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New chairholders

LEADING DISCOVERY

The 24 Houston Methodist leaders selected to fill endowed chairs in 2023 represent exceptional expertise and innovation in their respective fields. Through the generous foresight of the benefactors who established these endowed positions, chairholders draw from an anchored, long-term financial resource to support their leading-edge work.
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Valentin Dragoi, PhD
Rosemary and Daniel J. Harrison III Presidential Distinguished Chair in Neuroprosthetics
Dragoi is scientific director at the Center for Neural Systems Restoration, a collaboration between Houston Methodist and Rice University. He is also a professor of neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College, a core faculty member at the Rice Neuroengineering Initiative, and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University. He holds a doctorate degree from Duke University focused on learning and adaptive behavior as well as computational neuroscience and performed postdoctoral studies in systems neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research on the relationship between neural circuits and behavior has been published in distinguished journals such as Nature and Science and featured in national and international media outlets. Dragoi has received numerous prestigious grant awards, including several NIH BRAIN Initiative awards, the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, an NIH EUREKA grant and a Pew Scholars Award.
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Nestor F. Esnaola, MD, MPH, MBA
Diane Harkins Modesett Chair in the Houston Methodist Cancer Center
Dr. Esnaola is a clinician-scientist dedicated to optimizing cancer prevention, control and care equity. As deputy director of Cancer Clinical Services at the Dr. Mary and Ron Neal Cancer Center, he streamlines cancer care throughout the Houston Methodist system. As an experienced surgical oncologist, Dr. Esnaola has served since 2018 as division chief of surgical oncology and gastrointestinal surgery in the Department of Surgery at Houston Methodist. In this role, he participates in multidisciplinary care of patients with gastrointestinal cancers, hepatico-pancreatico-biliary malignancies, melanoma and soft tissue sarcomas. In 2018, he was named a Jerold B. Katz Academy of Translational Research Investigator at Houston Methodist. He has published numerous peer-reviewed studies in high-impact journals and served on many National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute study sections.
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Christopher Fan, MD
The Fondren Centennial Chair in Gastrointestinal Microbiome
As a clinical and research gastroenterologist, Dr. Fan’s goal is to gain insights into the interactions between the gut microbiome, its metabolites and the immune system in order to develop targeted therapies for gastrointestinal disorders. Dr. Fan serves as an assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and as an assistant clinical member at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. After earning a bioengineering degree at Rice University, he received his medical degree at Duke University and completed his residency and gastroenterology fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Fan’s current research focuses on the microbiome in inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract.
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Alireza Faridar, MD
Stanley H. Appel, MD Chair in Translational Neuroscience
Dr. Faridar is an assistant professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College. He serves as the principal investigator on several studies aimed at better characterizing underlying mechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders and developing novel immunotherapeutic strategies. As a neurology resident at Houston Methodist, he initiated research and worked with mentors and fellow clinician-scientists Drs. Stanley H. Appel and Joseph C. Masdeu on cellular immunology and molecular neuroimaging of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. With the support of the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institutes of Health, their innovative strategy for restoring regulatory T cells has advanced to the clinical setting to benefit individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Faridar has published 33 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.
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Jaime Gateno, MD, DDS
Sylvia and James E. Norton Distinguished New Century Chair in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
A clinician-scientist and oral and maxillofacial surgeon with 30-plus years of experience correcting craniomaxillofacial (CMF) deformities, Dr. Gateno chairs the Houston Methodist Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. He is a professor of clinical surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and cofounder and director of the Surgical Planning Laboratory at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. Through a collaboration between the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and the Houston Methodist Research Institute, he developed the most advanced CMF virtual surgical planning software, which has received FDA approval for clinical use. His laboratory’s groundbreaking work in this area has revolutionized the field and greatly improved surgical outcomes for thousands of patients.
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Ashrith Guha, MD, MPH
Blake and Roswell F. Vaughan III Centennial Chair
Dr. Guha is medical director of the heart transplant and mechanical circulatory support program in the J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center and director of the pulmonary hypertension and right ventricular (RV) failure program in the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center. An associate professor of cardiology at Weill Cornell Medical College, he investigates the mechanisms and clinical implications of pulmonary hypertension and the resultant RV dysfunction in patients with heart failure, reduced ejection fraction and left ventricular assist devices. In his laboratory and clinical research, he strives to identify novel ways to diagnose and treat pulmonary hypertension and to explore mechanisms of RV failure and its impact on clinical outcomes.
