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Biosecurity Leader to Head A&M Health Science Center

After landing a major federal contract as Texas A&M University System’s vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, Brett Giroir is being named interim executive vice president for the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Flanked by A&M Chancellor John Sharp, l, and Gov. Rick Perry, Dr. Brett Giroir, M.D. of the Texas A&M System at the vaccine research lab announcement on March 26, 2013.

After helping to landing a high-profile federal contract as Texas A&M University System’s vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, Brett Giroir is being named interim executive vice president for the Texas A&M Health Science Center, officials announced on Monday.

In June 2012, an A&M team — in large part due to Giroir’s efforts —secured a major $285.6 million contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a center focused on developing and manufacturing medicine and vaccines to respond to pandemic diseases and bioterror threats.

Despite leaving system administration for the health science center, Giroir said he will continue to have a strong commitment to the system's Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development & Manufacturing, which was subsequently created. "I think it remains one of the most important initiatives for Texas," he told the Tribune in an interview.

Maintaining his ties to the center will be even easier than it may initially appear. In an email sent to a select group of supporters on Sunday evening, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said he intends to move the administration of the development and manufacturing center under the health science center along with Giroir.

“This will ensure that all research expenditures associated with the project will contribute to Texas A&M's national research rankings and dramatically raise the research status of TAMHSC,” Sharp wrote, predicting that the move could elevate the system’s health science center into “roughly the equivalent of the long established University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.”

Last year, the system began the process of moving the health science center, which had been an independent institution since it was initially established in 1999, under the administration of Texas A&M University. The schools formally merged in July. Initially, Giroir will report to R. Bowen Loftin, who currently serves as president of Texas A&M University but plans to step down in early 2014.

Giroir told the Tribune that having a health science center that was part of a university rather than on its own would foster “truly interdisciplinary work.”

“I don’t just mean biochemistry working with biology,” he said. I mean medicine and nursing working with engineering and physics and mathematics. That really is the new frontier for medicine.”

Giroir joined the A&M system in 2008. He previously served as a professor and associate dean at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He also served in a variety of roles within the federal government, including a stint as director of the Defense Sciences Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

He said he was excited to take the helm of the health science center. “My career has been in medicine and public health,” he said. “My brain, my heart, my passion remains with patients and, more importantly, preventing people from becoming patients with appropriate public health practices.”

Giroir’s first day on the job as interim executive vice president of the health science center is Oct. 1, though he will begin holding meetings to prepare for the transition right away.

Giroir conveyed a research-centric vision for the future of the relatively young health science center. 

“Research is a great opportunity for us,” he said, adding that it was necessary to develop graduates that are lifelong learners. “Research is a vital part of any modern health science center because what we do for patients today is not what we want to do 10 years for now or even five years from now.”

In his email explaining the coming changes, Sharp wrote, “I shall miss Brett at the A&M System — he has been a great partner — but he will do amazing things in this new role.”

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