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2021 President’s Cabinet Awards recipients announced

Eight original projects at the University of Texas Medical Branch have earned President’s Cabinet awards totaling $211,256. The projects include support for a comprehensive care clinic at St. Vincent’s House to provide post-discharge support to heart failure patients, the creation of private spaces to promote mindfulness and relaxation among healthcare staff during stressful work situations and the purchase of specialized freezers for storing vaccines to increase Varicella vaccination rates among postpartum mothers.

The President’s Cabinet was formed in 1993 to increase discretionary funding for emerging priorities and provide an avenue for UTMB and the community to work together in support of promising initiatives. The more than 300 members, which include faculty, staff, community members, alumni and others, have provided over $6 million in seed grants to 170 developing community programs. The 2021 award recipients are:

“The CHFC3 Project: Development of a Comprehensive Care Clinic for Heart Failure”

Striving to better educate uninsured patients about heart failure, its complications and how best to manage the condition, this project will support the infrastructure of a comprehensive care clinic at St. Vincent’s House in Galveston. Post-discharge heart failure patients will be provided bi-weekly interprofessional services such as respiratory and occupational therapy by supervised UTMB students who will also monitor vitals, discuss diet and engage in supervised exercise. Awarded to John W. Davis, MD/PhD student, and Loree Pryor, Department of Occupational Therapy assistant professor of instruction.

“UTMB Care Closet Expansion”
Building on the success of a 2018 President’s Cabinet Award, which created a Care Closet at UTMB Galveston, this project seeks to establish similar Care Closets at UTMB’s Angleton-Danbury, League City and Clear Lake campuses. Patients and families experiencing unexpected and long hospital stays will have access to clean clothing, personal hygiene products and food. Awarded to Savannah Parks, Nursing Program Development patient resource specialist, and Rebecca Castro, Community Health Network social work manager.

“HOME SAFE: Family CARE (Communication, Accessibility, Relationships, Education)”

With a goal of improving the safe discharge of babies cared for in the Neonatal ICU at UTMB, this project supports the creation of bilingual educational materials, classes and support groups to promote parental involvement and bonding. Parents will also be taught how to be active, confident participants in their baby’s care throughout their hospital stay. Awarded to the Department of Pediatric Neonatology’s resident Dr. Maria Franco Fuenmayor, assistant professor Dr. Monica Huff, professor Dr. Karen Shattuck and nurse practitioner Keleigh Warnke; Jordan Burdine, Department of Pharmacy clinic practice specialist; Neonatal ICU’s care manager Tammy Bush and clinical educator Courtney DelBosque; Teri Tullous, Occupational Therapy rehabilitation services team lead; and Crystal Williams, Community Health Network social worker.

“Code Zen: A Stress Reduction Intervention for Healthcare Professionals”

Code Zen is a designated private space within the hospital for staff to retreat to when experiencing challenging, emotional or stressful work-related situations. In response to staff burnout – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – this President’s Cabinet award will allow the creation of three additional spaces on the Galveston Campus that will be outfitted with calming tools and resources such as essential oils, plants and chimes to help staff practice mindfulness and in turn create a care environment that better supports patients. Awarded to Charlene Nieten, nurse at UTMB, Nursing Program Development’s program coordinator Aisen Chacin and program manager Jacqueline Meyer.

“Saving Sight:  The Expansion of Eye Care at St. Vincent’s House”

A 2019 President’s Cabinet Award revitalized ophthalmology services at St. Vincent’s House and as a result patient volume has substantially increased in the past year. To help manage growth and create a fully equipped glaucoma diagnostic service center, this award will allow for the purchase of additional diagnostic and screening tools, providing high-quality ophthalmic services to Galveston’s underserved community. Awarded to Dr. Jed Assam, and Department of Ophthalmology’s chief resident Dr. Karima Khimani and professor Dr. Misha Syed.

“Increasing Varicella Vaccination Rates for Postpartum Mothers”

This project aims to improve the administration rates of Varicella vaccine for mothers before discharge by allowing for the purchase of two special freezers to be installed in postpartum units at UTMB. Currently, a lack of adequate vaccine stock is a contributing factor to low Varicella vaccination rates and these freezers will provide readily available inventory that can be administered prior to patient discharge. Awarded to Latha Joy, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology maternal and child specialist, and Aurdria Berringer, nurse manager.

“St. Vincent’s HOPE Garden”

Noting an increase in the volume of food distributed by the St. Vincent’s House food pantry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, UTMB graduate students plan to restore and supplement the HOPE Garden to provide a source of fresh fruit and vegetables. This project will reinforce and expand the ability of St. Vincent’s House to provide food and comprehensive nutrition education for Galveston’s vulnerable population. Awarded to the Department of Nutrition and Metabolism’s assistant professors Blair H. Brown and Chris Messenger, and associate professor Crystal C. Douglas.

“St. Vincent’s Care Transition Clinic”

UTMB Care Management and St. Vincent’s House will partner to establish a Care Transition Clinic to serve uninsured patients upon discharge from the hospital. This clinic will see patients within one week after discharge to triage and help obtain follow-up care. Additionally, a Hospital to Home team will be created to connect with patients prior to discharge to review care plans and identify barriers to adherence of care plans. Awarded to Dr. Miles Farr, Department of Internal Medicine assistant professor, and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences’ students Jacob Moran and Abhijit Rao.

For more information about the President’s Cabinet, visit https://development.utmb.edu/cabinet-intro.