News on campus
Honoring a leader
Blair Reeves, former Bexar County Commissioners Court judge, thanks officials at the December dedication of the $8.7 million rehabilitation unit named in his honor at University Hospital. The unit expects to treat 260 patients in 1996. Medical personnel treat persons with head and spinal injuries as well as those with other impairments. Reeves, who uses a wheelchair because of war injuries, was cited for helping create University Hospital, one of the Health Science Center's teaching hospitals.
World pays attention to cancer discovery Hughes institute invests in disease research Aging research receives $520,000 grant Asthma project helps San Antonio children New home on the horizon for School of Allied Health Oncologist receives award for his achievements Arizona physician to head family practice department Scientific papers on the nation's 'most cited' list New projects target the health of South Texans University names director of alumni relations Notables Return to main index
World pays attention to cancer discovery
Health Science Center researchers have discovered that a genetic protein appears to be "out of place" in the majority of breast cancers, paving the way for a powerful new diagnostic test for the disease.
The researchers, from the Health Science Center's University of Texas Institute of Biotechnology and the departments of medicine and pathology, found that the majority of breast cancers contain an abnormally located protein made by the gene BRCA1.
"The primary significance of this finding is that BRCA1, which is known to be important in hereditary breast cancer, is probably much more important in the more prevalent form of non-hereditary breast cancers than anyone had previously thought," said Wen-Hwa Lee, PhD, director of the Institute of Biotechnology. Dr. Lee, an internationally recognized geneticist, occupies the Alice P. McDermott Distinguished University Chair in Molecular Medicine.
Previously, mutations in the BRCA1 gene had been found in less than 5 percent of breast cancer patients, and generally in those with family histories of the disease. The discovery of BRCA1 in an abnormal location now links the gene to the other 95 percent of breast cancers.
The BRCA1 finding was published in the journal Science, and major print and electronic media around the world carried stories. The Associated Press compiled a dispatch on the finding. Virtually every major U.S. daily newspaper carried a story. Accounts of the discovery were on the front page of the New York Times and in the front section of the Washington Post.
Hughes institute invests in disease research
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the nation's largest private philanthropy, has awarded the Health Science Center a $2.2 million, four-year grant to support disease-related fundamental research.
The institute selected the Health Science Center's Medical School from 117 applicants as one of 30 in the country to receive funds.
"Academic medical centers across the country are being squeezed by reductions in patient care revenues and restrictions on government research spending," said Purnell W. Choppin, MD, president of the institute. "We hope these grants will help medical schools to continue laying the groundwork for new treatments and methods of prevention of diseases."
The Health Science Center will apply $550,000 each year for four years to recruit and support new basic research faculty, including underrepresented populations such as women and ethnic minorities; to enrich the scientific environment through support for visiting scientists, conferences and other activities; and to support innovative pilot research projects.
"The competition for these funds was intense, and for these nationally recognized reviewers to select us from among the 117 competing medical schools is a tribute to the quality of both our research and our medical care," said John P. Howe III, MD, Health Science Center president.
"This support will have a real impact on our activities in the coming years, especially in areas such as our ability to recruit the best and brightest to San Antonio," said program director Robert A. Clark, MD, chairman of medicine and holder of the Dan F. Parman Chair in Medicine.
Aging research receives $520,000 grant
A $520,000 grant from the Methodist Hospital Foundation will endow the Methodist Hospital Foundation Chair in Aging Studies and Research at the Health Science Center.
The Health Science Center is among 16 health-related institutions selected to share $4.2 million raised by the San Antonio-based foundation.
"This award is further recognition of the superb research in the area of aging performed by the Health Science Center faculty," said Sanford A. Miller, PhD, dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. "The problems associated with the aging process ultimately affect all of us. We are grateful to the Methodist Hospital Foundation for its confidence in our ability to successfully meet this challenge."
The Health Science Center is internationally recognized as one of the leading universities in aging research. Groundbreaking research on dietary restriction and longevity is considered the "gold standard" in the field. The Health Science Center also established the nation's first transgenic mouse facility dedicated to the study of aging.
More than 100 faculty members currently are studying aging and related subjects in several interrelated centers.
The Health Science Center's multidisciplinary Aging Research and Education Center (AREC) was established in 1990 with a grant from the NIA and support from the Texas Legislature.
The Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) at the Audie Murphy Division, South Texas Veterans Health Care System, is one of 16 centers of excellence in the Department of Veterans Affairs. NIA recently established a Nathan Shock Aging Center at the hospital -- one of two in the country -- to study the biological processes that control aging and the diseases of aging.
Asthma project helps San Antonio children
Children with asthma are literally breathing easier in San Antonio thanks to the three-year Children's Asthma Project.
Researchers at the Health Science Center led by principal investigator and pediatrician Pamela R. Wood, MD, have evaluated, treated and helped educate 145 young asthma patients and their families. In the course of the study, funded at $1.19 million by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the researchers also raised asthma awareness among physicians training to be pediatricians.
Asthma refers to the condition in which individuals have difficulty breathing due to narrowing or swelling of the bronchioles (small airways in the lung). Patients are often young and the problem affects an estimated 11 million persons including 4 million under age 18 in the United States.
"This was an innovative study for several reasons," Dr. Wood said. "For example, we produced and used materials for the patients in both Spanish and English, to help us to reach children from primarily Spanish-speaking households. Also, we included a physician education component to see if we could improve treatment by increasing physician knowledge."
The researchers enrolled 115 Hispanic children and 30 non-ispanics who had been diagnosed with moderate to severe asthma. Ages at enrollment ranged from 6 to 18 and each child was followed for two years. They were given a "peak flow" meter to measure their breathing ability and taught about how to recognize symptoms, to use medications and to be aware of things that might trigger breathing difficulties such as cigarette smoke and other factors.
The children were also asked other questions including whether they had difficulty breathing when they laughed or cried. "We know that traditionally, people have associated asthma attacks with emotion. This might be because emotion makes us hyperventilate and the increased breathing rate irritates the airways," she said Dr. Wood expects additional patterns to emerge as she and colleagues evaluate their data and pool their findings with four other sites across the country conducting similar studies.
New home on the horizon for School of Allied Health
A new five-story building will open next spring to house the School of Allied Health Sciences and research projects for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
"We, the faculty, staff and students of the School of Allied Health Sciences, are extremely appreciative," Dean James Van Straten, PhD, said at groundbreaking ceremonies in November.
The building will be adjacent to the McDermott Clinical Science Building and provide 100,000 square feet of space.
Allied health students become clinical laboratory scientists, physical therapists, dental hygienists, respiratory therapists, emergency paramedics, occupational therapists and dental laboratory scientists.
The new space also will promote biomedical research. One research group will analyze living cells. "We will have a molecular modeling group that utilizes computers to predict biomolecular changes in structure, a very important area of study relating to drug development and disease processes," said Sanford A. Miller, PhD, dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
"This new building is the fulfillment of a dream, that is, to provide the finest educational and research opportunities for our students," said John P. Howe III, MD, Health Science Center president.
The $19.5 million project was made possible in part by the 73rd Texas Legislature's funding package to enhance higher education in the South Texas/Border region. The San Antonio Medical Foundation donated the land.
Oncologist receives award for his achievements
World-renowned breast cancer researcher and clinician C. Kent Osborne, MD, of San Antonio has received a second major award in two years from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation of Dallas.
The chief of medical oncology at the Health Science Center received the 1995 Clinical Research Award during a celebrity-studded luncheon in Dallas. Honorary chairmen of the event included first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and all of the living former first ladies. Nancy Snyderman, MD, medical correspondent for ABC's "Good Morning America," led the ceremonies.
The annual event honors individuals and corporations for contributions that further the foundation's mission of eradicating breast cancer.
Dr. Osborne's work has ranged from basic laboratory studies to clinical trials for new therapies. In 1994, he won the foundation's Award for Scientific Distinction. His work has provided basic information on the role of polypeptide growth factors and he was also the first to show that the epidural growth factor (EGF) stimulates breast cancer cells. Dr. Osborne is applying the EGF findings directly to treatment by using a molecule fusing EGF with a highly active toxin. He has produced promising preclinical results with breast cancer cells carrying the EGF receptor.
A professor of medicine at the Health Science Center, Dr. Osborne also is chief of the Breast Disease Clinic at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center in San Antonio. He is on the staff at University Hospital and at the Audie L. Murphy Division, South Texas Veterans Health Care System.
Arizona physician to head family practice department
Barry Weiss, MD, an accomplished physician, teacher and researcher from the University of Arizona, has assumed duties as the chairman of the Health Science Center's department of family practice.
