September 12, 2013

Future Bright For Healthcare Professionals And Patients, Says New Health Science Center Interim Leader

Nurse and patient

Brett Giroir of Texas A&M's Health Science Center says that caring for patients is the most rewarding part of being a health care professional. (Photo: michaeljung/Shutterstock.com)

As the future of America’s healthcare system continues to be debated, Dr. Brett Giroir of Texas A&M University knows one thing for certain: those who seek a career in health care are called to duty and no matter what happens in Washington, the greatest rewards lie in caring for patients. Giroir brings this passion for patient care to the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) as its new interim executive vice president, effective Oct. 1.

“When I was a practicing pediatric critical care physician, I had to tell parents their child was going to die,” he recalls. “That’s something you must feel a calling to do. Healthcare professionals are passionate about their jobs; they are mission-driven and service-oriented. Saving lives or making the final days of someone’s life comfortable – rewards like that can’t be matched.”

The TAMHSC is training the healthcare professionals of the future and conducting innovative research that may forever change public health and medical care, says physician-scientist Giroir, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University who earned his M.D. at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. His career includes U.S. government positions as director of the Defense Sciences Office at DARPA and chair of the Chemical and Biological Defense Panel for the Threat Reduction Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The days of the family physician practicing in an isolated office equipped only with a stethoscope have gone away,” he contends. “Technology and the sharing of information are bringing patient care to a whole new level. Today’s physicians, nurses, dentists and pharmacists make maximum use of technology, and are highly connected to information sources and to other healthcare professionals.”

Modern diagnostics have advanced the discovery of disease, says Giroir, and research, especially in genomics, is leading to a whole new generation of personalized medicines and vaccines. These innovations will revolutionize the prevention and treatment of disease.

“Personalized medicine can be described as health care that is customized for each person based on his or her unique genetic makeup and factors such as environment,” notes Giroir, who practiced pediatric medicine at Children’s Medical Center Dallas and Parkland Memorial Hospital, and pediatric critical care at UT Southwestern Medical Center. He holds professor appointments within three Texas A&M colleges and most recently served as vice chancellor for strategic initiatives at The Texas A&M University System.

Brett Giroir2

Dr. Brett Giroir

Much of Giroir’s own work has focused on infectious diseases and as vice chancellor, he successfully led the effort to create Texas A&M’s Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM), one of three such centers in the U.S., founded on a $285.6 million public-private partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The CIADM is designed to enhance the nation’s emergency preparedness against emerging infectious diseases, including pandemic influenza, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp this week announced that the administration of CIADM will transfer to the TAMHSC and Giroir says it’s a necessary move. “The center started at the System level; we needed to have heavy administrative support and the backing of the chancellor. Now that we’re a year in, we’re moving to the next phase where the focus more appropriately aligns with an academic institution – specifically the university’s health-related institution.”

TAMHSC’s other big move this year was its addition as a unit within the university, a merger that serves to facilitate even more interdisciplinary collaborations in support of the mission to provide cutting-edge health education, outreach and research through campuses across the state of Texas. The five TAMHSC colleges are the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy and the School of Rural Public Health. Other entities include the Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the Coastal Bend Health Education Center.

“We are leveraging our position within the university to redefine and recreate what it means to be a clinician,” notes Giroir. “Texas A&M Health Science Center is poised to become an international leader that trains individuals to be lifelong clinical learners.”

This training combined with a dedication to research are the driving forces behind Giroir’s vision for the future of the TAMHSC. “We’ll become a major force in healthcare research across the board within the next five years,” he predicts.

In addition to assuming his role of TAMHSC interim executive vice president, Giroir is scheduled to be nominated by Chancellor Sharp to become the interim CEO for the Health Science Center at the next meeting of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.

Giroir says he’s excited about his return to health education. “The opportunities for making a global impact in community and public health are at the Health Science Center, particularly following the merger. I feel invigorated – I’ve found my voice again,” he declares. “There’s nothing that affects me more personally than patient contact and contact with students that will care for patients. I’ve begun spending time with the tremendous faculty at TAMHSC and I’ve felt their inspiration. I had the revelation that I needed to move closer to the patients and providers, and build the relationships that are critical for the next century of health care.”

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About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents total annual expenditures of more than $776 million. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.

Media contact: Lesley Henton, Division of Marketing & Communications at Texas A&M University; 979-845-5591, lshenton@tamu.edu

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