Commemorating 50th anniversary of Jewish Institute for Medical Research at Baylor

Baylor College of Medicine and community leaders recently gathered for a brunch at the Baylor College of Medicine Medical Center on the McNair Campus to commemorate the establishment of the Jewish Institute for Medical Research 50 years ago.

The institute was conceived by members of Houston’s Jewish community who wanted to establish a facility in the Texas Medical Center that would embody the Jewish concern for spiritual and physical well-being of all people. Their vision came to life through a matching grant from the federal government and the generous support of more than 900 community members who contributed to the institute.

“For 50 years now, a beautiful building with a Star of David on its exterior and a mezuzah on its doorpost has served as a research hub of the world-renowned Baylor College of Medicine,” said Dr. Barry Goodfriend, associate professor of medicine at Baylor and chairman of the Jewish Institute for Medical Research Advisory Committee.

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Early research that was centered at the institute included that of Dr. Thomas Caskey, professor of molecular and human genetics, who led pioneering research in gene identification and correction. Caskey was involved with the first city-wide screening for Tay-Sachs disease, an inherited disease that leads to blindness, several mental retardation and death before age 5. The primary target for this hereditary disorder is Ashkenazic Jewish children.

“Just as the Jewish community came together to support the Jewish Institute for Medical Research in the 1950s, I saw the same spirit of cooperation in 1988, when I was involved with the Tay-Sachs screening in Houston,” Caskey said at the brunch.

Dr. Paul Klotman, Baylor president and CEO, recalled losing his brother to the disease. He expressed gratitude to the community members at the brunch for their continued commitment to supporting the health of their neighbors near and far.

He cited some of the research conducted at the JIMR, including research of Dr. Michael DeBakey in cardiovascular disease, Dr. Joseph Melnick in polio and Dr. Roger Guillemin, who was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1977 for research conducted at Baylor that laid the foundation for brain hormone research.

“Their legacy lives on today in labs at the Jewish Institute for Medical Research and throughout Baylor, where we have seven National Academy of Science members, including Tom Caskey, and 13 members of the Institute of Medicine.”

Klotman said that scientific discovery will have an important role at the Baylor Medical Center, where patients will benefit from the latest advances in diagnostics and therapies.

Others speaking at the brunch included Marc Shapiro, a member of the BCM board of trustees, and Dr. Robert Zurawin, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, who led a traditional Jewish blessing.

The 130 guests also took self-guided tours of the Baylor Medical Center’s Bobby R. Alford, M.D. Educational Center, in-patient care rooms and surgery suites.

This post originally appeared on BCM Family.

-By Dana Benson

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