2019 President's Cabinet Awards

Sep 15, 2019, 19:34 PM by Jessica Wyble

image of 2019 president's cabinet award winners

NINETEEN UTMB FACULTY, STAFF AND STUDENTS recently received UTMB President’s Cabinet Awards for eight different projects that promote outreach, education and improved patient care in the community and beyond. 

The President’s Cabinet provides financial resources that advance UTMB’s mission to improve health. The contributions of the cabinet’s 380-plus members, which include university friends, community and business leaders from the Houston-Galveston area, and UTMB faculty members, staff and alumni, have provided more than $6 million in seed grants to more than 150 developing programs during its 26-year history. For information on the President’s Cabinet, visit https://development.utmb.edu/cabinet-intro. 


The Gift of Life: Building & Sustaining Capacity for Eye Care at St. Vincent’s House 

Malkit (Mona) Singh • Lance Lyons • Jed Assam • Misha Syed • Mary Schmitz Brown Ophthalmology and Visual Science 

Building upon the success of a 2011 President’s Cabinet Award that provided hundreds of patients in the greater Galveston area with sight-saving diabetic retinopathy treatment and follow-up exams, this new award will expand vision services to a large economically disadvantaged population that depend upon the St. Vincent’s Eye Clinic for their complete eye care. Award funds will be used to upgrade and purchase new equipment, broaden services, supply patients with quality eyeglass prescriptions, provide testing modalities and treatment avenues for patients with glaucoma and develop charity cataract surgery services. 

Pain, Pain Go Away: Reducing the Perception of Pain in Children with Comfort for Kids 

Stephanie Kemmerling • Dermatology 

The pain associated with medical procedures can cause significant stress and anxiety for children and their families. Studies show that distractions are considered an effective, safe and low-cost method to reduce pain and anxiety during medical procedures. Because UTMB’s outpatient pediatric clinics lack resources to provide distraction techniques for children, President’s Cabinet funds will provide for the creation of 25 specialized portable pediatric care kits that will include age-appropriate toys, an iPad loaded with specialized comfort applications and an external vibratory buzzing device. These kits will be distributed to clinics based on the severity of the medical procedures that take place, including immunizations, venipuncture, cryotherapy, biopsies, etc. 

Lifelong Learning for Angleton Danbury 

Michael Washburn • Michelle Sierpina • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute 

Since 2002, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UTMB in Galveston has successfully provided a welcoming learning environment to adults age 55 and over. Because of its enormous success and the growth of UTMB’s presence in Brazoria County, this project will help establish a similar lifelong learning community for residents in Angleton, Danbury and surrounding areas. President’s Cabinet funds will be used to create a basic classroom infrastructure at an Angleton location and provide free, one-year memberships to the program for underserved community members. College-level courses, age-appropriate fitness activities, consultations and a variety of health-related workshops will be modeled after the successful OLLI program in Galveston. 

Transitional Care Management Program for St. Vincent’s Nurse Managed Clinic 

J. Michael Leger • Maureen Biggs • School of Nursing 

Transitional Care Management (TCM) programs have proven effective in bridging gaps across health care settings, particularly for patients deemed at high risk for poor medical outcomes. With an estimated 3,000 patients seeking medical treatment at the St. Vincent’s House Nurse Managed Clinic annually, more than 17 percent of these patients are considered at-risk and often “fall through the cracks.” To help with this problem, this project will provide for the services of a nurse transition care manager to facilitate a TCM program at St. Vincent’s. The objective is to build a rapport with patients, provide disease-specific education to facilitate self-management, perform medication reconciliation, confirm follow-up appointments, and provide care management to support treatment. 

Cancer Connection: From Diagnosis to Treatment 

Cheron J. Hillmon • Community Health 

In an effort to support patients with cancer at UTMB, Chemo Care bags will be given to patients at the beginning of their chemo or radiation therapy. These bags will contain educational and treatment materials and comfort items such as lip balm, lotion, blankets, journals, socks and ginger candies. Each bag will be specially packed by people who have gone through similar treatments and know what items would be of most value. The goal is to provide first-time patients with much-needed items and allow them to pack other comfort items for subsequent appointments. This President’s Cabinet award will provide funding for 600 bags over a two-year period. 

Building Long-Term Academic Success through Ongoing Fun Fitness (BLASTOFF) Program 

Karen Ratcliff • Claudia Hilton • Occupational Therapy 

Studies have shown that physical activity during school time can increase attention and memory and reduce inappropriate behavior, resulting in improved academic performance. In an effort to assist academically low-performing students at Odyssey Academy in Galveston, the UTMB Occupational Therapy Department will create a sustainable motor lab program called BLASTOFF and work with students in the school’s reading intervention program five days per week for 20 minutes per session. The BLASTOFF lab will be equipped with dance software, a gaming system, gross motor skills equipment, motor coordination and fitness games and more. 

St. Vincent’s PUSH for Prevention: Partnership with UTMB to Screen for HIV 

Premal Patel • John Davis • Manasa Kanukurthy • Naim Mekdessi • Zhihao Zhu Internal Medicine 

Currently, St. Vincent’s Clinic does not have the necessary infrastructure or resources to screen patients for HIV/AIDS according to the guidelines of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Because of these limitations, the decision to order HIV testing is often based on patient requests and clinical intuition. The development of a pilot HIV screening program at St. Vincent’s will improve adherence to USPSTF guidelines, provide links to care for a vulnerable population likely to be at high-risk for transmission and serve as a platform for incorporating comprehensive preventive medical care and establish population health monitoring. 

Inspiring Girls to Help Meet Our Future STEM Workforce Needs 

Marguerite Sognier • Science Education 

There is a critical need for additional qualified workers in careers utilizing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Women continue to remain underrepresented in STEM fields and strategies are needed to inform and inspire more pre-college level girls to this arena. To foster awareness, this project will create an annual STEM Career Conference for girls in grades 5-8 throughout Galveston County. Participants will be exposed to science, math, engineering and technology-related careers by attending hands-on workshops presented by successful women from universities, businesses and government agencies. Examples of conference exploration workshops will include aerospace, accounting, engineering, petrochemical industry, maritime technology, biomedical sciences, health care, zoology and more.