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Academic Update

Volume 3, Issue 8          March 21, 2013

Voting Open for the John P. McGovern Award for Outstanding Teaching

SBMI students have nominated the following SBMI professors  for the 2012-2013 John P. McGovern Award for Outstanding Teaching:

John P. McGovern Nominees Dr. Trevor Cohen Dr. Amy Franklin
Dr. Yang Gong Dr. M. Sriram Iyengar Dr. Hongbin Wang
Top Row (from left) Trevor Cohen,MBChB, PhD; Amy Franklin, PhD
Bottom Row (from left) Yang Gong, MD, PhD; M. Sriram Iyengar, PhD; Hongbin Wang, PhD

Students can now vote for the next McGovern Award winner from SBMI. If you haven’t voted, review your email for a message from Survey Monkey to vote. Please do not forward this message because the link is uniquely tied to the survey. Voting will close on April 1 at midnight. The award will be given to the winning faculty member at SBMI’s commencement ceremony on May 8.

Elmer Bernstam, MD, MSE, Named the New Associate Dean for Research

SBMI Professor and CCTS Director of Informatics Elmer Bernstam, MD, MSE, is the new associate dean for research. Bernstam’s goals to improve research at SBMI include internal and external synergy. One goal is to have school researchers from different focus areas collaborate more often.  For example, one group at SBMI is merging clinical informatics with natural language processing to better understand clinical documents like electronic health records. These distinct areas of expertise can be leveraged across multiple biomedical informatics areas. Secondly, Bernstam would like to increase collaboration with other centers in the Texas Medical Center. One specific center that he mentioned was the MD Anderson Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy.

“The IPCT has multiple challenges that can be addressed by biomedical informatics research,” said Bernstam. “One question they may ask is: What drug therapy should be given to patients based on their molecular profile? This question poses significant informatics challenges including bioinformatics, information retrieval, knowledge representation, user interface design and others. Centers such as these could benefit from a collaborative relationship with the school. SBMI, in turn, will benefit from addressing ‘driving biological problems’ posed by clinical and biological researchers.”

UT Counseling & WorkLife Services

UT Counseling and WorkLife Services would like to remind all faculty, staff and students that its services are available when “life happens.” UT Counseling & WorkLife Services offers counseling, legal and financial consultations as well as work life wellness and training in multiple areas. The services are free and available to all benefits-eligible faculty, staff, students, residents and fellows and their immediate families. All of the services are strictly confidential.

UTHealth WorklifeStudents, if you (or your fellow students) have personal concerns that may impact your success as a student, UT Student Counseling offers you confidential counseling at no additional cost to you. Some common student concerns include relationships (both personal and academic), unmanaged stress, family issues, depression, substance abuse, gambling, anxiety and grief.  UT Counseling can even provide you with access to resources regarding child care/elder care, legal issues and resources for daily living. 

Make an appointment with UT Counseling & WorkLife Services by phone (713-500-3327) or find more information about the services online.

Call for Applications in Gene Environment Interaction

The Houston Laboratory and Population Sciences Training Program in Gene-Environment Interaction is a multidisciplinary training program designed to prepare PhD or MD/PhD students to comprehensively study the combined impact of genetic variation and modifiable environmental factors on human disease. The training program is supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and is open to students attending the following institutions in the Texas Medical Center:  The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health, Medical School, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and School of Biomedical Informatics; and The Baylor College of Medicine Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. The co-directors of the program are Eric Boerwinkle, director of the division of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at The University of Texas School of Public Health; and Hope Northrup, director of the division of medical genetics, department of pediatrics, The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

The program provides up to $26,000 per year stipend, up to $2,700 per year for tuition and $1,000 per year for travel to scientific meetings. Students meeting the selection criteria will be appointed as fellows from Sept. 1, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2015.

The deadline for submitting the pre-application (letter of intent) is March 29, 2013.

Lex Frieden Receives Disability Achievement Award

Lex FriedenSBMI professor Lex Frieden received a 2013 Henry Viscardi Achievement Award, which honors the accomplishments of people with disabilities on a global basis. Best known for his contributions to the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Frieden suffered a spinal cord injury while in college and has used a wheelchair for more than 40 years. In addition to his role at SBMI, he directs the Independent Living Research Utilization program at TIRR Memorial Hermann.

