Health Science Center receives 17 percent boost in federal funding in 2007

SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 19, 2007) — In an era of declining federal funding, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has some impressive news — its federal funding increased 17 percent in fiscal year 2007 over the previous fiscal year.

This increase includes a 9 percent hike in funding from the National Institutes of Health and a 13 percent increase from other federal funding sources.

“We are pleased that our federal research funding sources, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), recognize the talents and strengths of the researchers we have at the UT Health Science Center,” President Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., said. “The Health Science Center is well known as a leader in cancer, aging, cardiovascular disease and diabetes research, as well as in many other areas. Scientists and researchers must have an established track record in order to receive large funding awards. We are continuing to attract and develop talented investigators at our six campuses in South Texas.”

Brian Herman, Ph.D., vice president for research at the Health Science Center, added, “A vibrant research program is essential to making real improvements in health care, whether it is finding ways to prevent obesity or discovering a cure for cancer. It takes the work of brilliant minds with funding that they can count on to continue their work. That is the only way to make real progress in improving the human condition.”

This increase can be attributed to several factors, including new initiatives by long-standing researchers and funding that was transferred to the Health Science Center by newly recruited investigators.

National Children’s Study is largest new initiative
One of the most significant initiatives in the history of the Health Science Center was its inclusion in the National Children’s Study, the largest evaluation of child and human health ever to be conducted. This large NIH study eventually will bring more than $33 million to the Health Science Center. $1 million was awarded in fiscal year 2007.

Principal investigator of the National Children’s Study is Daniel E. Hale, M.D., professor of pediatrics, who specializes in treating diabetes and obesity in children. Co-principal investigator is Donald J. Dudley, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the university’s National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health.

Recently recruited faculty
Another source of large federal awards during fiscal year 2007 was the research some newly recruited faculty members brought with them to the Health Science Center. Following are a few of these new faculty members and their awards:

• Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., is a nationally recognized leader in the research of cancer and chronic disease disparities affecting Hispanics and Latinos as well as other populations. Dr. Ramirez is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, holder of the Dielmann Chair in Health Disparities Research and Community Research, and director of outreach and health care disparities at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center at the UT Health Science Center. She also is founding director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research in the School of Medicine and a member of the San Antonio Cancer Institute executive committee.

Dr. Ramirez recently was inducted into the Institute of Medicine, one of the prestigious national academies that provide independent advice to the nation on science, engineering and medicine.

Upon joining the Health Science Center in November 2006, Dr. Ramirez brought with her more than $1.8 million in federal funding to continue her work in reducing cancer, chronic disease and childhood obesity among Hispanics and Latinos while promoting healthy behavior.

• Rong Li, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at the Institute of Biotechnology. This scientist who specializes in breast and ovarian cancer research brought nearly $1.5 million in federal funding with him when he joined the Health Science Center in December. Dr. Li is studying how obesity affects the development of breast cancer among postmenopausal women. He also is investigating a breast and ovarian cancer tumor suppressor gene and its effects on familial breast and ovarian cancer. Another of Dr. Li’s studies focuses on an estrogen receptor and its role in the development of normal mammary glands and breast cancer.

• Tyler Curiel, M.D., M.P.H., professor, assistant dean of oncology, holder of the Dielmann Chair and the Robert Tucker Hayes Distinguished Chair in Oncology and director of the San Antonio Cancer Institute. When he was recruited to the Health Science in August 2006 as chair of the San Antonio Cancer Institute, Dr. Curiel brought $1.2 million of federal funding for his own individual research projects.

Dr. Curiel’s cancer research questions the traditional thinking of how cancers form and develop. Researchers previously thought that cancer depleted the body’s immune system and sought ways to replenish immune-response cells to shrink the tumors. However, Dr. Curiel’s widely cited clinical trials reveal that cancer reprograms immune and other cells to turn them against the body.

• Douglas E. Williamson, associate professor of research in the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Dr. Williamson also is the Dielmann Professor of Genetic & Environmental Risk, as well as the director of the Genetic Epidemiology Program.

Dr. Williamson brought more than $1.2 million in NIH funding to the Health Science Center in fiscal year 2007. His research focuses on the role genes, environment and neural systems play in the development of depression and alcohol use disorders in adolescents.

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 $576 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 22,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied 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, allied health, dentistry and many other fields.

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