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New chairholders


The eight Houston Methodist endowed chairs filled in 2022 represent extraordinary leadership responding to many of the most compelling patient care needs of modern medicine. Through the generosity of the benefactors who established these endowed positions, chairholders draw from a stable, long-term financial resource to support their innovative and impactful work.
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Cesar A. Arias, MD, MSc, PHD
John F. III and Ann H. Bookout Distinguished Chair for Research Excellence
Dr. Arias is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Houston Methodist Hospital and co-director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. An internationally recognized physician-scientist with expertise in the molecular and clinical aspects of antimicrobial resistance, Dr. Arias is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, a board director for the Infectious Diseases Society of America and a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation. Dr. Arias is the founding chair of the Gulf Coast Consortium for Antimicrobial Resistance. He is also a consultant for the World Health Organization Antibiotic Pipeline Panel and a part of the Antibacterial Resistance Leadership Group funded by the National Institutes of Health.
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J. Todd Frazier
Gerald H. Dubin, MD Presidential Distinguished Centennial Director in the Art of Medicine for the Center for Performing Arts Medicine
Exploring how music affects the brain and can improve patient outcomes is part of the groundbreaking research in progress at Houston Methodist under the leadership of Frazier, director of the Houston Methodist Center for Performing Arts Medicine. Since he began as program director in 2013, music therapy has become an integral part of patient recovery in multiple care units, and the arts have been integrated in community areas to improve the patient and employee experience. Recently, focus has expanded to support benefactor Dr. Gerald Dubin’s wish to improve compassionate and empathetic communication skills in the hospital setting through the arts. The recipient of numerous awards, Frazier graduated from the Eastman School of Music before studying at The Julliard School.
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Jun Li, MD, PHD
The John M. O’Quinn Foundation Presidential Distinguished Chair in Neurology
As chair of the Stanley H. Appel Department of Neurology, Dr. Li’s goals are to integrate patient care and research, attract extramural funding and produce high-impact scientific discoveries. His area of subspecialty is in peripheral nerve diseases and myelin biology. Dr. Li treats patients from all over the U.S. With research continuously funded (for nearly two decades) by the National Institutes of Health, he has published more than 90 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Li has received the Wolfe Research Prize from the American Neurological Association and is a current member of its board of directors as well as the certification council of the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties.
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Joan E. Nichols, PHD
Dr. and Mrs. Alan L. Kaplan Centennial Chair in Cellular Therapeutics and Organ Bioengineering
Nichols is a professor of immunology in surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and a full member of the Houston Methodist Research Institute. She has directed or collaborated on research projects examining wound and tissue repair as well as alterations in the immune response of the lung and other respiratory tissues after exposure to pollutants and/or pathogens. With expertise in microbiology and immunology, Nichols combines stem cells with tissue-engineering techniques. Highlights include the production of whole human acellular scaffolds and a bioengineered lung for transplantation. Nichols’ mission is to apply science and engineering to regenerate or restore injured, diseased or degenerated tissues and organs for enhanced quality of human life.
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Polly A. Niravath, MD
Lois E. and Carl A. Davis Centennial Chair in Cancer Research
Dr. Niravath spearheads the survivorship clinic in the Houston Methodist Dr. Mary and Ron Neal Cancer Center. Her goal is to offer comprehensive patient care from diagnosis to treatment. A breast oncologist board certified in oncology and hematology, Dr. Niravath focuses her research on survivorship and reduction of treatment-related side effects for breast cancer patients. After finishing her medical training at the University of California, Irvine, Dr. Niravath completed her residency and fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine. She was awarded clinical research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Her vision includes broadening survivorship research to support Houston Methodist’s candidacy for National Cancer Institute designation.
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Dimitry G. Sayenko, MD, PHD
Paula and Joseph C. “Rusty” Walter III Associate Director in Neuromodulation
With the goal to improve quality of life for patients with severe neurological injuries and disorders, Dr. Sayenko leads the Neuromodulation and Recovery Laboratory at Houston Methodist. In his clinical research, Dr. Sayenko seeks to promote both upper and lower limb sensorimotor function using both noninvasive and invasive spinal stimulation technologies. Currently, no other medical center in the world is addressing all four simultaneously. Dr. Sayenko received his medical degree from the Russian State Medical University and completed doctoral and postdoctoral training in Japan and Canada. With his Houston Methodist colleagues, he is initiating research to help restore motor function via epidural spinal electrodes, robotic interfaces and virtual reality.
Kevin E. Varner, MD
C. James and Carole Walter Looke Presidential Distinguished Centennial Chair in Orthopedics
Dr. Varner is chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and assistant professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Varner has published more than 30 peer-reviewed journal articles. Patients nationwide seek him out for his expertise in foot and ankle injuries. He serves as head physician for the Houston Ballet, physician for the Houston Texans, and orthopedic consultant for the Houston Astros and Houston Rockets. Dr. Varner received his medical degree and completed his residency and internship at Baylor College of Medicine. He completed his foot and ankle fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital. A board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Varner has been a Texas Monthly magazine Super Doctor® annually for over a decade.
Ming You, MD, PHD
Daniel E. Lehane, MD Distinguished Chair in Cancer Excellence
As an internationally recognized expert in research on cancer prevention, Dr. You has a mission to drive patient care to the next level in the Houston Methodist Dr. Mary and Ron Neal Cancer Center. Dr. You has participated in National Cancer Institute think tanks for cancer susceptibility and chemoprevention and is currently a principal investigator for grants from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health. After completing medical school at Beijing Medical College, he earned a doctorate in pathology at the Medical College of Ohio. Dr. You and his Houston Methodist research team are developing multiple mitochondria-targeted drugs as preventive and therapeutic agents in lung, oral and breast cancers. Dr. You is also initiating prophylactic cancer vaccines.