Reception honors first scholars in program launched by Bob and Janice McNair

Nov. 1, 2011

Baylor College of Medicine's first four McNair Scholars were honored at a reception recently highlighting the program established by Bob and Janice McNair.

The McNair Medical Institute Scholars Program recruits leading physicians and scientists to Baylor College of Medicine to pursue collaborative and groundbreaking research.

The scholar program was launched through a $100 million gift from the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation to BCM in 2007. The McNairs, founders of the Houston Texans football team, identified four areas of focus for the first McNair Scholars – breast cancer, diabetes, pancreatic cancer and neurosciences.

Dr. Ben Arenkiel, assistant professor of molecular and human genetics and of neuroscience, was named the first McNair Scholar in 2010. He was joined this year by Dr. Jake Kushner, associate professor of pediatrics and section head of pediatric diabetes and endocrinology, Dr. Xiang "Shawn" Zhang, assistant professor of molecular and human genetics and in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, and Dr. Melissa Bondy, a cancer epidemiologist who serves as a professor of pediatrics – hematology/oncology and is part of the Duncan Cancer Center.

Joining Bob McNair at the reception were Dr. Paul Klotman and other leaders and faculty members of BCM; Marc Shapiro, chair of the BCM Board of Trustees; representatives of the McNair Medical Institute, the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and the Houston Texans; and members of the McNair family and the scholars' families.

Guests toured the Michael E. DeBakey Library and Museum prior to the reception, where the McNair Scholars were presented with a crystal statuette by Bob McNair.

"The crystal awards we present to the scholars are representative of a shooting star, which is what we hope these scientists will become. Their work is only beginning here at Baylor College of Medicine. We expect great things of them," McNair said.

The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation was established in 1988 and has supported many community and education programs. The McNair Scholars began when the McNairs established undergraduate scholarship programs at their alma maters, the University of South Carolina and Columbia College in South Carolina. The McNair Medical Institute at Baylor College of Medicine was established in 2007 to recruit and recognize outstanding physicians and scientists pursuing collaborative and translational research in the areas of breast and pancreatic cancer, juvenile diabetes and the neurosciences.

The McNair Medical Institute Scholars Program emphasizes collaboration between researchers and institutions in order to have the most impact.

"Janice and I believe strongly in collaboration in the scientific community for faster and more complete results," McNair said.

The McNairs have supported other BCM initiatives, such as neuroscience research, the M.D./Ph.D. McNair Scholars program and projects benefiting the Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine. In addition, Bob McNair is a member of the BCM Board of Trustees.