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Joshua D. Harris, MD
Bobbie Nau and John L. Nau III Distinguished Chair in Joint Preservation
An associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr. Harris is also assistant program director of the orthopedic surgery residency program at Houston Methodist. He has directed Orthopedic Surgery Residency and Fellowship Research Day since it was established in 2016 and takes part in weekly educational conferences with Houston Methodist Hospital residents, Houston Methodist sports medicine fellows and Texas A&M University medical students. A magna cum laude graduate of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, he has authored 294 manuscripts and 26 book chapters, authored and edited three orthopedic surgery textbooks, and served on the editorial board for five orthopedic surgery journals.
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Paul J. Holman, MD
Houston Methodist Chair in the Spine & Peripheral Nerve Center
As a neurosurgery specialist and assistant professor of clinical neurosurgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr. Holman has helped to develop innovative technologies to transform complex and minimally invasive spinal surgery. These include systems for spinal navigation, lateral fusion surgery and ultrasonic bone-cutting as well as the use of computer-assisted, preoperative planning software and patient-specific implants for adult scoliosis surgery. His training includes an advanced fellowship in Cleveland with renowned spinal neurosurgeon Dr. Edward Benzel and orthopedic spinal surgeon Dr. Izzy Lieberman, a pioneer in the use of robotics in complex scoliosis surgery. Dr. Holman plays an active role in the education of Houston Methodist neurosurgical residents and established the Department of Neurosurgery’s first spinal fellowship program.
Moonsoo M. Jin, PhD
MD Anderson Foundation Chair in Biomedical Imaging
As vice chair of research in the Department of Radiology and director of its Translation Imaging Center PET Core, Jin’s major research goals are to develop multiscale approaches for molecular imaging and novel therapies for cancer and inflammation. He also aims to increase understanding of mechanisms for tumor resistance and response. Currently, he is studying combinations of T cells using whole-body imaging paired with immune stimulatory antibodies and ionizing radiation to develop new treatments for solid cancers. As a member of the Houston Methodist Dr. Mary and Ron Neal Cancer Center, Jin seeks collaborative opportunities to contribute to the center’s cell therapy programs, works to develop advanced cancer therapeutics and imaging agents, and trains the next generation of scientific leaders.
Stephen L. Jones, MD, MSHI
Occidental Centennial Chair in Quality and Outcomes Research
With the goal of leveraging technology to raise the standard of patient care, Dr. Jones leads the Center for Health Data Science and Analytics at the Houston Methodist Research Institute and serves as associate professor of clinical informatics in surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Jones’ research centers on the development of customized clinical informatics systems and databases for clinical practice and research, and he has co-authored 45 peer-reviewed papers. He also has managed teams responsible for designing, writing and developing software that safely and efficiently e-prescribes over 100,000 prescriptions per month across the nation.
Rose Khavari, MD
Ben and Wendy Moreland Distinguished Chair in Urology
As director of research at the Houston Methodist Center for Restorative Pelvic Medicine, Dr. Khavari specializes in male and female incontinence, reconstructive pelvic surgery, pelvic organ prolapse, neurogenic bladder (such as in multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury) and urinary issues after prostate surgery. She is also director of the Houston Methodist Neurourology and Transitional Urology Clinic. Her translational research focuses on identifying brain and spinal cord regions that control bladder function in order to develop novel modalities for noninvasive neuromodulation to improve lower urinary tract function. Dr. Khavari also founded and leads the Department of Urology residency program.
Michael J. Klebuc, MD
Eva Lynn and John S. Dunn, Jr. New Century Chair in Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery
Dr. Klebuc is a plastic surgeon with the Houston Methodist Institute for Reconstructive Surgery and an associate clinical professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. In collaboration with MD Anderson Cancer Center surgeons led by Dr. Jesse Selber, Dr. Klebuc collaborated to perform the world’s first skull-scalp transplant. His clinical focus areas include surgical treatment of the paralyzed face, microsurgery, peripheral nerve surgery, limb salvage, cancer reconstruction and corneal neurotization. His research interests comprise polyethylene glycol nerve fusion, automated facial recognition systems and corneal neurotization for the surgical prevention of blindness. He has authored more than 35 peer-reviewed articles and 30 book chapters and has won numerous academic and research awards.
