The Ashbel Smith Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest honor bestowed by the alumni of the UTMB School of Medicine. The award recognizes outstanding service to the medical profession and to humankind. This year’s outstanding representatives of the University and the medical profession are as follows.
Dr. Clarence M. Agress, Class of 1937, went on to establish the Cedars-Sinai Department of Cardiology in Los Angeles as well as the first Coronary Care Unit on the West Coast — the third in the world. He co-authored an article on the first chemical test for heart attacks — the Transaminase Test — with Dr. John LaDue. For his work with the Apollo program, Agress received a citation from Vice President Hubert Humphrey for developing the vibrocardiogram worn by Neil Armstrong when he walked on the moon.
During World War II, Agress was a major in the U.S. Army and served in the jungles of Burma, caring for American and Chinese troops. After the war he accepted a residency with cardiologist, researcher and teacher Dr. Myron Prinzmetal. Prinzmetal introduced Agress to his first patient, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. Throughout his career, Agress treated Hollywood VIPs including Lana Turner, Walter Matthau, Milton Berle, Cornel Wilde, Ann Baxter and Red Skelton.
He has retired and he and his wife, Joan, live in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The late Dr. Lonnie Burnett, class of 1953, became an expert in obstetrics and gynecology and helped build Vanderbilt University’s OB-GYN department.
A flight surgeon during the Korean War, Burnett flew with an air medical transport team and later helped U2 pilots to survive high altitudes.
He began his OB-GYN training at John Hopkins University in 1957 and later pioneered sex-change operations and in vitro fertilization.
In 1976, he and his wife, Betty, moved to Nashville, followed shortly by the late Dr. and Mrs. Conrad Julian, to help build the OB-GYN department at Vanderbilt University. Within two years, the Julians had both passed away, leaving two teenagers who became the Burnett's children.
In 1993, The Vanderbilt OB-GYN Alumni Association became known as the Lonnie S. Burnett Society. He passed away in April 2012.
Dr. J. Patrick Walker, class of 1981, returned to his hometown of Crockett, Texas after graduating from UTMB and became a prominent member of the community. He helped to train the next generation of physicians, served on several local civic and professional boards and established a clinic for the indigent.
While a chief resident in surgery, he received a grant from the Texas Department of State Health Services for Primary Health Care Programs in Crockett and Houston County for $350,000. The grant was renewed for 20 years, totaling nearly $5 million in indigent health care that was delivered to Houston County.
He has been on UTMB’s Development Board for 12 years and is vice-chairman of the Academics Committee.
Walker continues to practice surgery in Crockett and enjoys spending his weekends on his ranch in Houston County with his wife, Marilyn Bridges Walker, and their two children.
Dr. Deepak Srivastava, class of 1990, is the Younger Family Director and a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco and the director of the Roddenberry Center for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at Gladstone.
He is also a professor in the departments of pediatrics, and biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, and is the Wilma and Adeline Pirag Distinguished Professor in pediatric developmental cardiology.
Before joining Gladstone in 2005, he was a professor in the department of pediatrics and molecular biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Srivastava’s laboratory is exploring numerous ways to fundamentally understand what leads to some heart conditions and how to treat or prevent them. One recent breakthrough involved regenerating heart muscle after damage. Taking cells and making regenerate organs could have broad medical applications.
Srivastava grew up in Galveston and his father, Dr. Satish Srivastava, has been on the UTMB faculty since 1974.