John Sealy School of Medicine Alumni Awards

2024 Ashbel Smith Distinguished Alumni (ASDA) Awardees and Legacy Awardees.

Dr. Harry Sarles, Jr, 2024 ASDA Recipient

Harry E. Sarles, Jr., MD, MACG, AGAF

2024 Ashbel Smith Distinguished Alumni (ASDA) Award Recipient

This is the highest alumni honor bestowed to a medical school graduate by the university's John Sealy School of Medicine Alumni Association. This award, recognizing outstanding service to the medical profession and to humanity, honors the memory of Dr. Ashbel Smith. A prominent figure in Texas medicine, politics and education, Dr. Smith was considered the driving force behind establishing the University of Texas at Austin in 1881, and a medical department that would later be known as the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1891.

About Dr. Sarles

Dr. Harry Sarles, Jr. is a true Galvestonian. He was born at UTMB’s John Sealy Hospital in 1954 and graduated from
Galveston’s Ball High School in 1972. He went on to attend the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with high
honors in 1975. He returned to Galveston and completed his medical degree at the University of Texas Medical Branch as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society in 1979.

After finishing his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at UTMB, he moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to pursue
a gastroenterology fellowship. Following his fellowship, he returned to Texas with his new bride, Kathy Sarles, and
settled in Harlingen, Texas, where he established his first independent practice with Valley Diagnostic Clinic.

During his time in Harlingen, his daughter Jillian was born, and she eventually became a UTMB alumna, graduating
from their Physician Assistant Studies Program, in 2012, and joining his GI practice. In 1991, Dr. Sarles was recruited to join the Baylor Liver Transplant Team in Dallas, Texas. In 1995, he became a founding partner of Digestive Health Associates of Texas (DHAT), which later merged into GI Alliance, the largest GI group in the country boasting over 900 gastroenterologists and 1,500 providers.

Dr. Sarles and his partners in DHAT built multiple healthcare-related companies, including five ASCs (Ambulatory Surgery
Centers), an infusion company, a pathology company, and an anesthesia company. In 2015, he founded the Digestive
Health Research Institute where he served as the Principal Investigator on hundreds of clinical trials.

Dr. Sarles has been actively involved at various levels in professional societies, serving as the president of the Texas Society of Gastroenterology and Endoscopy and the American College of Gastroenterology, a 20,000 member  organization, in 2014.

He advocated at both the state and US Congress levels for the regulation of colon cancer screening benefi ts, pushing for coverage by insurance companies and CMS.

His dedication to clinical research is highlighted by his role as the president of the Academy of Physicians involved in Clinical Research. Dr. Sarles has contributed significantly to the scientific community through the publication of
articles, presentations at national scientific meetings, and lectures on various GI topics.

Dr. Sarles has demonstrated a commitment to education by establishing the UTMB Sarles Family Scholarship in Internal Medicine and currently hosts UTMB students in his clinical practice for their GI rotations.

Outside of his professional life, Dr. Sarles enjoys spending time at this ranch in Gainesville, Texas, engaging in activities such as tractor time, golf, and fishing. In recent years, he has embraced the role of grandfather, fondly known as
“Papa Bear” to two grandchildren.

Dr. Sarles’ journey is marked by a combination of medical excellence, leadership, advocacy, education, and a rich personal life.

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