Groups of faculty, staff and students posing with Dr. Reiser and members of the President's Cabinet

UTMB President’s Cabinet announces 2023 award recipients

Ten projects that address pressing health needs received a University of Texas Medical Branch President’s Cabinet award. The awards totaled more than $220,000 and will go to 26 UTMB faculty, staff and students working on the winning projects.

This year, the projects include expansion of a successful eye care project, the creation of an outdoor learning environment for infants and toddlers, and the creation of a chemical incident preparedness and response plan, among other worthy initiatives.

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 184 developing community programs.

For more on the President’s Cabinet, go to the President’s Cabinet's website

Questions regarding the application or awards process can be directed to Marie Marczak at 747-4876 or via e-mail at mmarczak@utmb.edu.

The 2023 award recipients are:

Further Expansion of Eye Care at St. Vincent's

Rhys Ishihara, MD
Ardalan Sharifi, MD
You Zhou, MD


With the help of President’s Cabinet Awards in 2019, 2021 and 2022, the St. Vincent’s Ophthalmology Clinic has greatly improved services to address diabetic eye disease and cataracts for the underserved community of Galveston County.To care for the ever-increasing number of patients, the team requires key diagnostic and screening equipment. This award allows for the purchase of a special retina laser to provide treatment for patients for sight-threatening diabetic eye disease, a a sterilizing autoclave to allow for safe re-use of instruments in the eye clinic, and, more high quality, durable clinic instruments.

Geriatric Resilience: Engage and Treat (GREAT)

Mariam Mufti, MD
Victoria Spiciarich, LMSW
UTMB Geriatrics - Victory Lakes

Research shows older adults facing isolation and loneliness are at a significant risk of several health problems such as increased risk of stroke, heart attack, depression, dementia and suicide. The interdisciplinary team at the Victory Lakes clinic aims to empower elders through the establishment of special therapeutic groups called Geriatric Resilience: Engage And Treat (GREAT).Patients identified as being high risk for dementia and social isolation will receive multimodal therapeutic care and social support. In each 8-week closed cohort, participants will learn individual techniques to combat anxiety and depression, and how community involvement can combat social isolation.

Implementing a Community-Based Colorectal Cancer Screening and Preventive Program

Nathan Giles, MPH
Julian Quiceno, FNP
St. Vincent's Clinic

Research shows that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women in the United States. Uninsured and low-income patients fare the worst and are chronically underserved. Insufficient financial resources and decentralized screening practices at St. Vincent’s Clinic have hindered the ability to establish guideline-based cancer screening programs within its paradigm of routine care.This President’s Cabinet Award provides the creation of a student-led and faculty-supported colorectal cancer screening program that will: disseminate information about colorectal cancer, signs and symptoms, make testing available for eligible patients, and provide financial assistance to help cover the cost of a colonoscopy, polypectomy and colorectal cancer treatment.

Inhaled Medication Resource Allocation for the Luke Society Clinic

Jose Rojas, PhD, RRT
Brian K. Walsh, PhD
Respiratory Care

The Luke Society Street Clinic in partnership with UTMB has provided health services to the uninsured in Galveston for 43 years.On average, 40 patients are seen at the clinic each Saturday morning. Of those, approximately 20-30% have lung disease. These patients have limited medical histories, and the current diagnostic capabilities of the clinic were limited to physician assessment. This project adds the diagnostic tool of spirometry to accurately identify individuals suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma. Additionally, metered dose inhalers will be given to patients most in need. Inhaled bronchodilators and steroid medications will also be purchased with award funds and added to the clinic’s formulary.


Moody Early Childhood Center Infant Toddler Outdoor Learning Environment

Claudia Hilton, PhD, MBA
Karen Ratliff, PhD, OTR, BCP
Occupational Therapy

This award allows UTMB Occupational Therapy faculty and students to create an outdoor learning environment for infants and toddlers at the Moody Early Childhood Center in Galveston. Research shows that outdoor learning environments support the development of gross motor, fine motor and  cognitive skills in infants and toddlers. Persistent exploration and concentration increases attention, improves problem-solving and aids in the development of social and emotional skills. This outdoor learning environment will be equipped with bridges, tunnels, pods, a sand box, toys and other sensory items. UTMB students will be responsible for designing the space, developing teaching materials and training teachers and staff.

