The Scoop: A Publication of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston

First Friends event focuses on health care reform

Dr. Guy Clifton

Dr. Guy Clifton

Health care reform was the topic of the newly revitalized Friends of the Medical School’s first event, Lecture & Luncheon, which was held Tuesday, Oct. 20 at Palmer Episcopal Church.

Dr. Guy Clifton, former Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow and professor of neurosurgery, gave an update on the current state of the three health care reform bills in Washington, D.C. — their differences and strengths.

“Every bill has a mandate that everyone must be insured, and there are penalties attached for those without insurance, as well as exceptions for those with financial hardships,” he said.

Clifton, author of Flatlined: Resuscitating American Medicine, said that in the United States, there are 180 million people who are happy with their health insurance — those are the ones insured through large employers or by Medicare and Medicaid. “Then there are 130 million not happy with the current system,” he said. “These bills are about all that can be done without bothering the happy people.”

The cost of health care will not be reduced by any of this newly proposed legislation, Clifton said. “Cost is probably going to get worse soon,” he said, adding that at the current rate of spending, by 2050, 100 percent of all federal income tax will go toward paying Medicare and Medicaid. “All of these bills are timed to go into effect after the next presidential election, and all cost projections will have increased by then.”

Clifton said there is room to reduce costs in health care where there is waste in duplicated, unnecessary care. “The question is, ‘Is it possible to diminish the cost of health care by improving quality?’ And I think it is.”

The Friends of the Medical School Organization is co-chaired by Sally and David Harvin and Mary and Jim Chandler. For more information, contact Melinda Carter.

— Darla Brown, Office of Communications, Medical School

Behind the scenes with Dr. Oz

By Dr. Jason Sanders, assistant professor of pediatrics

The Inside Scoop

Word of the free clinic being held by the National Association of Free Clinics and the Dr. Oz Show at Reliant Center first reached me just days before the event. I recall thinking at the time that it had been far too long since I had last heeded any call to arms. And I remember thinking that this would be an event of great importance and impact, one that I simply had to attend.

My adventure started out the evening before with a visit to a space that could hold three football fields, mostly in an effort to familiarize myself with my surroundings before the big event. I sat and talked with a kindly truck driver as we lined trashcans, and with members of the Dr. Oz crew as we moved chairs around for the untold numbers that would fill them the next day. I witnessed row after row of blue curtains making up the 100 exam rooms, and countless volunteers scurrying around them and dutifully performing what many would consider menial tasks in breakneck speed. It reminded me a lot of what I saw at the George R. Brown convention center a few years earlier in the care of Hurricane Katrina victims. The following day at Reliant Center, though, was going to be geared toward an entirely different sort of disaster.

We arrived at dawn the next day to an army of red volunteer shirts and white coats, and received marching orders from the clinic’s medical directors and from an energized Dr. Oz himself. What we didn’t know was that an army of patients totaling nearly 1,800 men, women, and children was beginning to line up outside the hall in the pre-dawn darkness. Controlled chaos soon commenced, as the chairs started to fill and patients found their way to the exam rooms, where health care providers of all types were waiting to see just who and what would arrive.

No one could predict what would happen over the next 12 hours. Every imaginable and unimaginable problem walked through the door. There was the relatively young woman, who looked far older than her years, on a laundry list of medications for her heart condition that her pastor helped her to get each month. Then came the healthy little boy who hadn’t seen a doctor in years because his parents made just enough money to make ends meet, but too much to qualify for aid (or so they thought). And then there were the patients with truly heart-wrenching stories involving apparently insurmountable barriers to care. There was the diabetic who couldn’t afford the medication needed to keep it in check with the foot infection to bone that had been festering for years, and the smoker with the cancerous mass that overtook nearly his entire lower lip who would need surgery and therapy to stand a chance at life.

Of all the presenting problems, tears were as common a finding as anything else. Fortunately, tears of elation often replaced those of initial sadness, as patients realized that they were going to have a voice that day and perhaps beyond. They were proud people who worked hard to provide for themselves and their families and were merely looking for a leg-up, a chance to get back on the right track to health. Too many had been finally derailed during the recession. Most were unaware of the resources out there to help them during troubling times. Many were simply too proud to ask for help. We let them know that it was OK to do just that, and, in our effort to offer everyone the opportunity to establish a medical home, we directed patients to representatives of area free clinics who were stationed at the exit to the hall.

