funding future doctors

University of Houston power couple prescribes major gift for college of medicine

Lisa and Nicky Holdeman are ensuring a bright future of UH med students. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

University of Houston medical students and staff will receive a gift that's just what the doctor ordered.

A prestigious and longtime UH power couple has bequeathed two major gifts a major gift to the school's burgeoning College of Medicine. Dr. Nicky and Lisa Holdeman — who together boast more than 45 years at the university — have established an endowed and chair/professorship and a scholarship for medical students, the school announced.

In their will/trust the Holdemans have established, per UH:

  • The Nicky R. and Lisa K. Holdeman Endowed Professorship/Chair, which will support a clinical teaching faculty member responsible for the oversight and strategic direction of the College of Medicine's clinics, as well as enhancing the student and patient experience.
  • The Nicky R. and Lisa K. Holdeman Endowed Scholarship, which will support students in the College of Medicine, which was founded in 2020 on a social mission to improve health and health care in underserved communities in Houston and across Texas.

The Holdemans say that they were inspired by the UH College of Medicine's mission to address a significant statewide primary care physician shortage and how social determinants of health, such as income, housing, food supply and transportation, contribute to health outcomes.

"I have a true admiration for the comprehensive physician, someone comfortable addressing multiple health issues," Nicky Holdeman relays in a statement. "The physicians being trained at the University of Houston will be well prepared to manage most of the patients, with most conditions, most of the time. That's really what primary care medicine is all about."

As previously reported, UH's medical school will welcome its second class of 30 students this summer and will have 480 students at full enrollment, within the decade.

More on the duo, who have been married for 38 years: A UH biography notes that Nicky, physician and professor emeritus at the UH College of Optometry, served as associate dean for clinical education and executive director of the University Eye Institute during his 30 years at the college. He retired in 2019.

Meanwhile, Lisa joined UH in 2006 and serves as vice chancellor for the UH System and vice president for UH marketing and communications. She works directly with UH System Chancellor and UH President Renu Khator and school leadership.

"This gift is especially gratifying because it comes from two dedicated UH leaders whose professional careers have already contributed so much to our University's success," said Renu Khator. "That kind of enlightened commitment on their part sets an admirable example. I know I speak for many when I express our deep appreciation for their generous support of the College of Medicine and the important work it is undertaking in our community."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

For over a year now, scientists have been testing wastewater for COVID-19. Now, the public can access that information. Photo via Getty Images

In 2020, a group of researchers began testing Houston's wastewater to collect data to help identify trends at the community level. Now, the team's work has been rounded up to use as an online resource.

The Houston Health Department and Rice University launched the dashboard on September 22. The information comes from samples collected from the city's 39 wastewater treatment plants and many HISD schools.

"This new dashboard is another tool Houstonians can use to gauge the situation and make informed decisions to protect their families," says Dr. Loren Hopkins, chief environmental science officer for the health department and professor in the practice of statistics at Rice University, in a news release. "A high level of virus in your neighborhood's wastewater means virus is spreading locally and you should be even more stringent about masking up when visiting public places."

The health department, Houston Water, Rice University, and Baylor College of Medicine originally collaborated on the wastewater testing. Baylor microbiologist Dr. Anthony Maresso, director of BCM TAILOR Labs, led a part of the research.

"This is not Houston's first infectious disease crisis," Maresso says in an earlier news release. "Wastewater sampling was pioneered by Joseph Melnick, the first chair of Baylor's Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology, to get ahead of polio outbreaks in Houston in the 1960s. This work essentially ushered in the field of environmental virology, and it began here at Baylor. TAILOR Labs is just continuing that tradition by providing advanced science measures to support local public health intervention."

It's an affordable way to track the virus, says experts. People with COVID-19 shed viral particles in their feces, according to the release, and by testing the wastewater, the health department can measure important infection rate changes.

The dashboard, which is accessible online now, is color-coded by the level of viral load in wastewater samples, as well as labeled with any recent trend changes. Houstonians can find the interactive COVID-19 wastewater monitoring dashboard, vaccination sites, testing sites, and more information at houstonemergency.org/covid19.

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