Table of Contents
New Construction Features Collaborative Efforts
A groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 30 marked the start of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston’s $161.5-million Research Park Complex and brought together a host of dignitaries, elected representatives, faculty, staff and UT Health Science Center Development Board members.
Those in attendance also applauded the announcement of a significant gift toward the Dental Branch Replacement Building, which will be a part of the new facility.
Designed with collaboration in mind, the nearly 400,000-square-foot complex will be home to three independent programs – the new Dental Branch, the Neuroscience Building and the Biomedical Research and Education Facility (BREF). Located at the corner of Cambridge Street and East Road, the 100-acre area is being jointly developed by the health science center and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
“This is the fulfillment and reward for all the dedicated hard work that members of the Development Board give to this institution,” Gene Vaughan, vice chair-man of the Development Board, said of the ground-breaking event. “People believe in the UT Health Science Center, but there is also that human quality that you like to be a part of something that is rising rapidly, doing the outstanding, world-class work in medicine and science that UT Houston does, led by the incredible Jim Willerson.”
Unfailing Support of the Community
James T. Willerson, M.D., president of the UT Health Science Center at Houston, thanked members of the Development Board, legislators, and the UT System Board of Regents.
“None of this would be possible if it were not for the unfailing support of the Houston community,” Willerson said during the groundbreaking event.
“This is a very exciting time to be at the UT Health Science Center and to have the opportunity to work in world-class facilities devoted to new discovery and disease prevention,” Willerson said. “We are very grateful to the UT System, the UT Regents, the Texas Legislature, the Governor and the generous people of Houston for making these new buildings possible.”
At the groundbreaking ceremony, UT Dental Branch Dean Catherine M. Flaitz, D.D.S., announced that the building fund just received a $1 million gift – the largest philanthropic contribution in the Dental Branch’s 102-year history – from orthodontist Richard G. “Wick” Alexander, D.D.S., M.S.D., of Arlington, also a 1962 Dental Branch graduate.
“Dr. Alexander’s gift may motivate others to join us as we work shoulder-to-shoulder to complete our new facility and our new vision for the future – a vision that includes more scholarships for students, endowments for the most respected faculty, and research funds for scientists dedicated to oral health discoveries in an energizing, mutually respectful and modern environment,” Flaitz said. (See related story, page one.)
Open to Health
Stephen F. Schwartz, D.D.S., Houston endodontist and chair of the Open to Health fundraising initiative, said he was impressed by the public show of support for the new Dental Branch.
“It was very uplifting to see how many local, state and national leaders recognize and understand the important work that will be enhanced by the addition of these most important institutions represented at this groundbreaking, as they collectively work toward the diagnosis, prevention and cure of health issues in this country,” Schwartz said.
Distinguished guests who participated in the groundbreaking included: Lt. Governor David Dewhurst; John W. Barnhill Jr., a member of The University of Texas System Board of Regents and chairman of its Facilities Planning and Construction Committee; and UT System Chancellor Mark G. Yudof.
Next to the Research Park Complex, construction is beginning on the 315,000-square-foot Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Research (CABIR), another collaboration between M. D. Anderson and the health science center, in cooperation with GE Healthcare and the Texas Enterprise Fund. CABIR will include multi-technology translational imaging, synthetic and analytical chemistry laboratories, and production of clinical-grade imaging agents.
Bringing People Together
John Byrne, Ph.D., neurobiology chairman at UT Medical School, said he appreciates the foresight of situating the new complex and CABIR in close proximity.
“The future of biomedical research is to bring people together from different perspectives,” said Byrne, who holds the June and Virgil Waggoner Chair. “Also, being adjacent to the CABIR facility will foster the kind of collaborative research that, in turn, fosters translational research that, in turn, brings the cures we’re striving for.
“Neuroscience is the last frontier of human discovery, and we’re already a leader in this area of research and treatment,” Byrne added. “This will be an attractive place for neuroscientists to come, because of the collaborative research that will take place here.”
Jerry S. Wolinsky, M.D., who served as interim dean of the Medical School during the end-stage planning for the Research Park Complex, agrees that collaborative efforts will advance research, and says the emphasis of the health science center must now be on recruiting top-performing scientists to work in conjunction with others.
“The easiest thing to do to fulfill these visions of collaboration is to create what I call the hardware, which are the buildings,” said Wolinsky, who holds the Bartels Family and the Opal C. Rankin Professorships in Neurology. “The most difficult thing to do is to create the software, which are the right faculty, scientists and physician investigators, and to cultivate and strengthen the collaboration among those individuals as they come on board.
“We’ve got a great base to start from, but this is really the heavy lifting. This is the part that’s done by the unsung heroes,” Wolinsky added. “It’s the stuff that really lies behind the symbolic groundbreaking. If we don’t concentrate on the software, we’ll fall short of a goal.”
Accelerate New Technologies
Peter Davies, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for research for the health science center, said the synergy created by the CABIR facility and the Research Park Complex will enable scientists and engineers to work together and accelerate the development of new technologies.
“Our goal is to bring together some of our most talented scientists and biomedical engineers in an environment that will foster their collaboration with colleagues at M. D. Anderson, GE Healthcare and other institutions throughout the Texas Medical Center,” Davies said.
The UT System Board of Regents approved the scope, funding adjustments and basic design development for the Research Park Complex at the Aug. 22-23 meeting in Austin.
Later phases of construction at the site likely will include a campus parking garage with capacity for 400 vehicles.
Research Park Complex to be new home of dental, neuroscience and biomedical facilities
Previous story Next story