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Executive Updates

June 2019: Executive Update

HSC Community,

Summer is upon us. A time to celebrate all that we’ve accomplished and look forward to what is to come. In May, we held graduation ceremonies across the state, where Texas A&M celebrated 500,000 degrees granted and our graduates joined a vast network of former students who carry on the Aggie Spirit in all that they do. Thanks for all each of you do every day to teach, mentor and nurture these young health professionals.

I would also like to share a few additional recent accomplishments and announcements from across the Health Science Center.

The 86th Legislative Session

The 86th legislative session adjourned from its regular session on Monday, May 27th after meeting for the previous 140 days in Austin. During this time, the legislature passed legislation affecting higher education and health care policy, and also passed a state budget for the next two fiscal years, including appropriations for the Health Science Center.

The Health Science Center received an increase in general revenue, our primary state support funding, of $2.9 million for the next two years, for which we are extremely grateful. This additional funding is due to increased formula funding provided by the state which is generated based on student counts in instructional programs. The legislature continued funding our non-formula items that provide valuable support for the instruction of our students, and our College of Medicine was granted authority to exceed Texas residency limitations to recruit the best and brightest students from the military and for those applying to our innovative EnMed program. I would like to thank the Health Science Center government relations team of Emily Cormier, Taylor Sexton, and Stanton Calvert for their exceptional service.

The legislature also created and funded the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, which is composed of representatives from the Health Science Center, our peer health-related institutions in the state, and representatives from other specified entities. The Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium is tasked with the implementation of mental health initiatives serving children and youth with behavioral health needs through the creation of child psychiatry access centers and the establishment of telemedicine/telehealth programs serving school districts in various regions of the state. We look forward to providing our expertise in this vital initiative to enhance mental health in the state of Texas.

Construction updates

  • Medical Research and Education Building II  (MREB II) — Bryan: MREB II reached substantial completion on May 10, 2019. Constructed to consolidate Texas A&M College of Medicine research, provide better collaborations and research efficiencies across the health sciences and submerse students more comprehensively in the intricacies of health science research, the MREB II and associated new spaces total 155,077 square feet. The square footage includes four stories in MREB II and two stories in the Medical Research and Education Building I (MREB I) Annex. With the new construction, Texas A&M Health Science Center has more than doubled the research space on the Bryan campus from 146,120 to 301,197 square feet. A grand opening event will be held June 25 at 1:30 p.m. Please join us as we thank our legislators for their support of the building and as we thank all those involved in the construction. RSVP here if you plan to attend.
  • Reynolds Building — College Station: With the opening of MREB II, we are currently updating several classrooms in the Reynolds building, with plans to update additional classrooms and offices in support of multiple disciplines across the Health Science Center, and  continue to strive to provide a productive home for all of our academic endeavors. The College of Pharmacy currently has several teaching spaces, BSL1 research laboratories, clean rooms/sterile products lab and student study space, as well as renovations around classroom audio visual upgrades underway.
  • College of Dentistry Clinical Building — Dallas: The College of Dentistry’s new clinical building continues on-track and we look forward to its substantial completion in December 2019. The 157,756 square-foot, nine story building will serve as a patient-centered clinical facility for Texas A&M dentistry students, featuring nearly 300 dental chair stations with the most advanced technology, specialized clinics, clinical support areas, classrooms and study spaces. 

Greg Hartman, Chief Strategic Officer of the Health Science Center

Greg Hartman, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives for The Texas A&M University System, will also serve as the new Chief Strategic Officer of the Health Science Center. His roles help support more collaboration among the Health Science Center colleges and the institutions and agencies within the System. As a former health care executive, Greg will be meeting and working with each component to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for the Health Science Center.

EpiAssist provides more than 4000 hours in service to the state

EpiAssist, a service learning program from the School of Public Health that partners student volunteers with health departments and public health agencies needing assistance, recently added to their 4,000+ volunteer hours in service to Texas. In Aransas County, students were paired with Department of State Health Service Region 11 members to conduct door-to-door surveys assessing the resource needs and documenting the residents' post-Harvey disaster experience. While the students gain valuable practical skills and begin to build their professional network, EpiAssist partners get needed manpower. The lessons the students’ learned go beyond just the practical skills and include the opportunity to engage with communities to educate residents on important public health issues.

X-Grants selects projects for funding

Eight interdisciplinary research projects will share $7 million in funding from Round 2 of Texas A&M University's X-Grants program, an initiative of the 10-year, $100 million President's Excellence Fund. The eight projects include 72 faculty members and other researchers from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute  and several colleges including: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Architecture, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Science, Veterinary Medicine and from the Health Science Center the College of Medicine and  the School of Public Health.

Congratulations to all of the Health Science Center investigators on the funded projects including:

  • 3D bioprinted pancreas to treat type-I diabetes includes Robert C. Alaniz, PhD, director of the College of Medicine Cell Analysis Facility, director of the Core for Integrated Microbiota Research, and research assistant professor, College of Medicine; Kayla Bayless, PhD, associate professor, College of Medicine; and Travis W. Hein, PhD, professor, College of Medicine. 
  • Biology hidden in RNA structures and modifications includes Jun-Yuan Ji, PhD, associate professor, College of Medicine, and Kristin Patrick, PhD, assistant professor, College of Medicine. 
  • Digital twin city for age-friendly communities: Crowd-biosensing of environmental distress for older adults includes Preeti Zanwar, PhD, MPH, MS, instructional assistant professor, School of Public Health. 
  • Engineering brain health: Developing an adaptive closed-loop optogenetic stimulator (CLOPS) to treat neurological and psychiatric disease has William Griffith, PhD, Regents Professor and head of the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, College of Medicine, as co-leader. Karienn Souza Montgomery, PhD, research assistant professor, and Jun Wang, PhD, assistant professor, both at the College of Medicine, are also on the team. 
  • Mitigating mental health stigma in higher education through complementary facilitated dialogues, remote monitoring and telehealth counseling has Bita A. Kash, PhD, MBA, FACHE, director, NSF Center for Health Organization Transformation (CHOT), professor, School of Public Health, joint associate professor, College of Medicine; Israel Liberzon, MD, professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine; Carly McCord, PhD, director of Telebehavioral Health, clinical assistant professor, College of Medicine; and Cason Schmit, JD, research assistant professor, School of Public Health.

Upcoming events to be aware of

  • June 24: The Health Science Center budget will be presented to the Board of Regents at the Programmatic Budget Review.
  • June 25: Grand opening of the Medical Research and Education Building II on the Bryan campus.
  • August 29: Football season officially kicks-off with the first home game scheduled against Texas State. Watch for more information regarding tailgates coming soon.

Thank you all for your dedication to delivering transformational educational, research and service experiences. We continue to make progress toward delivering on our promise to the state to improve the health of everyone. There are so many of you doing remarkable things every day. For real-time updates, please follow me on Twitter @carrie_byington and visit the Vital Record news site.

With gratitude,

Carrie L. Byington ’85, MD