Reach Out and Read: Mitigating the Effects of Toxic Stress Through Relational Health and Promoting Early Childhood Literacy

Angela Attaway, RN, MSN
Syed K. Kazmi, MD
Priscila E. Martinez, MD
Maria Nguyen, MD, FAAP
Roxanna J. Sanchez, RN, MSN
Community-Based Clinic - Pediatrics, Alvin

Currently the UTMB Pediatric and Adult Primary Care Clinic in Alvin is an official site for the national Reach Out and Read program.  The clinic will use this award to expand the scope and reach children at birth rather than waiting until 6 months of age. Children will be gifted with age-appropriate and language-appropriate books during their check-up visits. Each provider is trained to teach parents how to develop emotional relational health and promote preschool literacy by reading aloud to their children. President Cabinet funds will enable the purchase of new books for the next two years and introduce the benefits of childhood literacy to a great number of at-risk patients earlier in life. The goal is to develop safe, stable and nurturing relationships for children in a community that is susceptible to the untoward effects of toxic stress.

Reaching into the Community: A Student-Led Hand Therapy Initiative

April Cowan, OTD, OTR, CHT
Loree Pryor, OTD, OTR
Occupational Therapy

Currently occupational therapy faculty and students participate in several clinics at St. Vincent’s. As the clinics grow, an apparent need for hand-therapy services has developed, and the OT team is receiving 5 to 8 referrals each semester. When an individual injures an upper extremity or hand, their ability to engage in daily activities is severely limited. This clinic is designed to fill a gap in specialized therapy services for the uninsured and underinsured and provide a valuable clinical learning experience for UTMB students. Patients will regain proper functions of the hand – strength and dexterity – with the goal to return work and perform daily activities independently. In turn, students will gain specialized therapy skills that are sought after by clinical fieldwork sites and employers.

UTMB Galveston Chemical Incident Preparedness Initiative

Philip Keiser, MD
Mike Mastrangelo
Institutional Preparedness

The Galveston region plays a critical role in our national energy and chemical supply. Producing these chemicals is not without risk of industrial or transportation accidents. A lack of sufficient mobile air monitoring capability in Galveston County has been identified as a significant gap to preparedness and response to a dangerous chemical release. Response to chemical incidents is greatly facilitated by having good baseline environmental and health data. This award includes a pilot test to collect baseline and post-incident data. Biological samples and health data will be collected from children, adults and senior adults who reside in Texas City.  Surveys will also be administered to assess knowledge of community preparedness. The final project will result in a chemical incident preparedness and response plan that will serve as a model to other communities in our region and beyond.

Veterans' Health Resources Project

Kathleen Karam, MS3
Alex Sosa, MS3
John Sealy School of Medicine

In looking at the veteran health system and the specific burdens this population faces, this extension of the UTMB Veterans' Health Initiative aims to help veterans connect and navigate existing VA and community resources, work with local organizations like St. Vincents and Christus Our Daily Bread to fill gaps, and host or participate in health fairs, traveling clinics and mental health screenings to support the health and well-being of the veteran population. President’s Cabinet funding will provide monthly transportation for off-island appointments, allow for the administration of mind and body health screenings, and furnish necessities to assist unsheltered veterans until a long-term solution is secured. Students come to understand veterans and their needs, and veterans meet students and become more familiar with the healthcare system.

Women's Health Action Plan

Martha T. Garcia, MS3
Jennifer Odoi, MS3
Staley Rose, MS4
Lucy Villarreal, MD

Grace Clinic -- a St. Vincent’s satellite clinic located at Central Methodist Church in Galveston -- provides free health care to those with limited access and resources. Historically the clinic has cared for a young population of uninsured individuals and had no tools or resources to provide women’s health exams. Given this patient demographic, President’s Cabinet funding will establish an infrastructure to provide services such as pap smears, pelvic exams and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The program also aims to improve student awareness and confidence in population health screening, increase access to a variety of contraceptive options and provide supplemental funding for pelvic imaging for patients who express significant financial need.