Kathleen C. Kobashi, MD, MBA
Judith Helmle Shaw and Roy Gordon Shaw, Jr. Centennial Chair in Urology
Dedicated to clinical medicine, research and the education of patients and future urologists, Dr. Kobashi serves as chair of the Houston Methodist Department of Urology and a professor of clinical urology at Weill Cornell Medical College. She earned her Doctor of Medicine from Drexel University and has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on topics related to urinary incontinence and pelvic prolapse. She is a trustee of the American Board of Urology, served as the first female president of the American Urological Association (AUA) Western Section, and currently serves as associate editor for both the AUA’s Urology Practice journal and the Canada-based Société Internationale d’Urologie Journal. Her honors include receiving the esteemed AUA Victor A. Politano Award in 2023.
Sylvia Martinez, MD
Barbara Lee Bass Centennial Chair for Surgical Education
Dr. Martinez is the division chief of acute care surgery and surgical critical care and the current director of the general surgery residency program at Houston Methodist. She is also an assistant professor of both surgery and clinical surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Martinez completed her medical degree at UTHealth Houston, her general surgery residency at Houston Methodist and a surgical critical care fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine. As part of the inaugural class of the Houston Methodist general surgery residency program founded by Dr. Barbara Bass, she has a long-standing interest in and commitment to surgical education at Houston Methodist.
Eleftherios Mylonakis, MD, PhD
Charles and Anne Duncan Presidential Distinguished Chair in the Department of Medicine
Chair of the Houston Methodist Department of Medicine, Dr. Mylonakis studies host and microbial factors of infection and the discovery of antimicrobial agents in both clinical and laboratory studies. Previously, he served as the Charles C. J. Carpenter Professor of Infectious Disease at Brown University, chief of infectious diseases at Rhode Island Hospital and the Miriam Hospital, and director of the COBRE Center for Antimicrobial Resistance and Therapeutic Discovery. His work has produced nearly 500 articles and has been cited more than 35,000 times. Dr. Mylonakis holds eight patents and has co-edited seven books about infectious diseases, including Antimicrobial Drug Discovery: Emerging Strategies and Antimicrobial Stewardship: Principles and Practice.
Sherif F. Nagueh, MD
Houston Methodist Chair in Cardiovascular Diseases
As medical director of the echocardiography laboratory at the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, Dr. Nagueh holds a steadfast interest in evaluating cardiac function, particularly in the left ventricle and diastolic processes. Impaired diastolic function in patients with cardiovascular disease causes shortness of breath and reduced functional capacity. With a goal of developing new approaches for diagnosing abnormal function of the left ventricle, Dr. Nagueh chaired two medical society guideline writing groups on the evaluation of left ventricular diastolic performance. He leads several ongoing studies investigating left ventricular diastolic and left atrial pathology in patients with heart failure and with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Khurram Nasir, MD, MPH
William A. Zoghbi, MD Centennial Chair in Cardiovascular Health
Dr. Nasir is chief of cardiovascular prevention and wellness, co-director of the Center for Health Data Science and Analytics at Houston Methodist, and inaugural director of the Center for Cardiovascular Computational Health and Precision Medicine. His clinical and research interests lie in precision medicine, digital health, health equity and health systems research. He is a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and was named a Jerold B. Katz Academy of Translational Research Investigator at Houston Methodist in 2019. After receiving his medical degree in his native Pakistan, he earned a master’s in health economics and policy management from the London School of Economics and Political Science as well as a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins University.
Ashish Saharia, MD, MS
David M. Underwood Chair of Surgery in Digestive Disorders
Dr. Saharia is director of the liver transplantation program at the Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center and surgical director of the liver transplantation program in the Department of Surgery. He also serves as associate professor of clinical surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, where he specializes in open and robotic/laparoscopic liver and pancreas surgery and abdominal transplant surgery. With a goal of intensifying research to find pathways and treatments for patients with liver and pancreatic cancers, his focus is in transplantation to address large, inoperable liver bile duct cancer — also known as intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. Dr. Saharia is actively involved in several clinical trials and has published many peer-reviewed articles on kidney and liver transplantation.