The award was one of nine presented by The Viscardi Center, an internationally-recognized center for training and rehabilitation of people with disabilities. It bears the name of the late Henry Viscardi, Jr., who was one of the world’s leading advocates for people with disabilities.

Laptop Medicine: How to Find Trusted Information Online

Frustrated LadyAccording to SBMI professor Elmer Bernstam, MD, MSE, there is no way to guarantee accuracy of online health information. It doesn’t matter which search engine you use, if a particular website has won an award or if one of your favorite sites is updated frequently. Bernstam stresses that, unfortunately, there really are no good indicators that a website is going to be reliable. However, he recognizes that many people use the Internet for self-health and self-help searches. Bernstam cautions that it’s hard to give general rules to distinguish a good site from a bad site, but his number one piece of advice is to “start with a trusted site and go from there.”

“I suggest starting with Medline Plus. It is published by the National Library of Medicine, a unit of the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and is therefore likely to be accurate,” said Bernstam. “Experts have gone through those articles and have chosen ones that are accurate. By ‘accurate,’ I mean that they reflect the current scientific opinion.”

New Book: The Science of Computing by M. Sriram Iyengar, PhD

The Science of ComputingSBMI Professor M. Sriram Iyengar’s new book, The Science of Computing, is now available online at This book provides a conceptual overview of the scientific concepts and ideas underlying computing. Written for the lay reader, the book begins with the monoliths of Stonehenge, calculators like the abacus and the Pascaline, The Babbage Analytical and Difference Engines, the pioneering tube-based computers, the personal computer and finally cell phones and tablets. Topics covered include algorithms, programming languages, operating systems, processors, computer architecture and many others. The entire third section of the book concerns future directions of many of these topics. Throughout, the emphasis of the exposition is on the science and mathematics on which modern computing technologies are based.

Start Collecting for the TMC E-Waste Drive

The second annual Texas Medical Center e-waste collection is scheduled for Saturday, April 20, 2013 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Monday, April 22, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Saturday collection will be held in the TMC south extension lot at 1522 S. Braeswood Blvd. and William C. Harvin Blvd. (view map). The Monday collection will be held in the parking lot of the John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science at 1515 Herman Drive (view map). Last year, this project of the TMC Sustainability Advisory Council collected over 16 tons of e-waste for recycling. The items collected included retired computer and network equipment, electronic components, batteries and even copier machines.  

Upcoming Events

Save the Date

HIMSS Houston
General Session
and Lunch

Naveen Sarabu; Integration in the Cloud-Enabling Interoperability
throughout the Healthcare Continuum

Friday, March 22 from 11am to 12:30pm
MD Anderson Cancer Center - Mays Clinic
1220 Holcombe Blvd, Houston TX 77030, Room ACB1.12345

Hack Healthcare for
Houston Code-a-thon

Health 2.0 Houston
Saturday, March 23 at 9 am to Sunday, March 24 at 7 pm
PlatformHouston (5504 Morningside Dr., Houston)
Event Information

HIMSS Houston
Networking Event

Bring Your Own Device Management
Wednesday, March 27 from 6 to 8 pm
Los Cucos, Mexican Cafe (5851 Westheimer Rd., Houston)
RSVP to Steve Evans

5th Annual
Technology Conference

Tuesday, April 2, 8 am to 5 pm & Wednesday, April 3, 8 am to 5 pm
The United Way of Greater Houston
50 Waugh Dr., Houton, TX 77077
Event information

4th Annual
Crawfish Boil

Friday, April 12, 5 to 7 pm
Cooley Conference Center Courtyard
1941 East Road, Houston, TX 77054
Event information

SBMI 2012 - 2013

Wednesday, May 8 at 4 pm at the IMM Beth Robertson Auditorium
Speaker: Kevin M. Fickenscher, MD, CPE, FACPE, FAAFP
American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) President & CEO
Event information 

Important Dates

March 22         PhD defense material to committee for review
March 25         Final installment payment due
March 25         Student regalia orders due to OAA
April 5              Titles for state of science & dissertations due to OAA
April 5              PhD's last day to defend
April 19            MS state of the science papers to committee for review
May 3              Completed graduation check out form to OAA
May 3              Final electronic copy of the state of the science or dissertations due to OAA
May 3              Original signed cover sheet(s) for state of the science or dissertations due to OAA
May 6-10         Final Exams
May 7              Graduation dress rehearsal
May 8              Graduation

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