Impact's November profile highlights Dr. Elizabeth Protas, Vice President and Dean of the School of Health Professions. Protas came to UTMB in 2002 to chair the school’s Department of Physical Therapy and was appointed dean in 2008. She earned her Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her research interests include geriatrics, rehabilitation of adults with stroke, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injury. She has received numerous honors and awards during her career, most recently the 2010 Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Society of Allied Health Professions. 

What does the Road Ahead look like for you?

This is a very exciting time for the School of Health Professions. Our faculty and staff are planning to double the enrollment in the school over the next 10 years in order to address the serious shortage of health professionals in Texas. These shortages are estimated to be between 39 and 79 percent, depending on the discipline. Our initial year to expand, 2010-2011, was a success because we increased our enrollment by 11 percent. 

We are also offering, or planning to implement, innovative new programs to attract the best and brightest students. We began offering our first professional Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) in 2008 and are planning additional professional doctoral degrees in occupational therapy and clinical laboratory sciences. We collaborated with Memorial-Hermann TIRR and Texas Woman’s University to offer a clinical specialty residency in neurologic physical therapy, and we are studying the feasibility of offering a clinical specialty residency in surgery for physician assistants. 

Our distance education programs are reaching out to our colleagues across the state. The Clinical Laboratory Sciences and Respiratory Care Programs are offering distance career ladder programs, and the new Masters in Physical Therapy to DPT transition program, first offered this fall, has gone viral with an enrollment of over 75 expected for the spring. We are planning new distance master’s programs in clinical lab sciences and health professions. Finally, we plan to offer a new master’s program in nutrition.

Our research activities, which are already stellar, allowed the school to be ranked sixth in funding from the National Institutes of Health compared to other schools of health professions in 2008 (the last year ranked). We anticipate steady growth of 6 percent annually in our research funding in the coming years. This reflects the excellence of our faculty and their research. 
 
Supporting our research mission are strong pre-doctoral, post-doctoral and junior faculty research training programs in our Division of Rehabilitation Sciences, as well as excellent collaborations with the Sealy Center on Aging and the Institute for Translational Sciences. As our faculty and programs begin to grow, we will need to plan for expanding our research infrastructure and space to accommodate this growth. 
 
We are also actively working on developing faculty practice opportunities through our Faculty Practice Plan. Through practice our faculty can use their expertise to benefit those most needing their care. Our goal is to assure that our clinical faculty are able to practice on an ongoing basis. Our road ahead includes excellence in our academic programs, our research enterprise and our faculty practice.
 
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?  The most rewarding?
 
The most challenging aspect of my job is making sure that we achieve our stated goals. We have a great deal of important activity in the school throughout the year, and we want to make sure that nothing “falls through the cracks.” Our progress is dependent on us successfully working together.  
 
The most rewarding aspect of my job is the opportunity to work with so many wonderful faculty, staff and students. Not a day goes by that does not bring an occasion to celebrate the success of our people. Our people are simply the best. 
 
What is the one thing most people don’t know about you?
 
I am an avid fan of A Prairie Home Companion on National Public Radio. My husband, Gene, says that everything stops in our house from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday so that I can listen to the show. He surprised me with tickets for my birthday when Garrison Keillor was in Houston last December.
 
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?
 
Gene and I have not been to Greece and Turkey yet. These countries are definitely on our list. 
 
What is your favorite book?
 
I think I have a tie between Orhan Pamuk’s "Snow" and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s "Love in the Time of Cholera."
 
What have you always wanted to do but have not done yet?
 
Bonefishing in the archipelago Los Roques National Park off the coast of Venezuela. 
 
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
 
My mother always encouraged me to do my best in whatever I did.
 
What three words would people most likely use to describe you?
 
Positive, supportive, enthusiastic.