Governor Briscoe gives $2 million to cardiovascular research

Governor and Mrs. Briscoe on Inauguration Day, Jan. 16, 1973. Photo courtesy Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The Honorable Dolph Briscoe Jr., governor of Texas from 1973 to 1979, is one of the legendary figures in Texas history. His vast ranch holdings in South Texas make him one of the state’s largest landowners. But Governor Briscoe also has one of the largest hearts in Texas. His biggest fan was his wife, Janey, who died in 2000 of cardiovascular disease.

Mrs. Briscoe lived almost two years after a major heart attack because of the excellent care she received from faculty cardiologists at the Health Science Center. This past December, Gov. Briscoe gave $2 million to the Health Science Center’s Janey Briscoe Center of Excellence in Cardiovascular Research. This gift was in addition to his previous $1 million donation to the Janey Briscoe Center. Governor Briscoe’s generous support is furthering the work that promises to change treatment of women and men with heart failure and other conditions.

“To honor the memory of his wife, Governor Briscoe has done something great for all women,” said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center. “We applaud this wonderful man who has a heart as big as Texas.”

The Janey Briscoe Center is under the direction of renowned cardiology researcher Steven R. Bailey, M.D., professor of medicine at the Health Science Center. “As a direct result of Dr. Steven Bailey’s care for Janey, they gave me another two years with Janey that otherwise I would not have had,” Governor Briscoe was quoted as saying in a Feb. 4 San Antonio Express-News article on the gift. “It was the excellent care and the determination that they had that helped her walk out of there.”

Dr. Bailey and his colleagues are studying therapies that will lead to true biological reversal of the cardiovascular disease process. Research falls into several categories:

• improving understanding of the mechanics of heart attack, heart failure and stroke;
• developing methods to deliver genes to the cardiovascular system to heal blood vessels and organs;
• developing methods to grow new tissues, with the goal of forming new arteries and other heart tissues;
• developing implantable devices and materials that can be reabsorbed by the body once their work is done.

The Health Science Center has the biochemists, cell biologists, geneticists and clinicians whose different perspectives combine to solve these challenges. Health Science Center areas of excellence working with the center include aging, biochemistry, cardiology, cell biology, diabetes, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, vascular biology and vascular surgery. The Janey Briscoe Center dovetails molecular biology studies with the clinical work of the cardiac catheterization laboratories at University Hospital and the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

Governor Briscoe has supported various other Health Science Center initiatives over the years, and the library at the Health Science Center is named the Dolph Briscoe Jr. Library. Mrs. Briscoe was a former member of The University of Texas System Board of Regents.

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