The memory of one little patient seen that day will stay with me for quite some time. She was part of a family of eight who found their way to my exam room during the course of the day. All were doing fairly well, despite having been dropped from the rolls of the insured and not having seen a provider in longer than the parents could remember. Little Analeigha at 14 months of age was the youngest of the brood but clearly ruled the roost. Her mom was concerned, though, about how tired she would get when she played. Her exam and the ultrasound that followed revealed the culprit: a hole in her heart that one day may deprive her of her life if not followed closely.

I brought her plight and that of her family to the attention of Dr. Oz and his crew, and before it was all said and done, UT Physicians, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, and the show had all come together to ensure that Analeigha would not fall further through the cracks. She would come to see me in my clinic and would be cared for by a pediatric cardiologist who would monitor her heart defect closely over time (thanks again to Dr. Steven Lorch for quickly and selflessly responding to my call for help and to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital for offering to provide follow-up echocardiography).

Analeigha’s plight was featured on Dr. Oz’s show a couple of weeks later. I remember sitting in front of the audience in Dr. Oz’s studio in New York that day, with Analeigha and her mom at my side, and thinking how great it felt to make a difference in one family’s life. My elation was tempered, though, by the realization that there was a lot of work left to be done.


Dr. Jason Sanders, far right, with Drs. Tang Ho, Ron Karni,
and Steven Lorch in the green room before the taping of the
Dr. Oz show in New York.

When the last patient had been examined, the last test performed, and the last prescription written (850+), the curtain fell on a truly historic event. The clinic at Reliant Center was one for the record books; it was the largest free clinic held in the country to date. Nearly 200 providers backed by over 700 volunteers worked diligently to show their fellow man that they did care, that we could come together and right a wrong, even if it was just for a day in the lives of a select few.

What I didn’t realize then, but saw in the teary-eyed faces of those in Dr. Oz’s studio that day and heard in the voices of countless others later, was that we had made a difference far greater than we could imagine. We had put a face on what, in so many ways, had been featureless for so long. The ball was now rolling, and it was up to us to keep it rolling. Here’s to the next such event, when good people can come together to make a difference again. Better yet, here’s to the day when we no longer have to hold one.

The Inside Scoop is an occasional feature of Scoop that allows faculty, staff, and students to share work and leadership experiences with the Medical School community. To experience more of this story, view the video from this day.

To submit a story for The Inside Scoop, please e-mail

2009 Research Forum & C. Frank Webber Prize Competition Nov. 5

The 2009 Research Forum & C. Frank Webber Prize for Student Research Competition will be held noon–1:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 5 in the Leather Lounge.

The competition is for second-year medical students who participated in the Medical School's 2009 Summer Research Program. This forum is a venue for medical students to present and display the results of their summer research projects for peers and faculty to review.

The Webber Prize for Student Research is an award for outstanding research by a student established in memory of C. Frank Webber, M.D., former dean of the Medical School. All medical students and faculty are encouraged to stop by the forum and support these young investigators.

Neuroscience Poster Session set for Dec. 5

The Neuroscience Research Center (NRC) will host its 16th annual neuroscience poster session 10 a.m.–noon, Friday, Dec. 5 in the Leather Lounge of the Medical School Building.

This year’s poster session will highlight current neuroscience research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, providing an opportunity for participants from various departments to become better acquainted with each other and current neuroscience research. Posters from the Health Science Center Research Day, 2009 meetings of the Society for Neuroscience, or any other meeting since December 2008 are welcome.

The event includes drawings for door prizes and judging for the best poster presentation by a graduate student and by a postdoctoral fellow. Posters will be judged by faculty from the Health Science Center and other area universities.

The following awards will be granted:

    Graduate Student Awards
  • The Dee S. and Patricia Osborne Endowed Scholarship in the Neurosciences
    1st place $1,000
  • Graduate Student Research Award
    2nd place $500
    Postdoctoral Fellow Awards
  • 1st place $500
  • 2nd place $300
  • 3rd place $200

The registration form is available here. For more information visit the Web site or contact Margaret Clarke at 713.500.5538.

The poster session is open to all UTHSC-Houston faculty members, research scientists, residents, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and medical students. Please submit abstracts by Friday, Nov. 6.

RsVP lecture on geriatrics set for Nov. 12

The Geriatric and Palliative Medicine Division cordially invites you to attend a complimentary lecture and dinner Thursday, Nov. 12 for the Reynolds Visiting Professor Program (RsVP). The lecture and dinner will be presented at 5:30 p.m. in MSB 5.001 and includes one hour of CME credit.

