Geriatrician to receive Tow Humanism in Medicine Award

SAN ANTONIO (July 23, 2009) — Michael J. Lichtenstein, M.D., M.Sc., a geriatrician, teacher and scientist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, will receive the 2009 Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award for Faculty during the School of Medicine’s annual White Coat Ceremony on Sunday, July 26. The award, which honors one faculty member and one graduating student, is sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation at nearly 80 of the nation’s medical schools.

The White Coat Ceremony, attended by incoming medical students, family members, and faculty and staff, marks the official beginning of the academic year in the UT Health Science Center School of Medicine. The ceremony features the reading of the Hippocratic Oath by more than 200 incoming medical students who receive the white coat, symbolic of the medical profession. Dr. Lichtenstein, as Tow Award winner, will give the keynote address to the aspiring physicians. Other speakers will include Glenn A. Halff, M.D., interim dean of the School of Medicine, and William L. Henrich, M.D., M.A.C.P., president of the Health Science Center.

A model of compassion, professionalism

Geriatricians are board certified to care for the unique issues of older individuals. Dr. Lichtenstein, chief of the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Medicine, has taught generations of medical students about topics in gerontology, which is the study of aging and challenges of the aged. As the Tow Award acknowledges, he models compassion and empathy in caring for patients, is a professional and ethical role model for students and peers, demonstrates cultural sensitivity in working with patients and families, shows respect for patients’ viewpoints, and models many other qualities.

Dr. Lichtenstein for many years has served as principal investigator on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Science Education Partnership Award to develop Positively Aging®, an interdisciplinary curriculum to teach middle school students about aging, healthy behaviors and science. In making the award, the NIH recognized that teachers needed tools to communicate knowledge of aging and healthy lifestyle choices to students.

Accomplished clinical researcher

Dr. Lichtenstein has published research findings on biomechanical issues of the elderly in scientific journals, and organized a clinical research methods course that developed into the Master of Science in Clinical Investigation degree program at the Health Science Center. The goal of the MSCI program is to develop more clinician-scientists to help solve America’s health problems. This also led to his selection as a key faculty investigator of the Health Science Center’s Clinical and Translational Science Award.

This diversity of projects and interests does not keep Dr. Lichtenstein from seeing patients in the School of Medicine faculty practice, UT Medicine San Antonio, and at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System. Marvin Forland, M.D., M.A.C.P., professor emeritus of medicine and board member of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics in the School of Medicine, said Dr. Lichtenstein’s commitment to patients truly exemplifies humanism in medicine.

“He continues as an active clinical investigator in the study of a variety of areas of critical importance in the care of the elderly, ranging from cognitive function and pain assessment to physical mobility,” Dr. Forland wrote in an award nomination letter. “However, from the time of his joining our faculty, he insisted on allocating his time so that he could remain a primary care provider to his own panel of patients.”

Qualities and education

Edward J. Masoro, Ph.D., the first director of the Health Science Center’s Aging Research and Education Center, known today as the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, wrote of Dr. Lichtenstein: “As a physician, he has it all: skill in scientific research, skill in the teaching and motivation of students, skill as a practicing doctor scientifically and emotionally, a contributor to the long-term health of our community and nation. He is indeed the kind of role model our students need.”

Another supporter, Barshop Institute Director Arlan G. Richardson, Ph.D., said Dr. Lichtenstein embodies the personal attributes that exemplify the spirit of the Tow Award: integrity, excellence, compassion, altruism, respect, empathy and service.

Dr. Lichtenstein is board certified in geriatric medicine and internal medicine. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1974, and his Doctor of Medicine degree cum laude from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in 1978. He completed internship and residency in internal medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. In 1984-85, he was a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit in Cardiff, Wales.

He is a clinical faculty member of the Barshop Institute.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $668 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $16.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $36 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 25,600 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and other health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit

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