Dr. Weiss is the editor of Family Medicine, the national journal of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. The author of more than 80 publications in peer-reviewed medical journals, he serves on the editorial boards of several national medical publications and as peer reviewer for numerous specialty and interdisciplinary journals.
Prior to his Health Science Center appointment, Dr. Weiss was professor in the department of family and community medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. There he served for many years as chief of the department's family medicine section and received several awards for his teaching. He was appointed by Arizona's governor to serve on the Arizona Board of Medical Examiners, and was president of the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians, the state's 1,000-member specialty society for family practice physicians.
"Under the leadership of Dr. Weiss, we have great expectations for the department of family practice and our many initiatives regarding primary care," said James J. Young, PhD, dean of the Medical School. "Dr. Weiss brings unusual talent and experience to the Medical School."
Dr. Weiss is board certified in family practice and geriatrics. His experience includes private practice in Nogales, Ariz.
His area of research emphasis is the relationship of illiteracy to health status and health care costs. He also has conducted and published some of the initial work on prevention of childhood bicycle-related head injuries.
Scientific papers on the nation's 'most cited' list
Researchers worldwide are citing Health Science Center studies at a rate that exceeds most other U.S. institutions.
Health Science Center research papers were cited at a rate that ranked the university's No. 9 among institutions in the country, the Institute for Scientific Information in Philadelphia said in its September issue of ScienceWatch. Johns Hopkins University was No. 8. Stanford University ranked highest.
The rankings reflect institutions that published at least 1,000 papers in the five years ending in 1994. In 1990, the Health Science Center ranked No. 42.
Each Health Science Center paper in a clinical medicine journal was cited an average of 6.4 times by outside researchers, the institute said. The citations totaled more than 12,000.
New projects target the health of South Texans
Drug resistant infections, tuberculosis, hepatitis, diabetes and violence are among the topics of 10 newly-funded health-related projects targeting South Texas.
The projects have been funded by the South Texas Health Research Center (STHRC), a program of the Health Science Center. The projects were selected from 51 proposals to share in a two-year, $536,556 appropriation from the Texas Legislature.
"These projects are in keeping with STHRC's mission to address both long-standing and urgent health needs in South Texas. The grants are awarded primarily to new investigators for projects focusing on key issues that affect our region's predominantly Hispanic population," said Cervando Martinez, MD, interim associate medical dean at the Health Science Center and acting director of the STHRC.
The STHRC was created in 1989 to target a 41-county region of South Texas and to improve that area's health status, conduct research, develop policy, provide professional education and conduct community health promotion.
University names director of alumni relations
Rissa Schultz has been named director of alumni relations an annual fund at the Health Science Center. Schultz joins the Health Science Center after 10 years at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. Among her responsibilities, she was director of the Fiesta Oyster Bake fund-raiser for the past six years.
Schultz also was associate director of alumni relations at St. Mary's. In this capacity, she directed Alumni Association fund-raising and also social programs. Schultz will work with each dean and the Alumni Association Board in expanding activities and fund-raising programs to benefit the university.
"In addition, I look forward to working with Health Science Center alumni themselves, who I'm learning are recognized leaders throughout the country in their fields," Schultz said. "Alumni programs can greatly enhance this institution's missions."
"Rissa brings excellent experience in working with alumni and overseeing successful volunteer programs," said W. Frank Elston, vice president for university relations.
- Franklin Garcia-Godoy, DDS, professor of pediatric dentistry, has received the Hispanic Dental Association's Presidential Award for Leadership in the Hispanic Dental Community. The award was given by the association during its annual meeting in Las Vegas.
- Thomas P. Ball Jr., MD, professor of urology, has been re-elected to the Board of Directors of the American Urological Association (AUA). During his second term, he will serve as the AUA representative for the South Central portion of the United States and all of Mexico and Central America.
- Gary D. Fullerton, PhD, of San Antonio was named a fellow of the American College of Radiology (ACR) at the group's recent annual meeting in Boston. Dr. Fullerton is the Malcolm Jones Professor of Radiology at the Health Science Center, where he has been on the faculty since 1978.
- Patty L. Hawken, PhD, dean of the School of Nursing, has received the Janice Lindberg Distinguished Alumni Service Award from the University of Michigan School of Nursing Alumni Association. Dr. Hawken has been dean since 1976 and holds numerous honors including fellowship in the American Academy of Nursing.