Dr. Laurie Jacobs, professor of clinical medicine and director of the Resnick Gerontology Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine & Montefiore Medical Center, will present, “Oral Anticoagulation for Older Adults in 2009: Is this Warfarins Last Stand?”

To attend, please e-mail name, credentials, affiliation, and phone to Rhonda Bailes.

This lecture is funded in part by a grant from the D.W. Reynolds Foundation and by the Phyllis Gough Huffington Lecture Series II.

Fun Fest 2009

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With a rodeo carnival theme, Fun Fest 2009 delighted faculty, staff, employees, and students throughout the entire Health Science Center.
— Dwight C. Andrews, Office of Communications, Medical School


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Events to Know

October 29

Women’s Health Network Annual Leadership Luncheon and Conference.
11:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
For more details, click here.

October 29 – December 4

Book sale at the Texas Medical Center Library. Sale includes duplicate and out-of-scope books to benefit the library’s historical collections.
For more information, call 713.799.7139.

October 30

23rd Annual William A. Spencer M.D. Memorial Lectureship: Dr. Kenneth Ottenbacher (UTMB) presents, “The Impact of Diabetes as Comorbidity on Rehabilitation Outcomes for Persons with Stroke and Hip Fracture.”
11:30 a.m.–1 p.m., MSB 3.001.

Management of Chronic Disease in the Older Patient: 10th Geriatric Update for Primary Care Providers Conference.
University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
For details, contact Jan Qualye, 405.271.2350.
Register online.

October 31

Deadline to sign up to participate in the Employee Relations Committee’s 24th Annual Holiday Craft Fair
Dec. 1.
Contact Kathy Merceri, 713.500.6385, or Debbie Rivas, 713.500.6367, for more information.

November 2

Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Seminar Series: Dr. Herbert DuPont, professor of infectious disease, presents, “Emerging Infectious Diseases — Is the U.S. Becoming a Developing Country?”
Noon, MSB B.612.

Monday Meditation: McGovern Center invites all students, faculty, and staff to participate in noon-time meditation sessions. Floor pillows and/or chairs will be available. No RSVP required.
Noon–12:50 p.m., 410 JJL.
For more details, contact Dr. Alejandro Chaoul.

Center for Membrane Biology Seminar Series: Dr. Glen Legge (University of Houston) presents, “LFA-1, Antibodies and Autoimmunity.”
Noon, MSB 2.135.

November 5

Department of Surgery Grand Rounds: Dr. Donald Lesslie, assistant professor of surgery, presents, “Cystic Masses of the Pancreas.”
7–8 a.m., MSB 3.001.

Darwin 2009 Houston: Darwin and Rare Scientific Books.
10 a.m.–4 p.m., HAM-TMC Library.

The McGovern Center: Dr. David Watts (University of California, San Francisco) presents, “The Art of Medicine.”
Noon–1 p.m., MSB 3.001.
Lunch will be provided to the first 50 attendees.

Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences lecture series: Dr. Rodrigo Hasbun, visiting associate professor of internal medicine, presents, “Aseptic Meningoencephalitis Syndrome in Adults.”
Noon–1 p.m., UTPB, 11th floor.
Lunch provided for first 20 attendees. Please take advantage of the train or bus as parking is not able to be reimbursed. For more information, contact Linda Gilbert.

November 6-8

2009 Advanced Rhinology Concepts (ARC) CME event focusing on the comprehensive medical and surgical management of diseases of the nose and paranasal sinuses.
Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and the Medical School.
Presented by the Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. For more information, call 713.500.5410, or visit

November 9

Monday Meditation: McGovern Center invites all students, faculty, and staff to participate in noon-time meditation sessions. Floor pillows and/or chairs will be available. No RSVP required.
Noon–12:50 p.m., 410 JJL.
For more details, contact Dr. Alejandro Chaoul.

Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Seminar: Dr. Joel Robert Neilson (Baylor) presents, “Global Analysis of 3’ Untranslated Region Dynamics in Cellular Activation and Transformation.”
Noon, MSB 2.135.

Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Seminar Series: Dr. Joseph Petrosino (Baylor College of Medicine) presents, “Tularemia.”
Noon, MSB B.612.


The Medical School’s emergency medicine residency program received second place in the American College of Emergency Physicians Crowding Innovation Contest.

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