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James T. Willerson Honored at Texans for Cures series, “Hearts and Minds”

James T. Willerson Honored at Texans for Cures series, “Hearts and Minds”

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Texans for Cures hosted an event dedicated to honoring renowned cardiologist and Texas Heart Institute president James T. Willerson, M.D.

Approximately 140 guests from across Texas, Arizona, California, Colorado and Georgia gathered at the Italian Cultural Center on Thursday for the Houston leg of the Texans for Cures educational series “Hearts and Minds.” The crowd celebrated Willerson’s extensive career in medicine and groundbreaking research.

While the Austin, Texas-based nonprofit helps fund clinical trials for pediatric cancers, Texans for Cures chairman David L. Bales highlighted Willerson’s pioneering work in stem cell research and regenerative medicine, which led to major discoveries in heart repair and 15 patents.

“Dr. Willerson … has helped people his entire life, so I think it’s time for us to recognize everything he’s done for the Houston community and the people [who] have dealt with heart disease,” Bales said.

Willerson’s accomplishments as a research scientist, practicing physician and educator did not go unnoticed by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who also made a special guest appearance at the event and proclaimed Sept. 22 to be James T. Willerson Day in honor of the doctor’s lifetime of achievements.

“Dr. Willerson has done so very much,” Turner said. “The Texas Heart Institute is world renowned, and he has taken it and all its partners to new heights.”

In addition to his position as president of Texas Heart Institute and member of the Texans for Cures Medical Advisory Committee, Willerson is an adjunct professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He served as president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, cardiology chief at St. Luke’s Medical Center and medical services chief at Memorial Herman Hospital.

Prior to his work in the Texas Medical Center, he was a professor and cardiovascular division director at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, as well as former chairman of the National American Heart Association Research Committee and National Institutes of Health’s Cardiovascular and Renal Study Section.

Willerson has guest lectured at more than 240 institutions across the world, worked on 24 textbooks and 1,000 articles and earned innumerable awards for his career.

Proceeds for the event helped benefit clinical research programs led by Texas Heart Institute regenerative medicine director Doris A. Taylor, M.D., to build a functioning human heart with stem cells and Baylor College of Medicine immunologist William K. Decker, Ph.D., to develop an immunotherapy and patented cancer vaccine for pediatric patients with brain cancer.

To learn more about the research scientists are doing on regenerative medicine across the Texas Medical Center, read our “Pioneers of Regeneration” article from 2015.

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