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Grotta, Tyson Named FY2010 President’s Scholars
In May, the university will present its highest academic honors to two outstanding faculty members at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth): James C. Grotta, MD, for research and Jon E. Tyson, MD, MPH, for teaching.
Grotta’s nominators called him “one of the most successful pioneers in the field of stroke research” whose work has placed UTHealth at the forefront of stroke research at both a national and international level. Tyson’s nomination letter described how “his vision led to the creation of an infrastructure of innovative education in clinical research that has had far-reaching effects locally and nationally.”
After an extensive review process, the honorees were selected from a prestigious field of nominees by a team of former President’s Scholar recipients and representatives from the schools selected by each dean. Julius Glickman, vice chair of the UTHealth Development Board, served as an ex-officio member of the selection committee.
The awards will be presented by Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD, president ad interim of UTHealth and dean of the UTHealth Medical School.
President’s Scholar Award for Research
Grotta is professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology and the Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Distinguished Chair at UTHealth Medical School, where he is also director of the Vascular Neurology Program. He joined the medical school faculty in 1979.
Grotta has “devoted his entire career to creating an internationally known clinical laboratory research and clinical program in cerebrovascular disease,” noted Colasurdo and John H. Byrne, PhD, chairman of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and assistant dean for research at the medical school, in their letter of nomination.
From the early days in the late ‘70s when Grotta published his seminal articles on calcium’s role in focal ischemic stroke and global cerebral ischemia to his groundbreaking research into the effectiveness of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), Grotta has positioned UTHealth as a pioneer institution in the field of stroke research and treatment.
In order to participate in the landmark 1995 clinical trial involving the use of tPA within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms, Grotta singlehandedly organized the paramedics of the Houston Fire Department and the other Houston stroke centers to form a consortium that rapidly assessed, triaged and randomized patients within the ideal three-hour treatment window. “No such trial in stroke had ever been conducted in the world,” Byrne and Colasurdo wrote, and this success sent a “signal to the NIH that UTHealth was one of only a handful of centers” in the country capable of conducting hyperacute stroke trials.
Through his work with imaging, Grotta and his fellows discovered that continuous Transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound monitoring with tPA led to better outcomes than tPA alone. This serendipitous discovery led to a phase IIb study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
As tPA has remained the only proven therapy for acute stroke, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS) created a program grant (SPOTRIAS) in the early 2000s that funds centers to test new therapeutic approaches. UTHealth was selected to be one of the four original centers in the US to receive SPOTRIAS funding. All of the original projects in the program grant were based upon research from the UTHealth stroke program under Grotta’s direction.
UTHealth became “a beacon for highly talented neurologists to train and complete a stroke fellowship” with Grotta, his nominators wrote. His success as a mentor garnered him a T32 training award from the NIH over the past 15 years to develop academic leaders in stroke.
Grotta has published extensively in both clinical and basic research, and has almost 300 peer-reviewed publications. He also has written 70 book chapters and edited seven books.
President’s Scholar for Teaching
Tyson is the Michelle Bain Distinguished Professor of Public Health, director for Clinical Research and Evidence-Based Medicine, assistant dean for Clinical Research, and professor of pediatrics, obstetrics and internal medicine at UTHealth Medical School. He also is professor of management, policy and community health at UT School of Public Health.
Tyson joined the UTHealth faculty in 1998. In their letter of nomination, Colasurdo and Patricia M. Butler, MD, senior associate dean for educational programs at UTHealth Medical School, noted that as an educator, “Dr. Tyson is enthusiastic and effective; he has the ability to convey difficult concepts to students, to challenge them in their thinking, and at the same time encourage their learning.” He conveys a passion for clinical research that inspires his students at all levels.
In 1999, Tyson established the two-year Clinical Research Curriculum designed to educate fellows and faculty in biostatistics, epidemiology and evidence-based medicine. The course work in the program was critical to the success of UTHealth receiving one of the first Clinical and Translational Science Awards. He also was instrumental in the creation of the master’s degree program in clinical research, which was initiated in 2001.
Tyson is well recognized and appreciated as an outstanding mentor to fellows and faculty. Ten of his mentees have received MS or MPH degrees, 31 have received career development awards, and 10 have become primary investigators on federal grants.
Tyson is the recipient of several awards for education and mentorship, including the 2004 Distinguished Educator Award from the Association of Clinical Research Training; the 2009 Pediatric Education Award from the Southern Society for Pediatric Research; and the 2009 Maureen Andrew Mentor Award from the Society for Pediatric Research.
About the President’s Scholar Awards
The President’s Scholar Awards in Research and Teaching are given annually to recognize and publicize outstanding research and teaching by two UTHealth faculty members. The first President's Scholar Awards were given in 1993. Each award carries with it the honorary title of President's Scholar and includes a $5,000 cash prize.
Greg Rutzen, JD, Office of Advancement