal research awards and a 49 percent increase in new and competing research awards," said Dr. Howe. "This represents a wonderful vote of confidence by public and private funding agencies in the competitiveness of our faculty in the national research arena."


In 1999, Dr. John P. Howe, III, talks with Frank Tobias, a Service Award recipient.

The awarding of funding for state-of-the-art facilities, he said, has been an indication of the quality of individuals at the Health Science Center. "With the recent approval of $6 million in Permanent University Fund monies for our new Center for Longevity and Aging Studies, we now have $142 million of new research facilities coming on line in the next three years," he said. "The Board of Regents approved the design of our $50 million Children’s Cancer Research Center. We’ll join in the dedication of our $20 million South Texas Centers for Biology in Medicine research building and our SBC Teleconference Center in the Texas Research Park on Nov. 1. Again, these are reflections of the stature of our faculty."

On the national level, he noted a major international magazine’s recognition of the University Health System, including physicians from the Health Science Center in orthopaedics, nephrology and urology.

"The University Health System, under the leadership of Jeff Turner, was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best in the United States," said Dr. Howe. "Our Departments of Orthopaedics, Medicine and Surgery were recognized as reasons the UHS placed among the top 50 institutions providing the best of care in the nation."

On the state level, he pointed to a historic ceremony in Harlingen, "as nearly 1,000 people gathered to participate in the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Medical Education Division of our Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC)," he said. The RAHC will train students and residents in the border region where they are needed.

The Health Science Center’s successful State Employee Charitable Campaign saw 41 percent participation. "We joined in contributing $219,000, which was recognized with two awards from Governor George W. Bush," he said.

"My hunger is not for success, it’s for excellence," Dr. Howe said, quoting from Mike Krzyzewski’s book Leading With the Heart. "When you attain excellence, success just naturally follows. It was our individual and collective excellence that brought us campuswide achievements."

He said the Health Science Center collectively "weighed and considered strategies to strengthen our efforts on behalf of those we serve, from an entering nursing student to a severely short-of-breath patient."

Following are but a few examples of excellence Dr. Howe cited from the five schools.

School of Allied Health Sciences

  • Dr. George Kudolo was elected a fellow of the National Academy of Biochemistry.
  • The Department of Occupational Therapy received reaccreditation from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.
  • For the fifth consecutive year, Department of Respiratory Care students achieved a 100 percent first-time pass rate on the National Board for Respiratory Care entry-level examination.

Dental School

  • Dental students entered the fall semester with laptop computers providing full access to course material and supporting textbooks in an electronic digital format. The Dental School is the first in the nation to offer this program.
  • Dr. Steven Milam, a dentist and cell biologist with research interests in chronic pain and degenerative diseases of the temporomandibular joint, was appointed chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
  • The school began its new Orthodontics Residency Program under the leadership of Dr. Larry White, who has published more than 100 papers in the fields of orthodontics and general dentistry.

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

  • The laboratory of Dr. Susan Naylor, cellular and structural biology, completed the rough draft of the sequence of Chromosome 3.
  • The Department of Cellular and Structural Biology ranked among the top 10 cellular biology departments in the nation in National Institutes of Health funding.
  • Drs. Wen-Hwa and Eva Lee, molecular medicine, discovered the ataxia-telangiectasia-mutated link to breast cancer.

Medical School

  • Dr. Gregory Freeman, medicine/cardiology, became the principal investigator of a new $14 million disease management and research grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.
  • The Organ Transplant Program under the leadership of Dr. Glenn Halff, surgery, has performed more than 95 liver transplants with a two-year survival rate of greater than 90 percent.
  • The transplant team, led by Drs. Francisco G. Cigarroa and Glenn Halff, performed the first successful pediatric small bowel transplant in South Texas. The first combined liver and small bowel transplant also took place this year.

School of Nursing

  • The School of Nursing created two new academic centers: The Center for Violence Prevention and the Center for Evidence-based Nursing.
  • The School of Nursing joined with Texas A&M-Kingsville to offer a new Bachelor of Nursing degree at the System Center Palo Alto campus.

Administration

  • Robert B. Price, vice president, was asked to serve a second term as chair of the Board of Directors of the Council on Governmental Relations, the Washington-based organization representing 145 research-intensive universities.
  • The University Relations team helped with the creation of 20 new endowments, raising endowments to a record level.

Excellence through effective leadership throughout the Health Science Center has led to a successful, year, Dr. Howe concluded.