Awards given to seven unique programs that benefit Galveston community

Ten University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston faculty and staff and one medical student have received seven President’s Cabinet Awards, totaling $210,704, for innovative programs that will help advance the university’s patient care, educational and biomedical research missions. 

This year’s proposals and programs include a library in John Sealy Hospital, a program to help people learn to develop healthier diets and a free exercise group for people with Parkinson’s disease.  

The 2010 awards were given to:

Jamie L. Heffernan and Amy Barrera-Kovach
Blocker Burn Unit

“Blocker Burn Unit SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) Program”
To promote a network of resources and opportunities for those who suffer burn injuries, this project will enable burn survivors and family members to attend the World Burn Congress being held at Moody Gardens beginning Oct. 21. The annual international conference is for burn survivors, their families and caregivers, health care professionals, fire service and others involved in the burn recovery process. The SOAR Program also will enable participants to learn how to provide peer support to current burn patients. SOAR training in UTMB’s Blocker Burn Unit will include such topics as working in a hospital setting, the role of peer supporters, communication skills and psychosocial recovery for patients and their families. 

Chandler Rainey
Fourth-year medical student

“Books to Bedside Project”
Hospital libraries can play instrumental roles in patient rehabilitation. This program will establish a permanent, fully-stocked library at John Sealy Hospital that will be accessible to patients, families and staff. Book carts will enable volunteers to provide books of various reading levels and subjects to bedridden patients and to clinical waiting areas. Plans to increase and sustain the library’s inventory include annual book drives and the installation of a permanent book drop outside the library entrance.

Ann L. Charness
Department of Physical Therapy

“Providing Exercise Programs for Persons with Parkinson’s Disease in Galveston County”
Nearly 1 million people are living with Parkinson’s disease in the United States. Treatment primarily consists of medication and surgery, but researchers are now extolling the benefits of exercise in slowing down the progression of the disease. This program will provide free community-based therapeutic exercise groups for Galveston County residents with Parkinson’s. Under the supervision of the UTMB physical therapy department, students and practitioners will conduct weekly classes from November to June. Their goal is to improve walking, functional mobility and balance among class participants to reduce the risk of falls. 

Oma Morey
Office of Educational Development

“The Long Journey Home — Caring for Loved Ones with Dementia/Alzheimer’s and Bringing the Message Home”
With no cure or prevention, Alzheimer’s disease is expected to be diagnosed in more than 14 million Americans by 2050. To increase awareness about the trials and tribulations of caring for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s, this project will weave the personal stories of several caregivers into a theatrical presentation to humanize their feelings of guilt, anger, frustration and anxiety. In addition to eight community presentations, a DVD and teaching guide will be developed for use by other health care and community organizations. 

Clifford W. Houston
Office of Educational Outreach

“Partnering with the Galveston Community to Inspire the Future Biomedical and Health Careers Workforce” UTMB depends on the Galveston community to contribute toward the development of the university’s future workforce. To foster this workforce, a biomedical and health sciences career summer immersion experience will be held on the UTMB campus and will target underrepresented or economically disadvantaged Galveston County high school students. A web-based health careers experience also will be developed and implemented on a broader scope to focus on high school students and teachers nationwide. Both programs are designed to advance appreciation for the biomedical and health sciences to promote career choices that include research, medicine, nursing and all health sciences fields.

Dr. Lyuba Levine, Dr. Victor S. Sierpina and Gerald T. Cleveland

“Cancer Survivorship and Wellness Program”
Advances in medicine have led to a paradigm shift in how a diagnosis of cancer is perceived. While the number of cancer survivors is increasing, most have some degree of impairment in every aspect of life: fatigue, depression and side effects of treatment. This program will become an integrative center for the care of cancer patients from diagnosis through remission and the first year after surviving the disease. After an initial evaluation, a targeted care plan will be designed specifically for each participant to include exercise, diet and mind-body and stress management therapies. 

Rebecca L. Castro and Diana Hearn
Community Health Program

“Shop ’Til You Drop Your Blood Sugar”
People with diabetes face difficult decisions each day. One of their most important decisions involves diet modification, including how to shop for and prepare nutritious foods. The UTMB Community Health Program will select up to 60 people to participate in this project to learn how to identify healthy foods at the grocery store, stay within their budget and prepare those foods in a healthy manner at home. 

The President’s Cabinet was established 17 years ago to provide financial resources that further the mission of UTMB, home of the state’s oldest schools of medicine, nursing and health professions. The cabinet’s more than 300 members include community and business leaders from the Houston-Galveston area, UTMB faculty and staff, and alumni from across the state and nation. Through their gifts to the university, President’s Cabinet awards provide seed money to launch initiatives designed to improve the quality of life in the community and beyond. 

Annual contributions from President’s Cabinet members — $500 for junior members (age 40 and under), at least $1,000 for individuals and $5,000 for corporations, foundations and other organizations — are pooled to make the awards possible. President’s Cabinet members have contributed more than $5 million since 1993. Over the last 16 years, nearly 90 awards have been given to unique community programs. 

For more information about the President’s Cabinet or how to join, contact Marie Marczak, UTMB director of annual giving, at 409-772-5151 or, or visit the organization’s website at