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Alumni gather in Houston

March 17, 2020

Spartans ready to challenge disparate health outcomes through MSU’s Bold Future initiative

Michigan State University is striving for the early detection of several diseases and recently took that message to Houston for an alumni gathering and panel discussion.

Peter Ragauss (’80) leads discussion in Texas on MSU's preparation of health care innovators.
Peter Ragauss (’80) leads MSU panel discussion.

“MSU’s Bold Future: Preparing the Next Generation of Health Innovators” was hosted at The Coronado Club in downtown Houston.

Peter Ragauss of Houston, a 1980 mechanical engineering graduate, served as the master of ceremonies for the evening reception.

Ragauss and a panel of experts highlighted the biomedical landscape and exemplary STEM programs that are being amplified at MSU. The speakers were:

• Christopher Contag, the James and Kathleen Cornelius Endowed Chair at MSU. He is professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, and director of MSU’s Institute for Health, Science and Engineering (IQ).

Victor DiRita, professor and Rudolph Hugh Endowed Chair; professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics at MSU.

• and Rupa Iyer of the University of Houston, where she is a professor and founding director, Biotechnology Programs; director of the Center for Life Science Technology.

Engineering Dean Leo Kempel explained that MSU is focused on addressing disparate health outcomes across Michigan and is creating a template for use in other states.

Engineering Dean Leo Kempel met with Carolyn Gilligan, a 1980 civil engineering graduate.
Engineering Dean Leo Kempel met with Carolyn Gilligan, a 1980 civil engineering graduate.

“This was a great MSU event,” Kempel said. “MSU is advancing the tools and technology for early detection and molecularly targeted intervention in a wide range of diseases.”

Natural Science Dean Phil Duxbury remarked that MSU research is advancing rapidly on new therapies for illnesses, such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

“Interdisciplinary and collaborative work on important health challenges in Michigan and globally is a focus at MSU now and in the future,” Duxbury said. “It was terrific to have so many Spartans join the discussion on some of the exciting progress occurring at MSU.”

Paul Howes (’80) (right) spoke with Dean Leo Kempel. Howes is president and CEO of Newpark Resources Inc. ​​  ​
Paul Howes (’80) (right) spoke with Dean Leo Kempel. Howes is president and CEO of Newpark Resources Inc. ​​  ​

Contag said MSU’s multidisciplinary approach to equalizing life expectancy rose out of the university’s response to the Flint water crisis. Some of the current health connections include:

• Texas Children’s Fetal Surgery invited MSU’s College of Engineering to consult on new surgical tool options to replace arthroscopic tools.

• MSU is a global leader in combating the mosquito-transmitted disease of malaria. MSU is part of a collaborative effort in China, Mexico and the state of Texas. That work is collecting information on emerging mosquito diseases in the U.S., including Zika and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

• MSU licensed Cisplatin in 1978 – the Penicillin of cancer drugs – that is now the gold standard of cancer-fighting treatments for numerous cancers.

• MSU is recruiting top faculty from the top academic centers around the world to advance biomedical research and health innovation.

Members of the host committee in Houston were co-chairs Ragauss and Vince Foster, along with Ethel M. Cormier, William T. Fitzpatrick, Lynn M. Frostman and Michael P. ZumMallen, Kevin M. Hole, John and Mary Ann Kajander, and Kyle & Sherry Lewallen.