Raj Satkunasivam, MD, MS
Miles Family Chair in Urologic Surgery
As associate program director of the Hamill Fellowship in Urologic Oncology and Robotic Surgery at Houston Methodist as well as an associate professor of urology at Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr. Satkunasivam has a passion for research, meticulous patient care, and the education of future urologists and researchers. He completed his Doctor of Medicine and his urologic residency at the University of Toronto, then earned a master’s degree in biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Southern California. In addition to training clinical fellows, he has mentored six postdoctoral research fellows and has been instrumental in establishing a robust foundation for and launching a strong genitourinary (male) oncology research program in the Houston Methodist Department of Urology.
Aldona Spiegel, MD
John F., Jr. and Carolyn Bookout Chair in Surgical Innovation and Technology
Dr. Spiegel, chief of the Division of Innovation in the Houston Methodist Department of Surgery and director of the Center for Breast Restoration, is a renowned expert in reconstructive surgery and microsurgery. Her focus is on patient-centered care, aiding women in physical and emotional recovery after mastectomy procedures. With her extensive surgical experience, she has patented two acellular dermal matrix designs for breast reconstruction. Dr. Spiegel also established a preceptorship program at Houston Methodist Hospital, where she shares her surgical expertise with plastic surgeons through live demonstrations multiple times each year. Her recent work in 3D bioprinting and breast tissue and nerve regeneration opens new possibilities for innovative breast reconstruction approaches.
Masayoshi Takashima, MD
Sylvia and James E. Norton Distinguished New Century Chair in Otolaryngology
Dr. Takashima serves as chair of the Department of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery at Houston Methodist and holds clinical specialties in minimally invasive sinus procedures, sleep apnea surgery and endoscopic skull base surgery. Under his leadership, the department created and earned accreditation for an otolaryngology (head and neck surgery) residency program and a facial plastic and reconstructive surgery fellowship program. Dr. Takashima’s research focuses on the pathophysiology and treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis; he also has an interest in artificial intelligence in health care and education. He has directed training for over 70 residents, several of whom are now program directors, academic faculty and chairs throughout the country.
Juan “Jon” B. Toledo, MD, PhD
Ann and Billy Harrison Centennial Chair in Alzheimer’s Research
Dr. Toledo serves as scientific director of the Nantz National Alzheimer Center, where he has worked to establish a clinical unit focused on dementia with Lewy bodies and to move the center toward accreditation as a Research Center of Excellence by the Lewy Body Dementia Association. Dr. Toledo earned his Doctor of Medicine at the University of Navarra in Spain, where he also completed a neurology residency and doctoral program focused on Parkinson’s disease. He subsequently completed a second neurology residency at Houston Methodist and a fellowship in movement disorders at the University of Florida. He has published 100 peer-reviewed research articles and eight reviews, including research on biomarker data to understand similarities and differences among neurodegenerative diseases.
Jennifer Townsend, MMT, MT-BC
Susie and Tommy Smith Chair in Music and Creative Arts Therapies
As manager for Creative Arts Therapies at the Houston Methodist Center for Performing Arts Medicine, Townsend guides a team of board-certified creative arts therapists in evidence-based arts interventions to address patients’ neurological, physiological and psychological needs. Also an assistant professor of anesthesia and critical care at Weill Cornell Medical College, Townsend holds a master’s degree in music therapy from Temple University. She seamlessly transitioned to adult medical care after more than 10 years in pediatric care. Townsend has published articles spanning music therapy for delirium, neurological constructs of music, and applications of technology in music therapy in epilepsy and neonatal treatment. She authored a chapter on medically fragile children in the book Guidelines for Music Therapy Practice in Pediatrics.
Amy D. Waterman, PhD
Deborah C. and Clifton B. Phillips Centennial Chair for Clinical Research in Transplant Medicine
Waterman examines how to reduce health disparities, expand access to optimal treatments and improve the patient experience as part of her health services and social psychology research laboratory. Currently the director of patient engagement, diversity and education, representing both the Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center and the Houston Methodist Research Institute, she has published more than 140 journal articles focusing on patient-oriented research, clinical trials and development of new educational technologies, including digital storytelling and implementation of international best practices. Her NIH-funded research builds risk models using computational medicine to predict the need for medical interventions in kidney patients and living donors. In 2019, she received an award for national influence in transplantation by a nonphysician.
Thanks to the generous support of our philanthropic community, Houston Methodist’s 147 endowed chairholders and professors are engaged in the research, training and education, and care that enable Houston Methodist to lead medicine and accelerate the speed of medical innovation