ERIK: And we're here. This is the Baylor College of Medicine Resonance podcast. I'm one of your hosts, Erik Anderson.
JUAN: I'm another host, Juan Carlos Ramirez.
KARL: And my name is Karl Lundin. I was the writer for this episode.
ERIK: Yeah, Karl, you might have actually been the writer for the most episodes right now. You're number one.
KARL: I want the award at the end of this year, I always knew I was the greatest. This is good confirmation.
ERIK: Yeah. We're very modest here.
KARL: Oh I know I am.
ERIK: Uh, so yeah and actually though, speaking of modesty, the person that we were just saying how just nice of a person the instructor that we interviewed on this episode is . . .
KARL: Yes, today we're going to be talking with Dr. Sandra Haudek. And yes, she is one of the nicest people in the world, very kind, very modest person, also happens to be the director of the Foundations of Basic Science and Medicine program at Baylor. So basically that's kind of like the first year courses, lectures, you'll take in sort of the Basic Sciences things like, you know, biochemistry and that sort of stuff they give you . . .
JUAN: All of the things we love.
KARL: Yes, who doesn't love some good biochemistry. Um, no, but that Anatomy, you know kind of the foundational content you need to know before you can go into the clinics as a medical student so that a lot of the stuff that's like tested for on the MCAT, things like that. Yeah, really great person, really great to get a chance to talk to her. In addition to being academic director, she also has a pretty interesting life though, we got into. She of course has a pretty extensive research background. She's not Ph – er, she's not an MD, she's a PhD, so she comes to Medicine kind of by way of basic science research. We’ll talk a little bit about, that get into some interesting topics there. She did some research on cardiac inflammation and fibrosis, some interesting research involving TNF as a mediator for some of these phenomena and then probably at least, for my year of med school – me and Erik's year of med school – the most popular lecture she taught was on the topic of stem cells, which she also has a little bit of research experience and it is also a very interesting topic we get into and she has some really cool insights and ideas about that.
ERIK: Yeah. I remember she was really excited when she taught us – did we – just had like, I think just one lecture on stem cells, but I remember she taught it and you could tell how enthusiastic she was about – I mean, they're very cool, I mean, don't get me wrong, so it's easy to be enthusiastic about it.
KARL: We had a lot of passion, and also passion, like, kind of a rat surrounding some of the interesting not just scientific issues. But also there's, like, stem cell research is a great place to explore a kind of the intersection between, you know, scientific philosophical and sort of ethical issues as they interact when we apply scientific principles and scientific discoveries to healthcare, right? To medical treatments, which is a very important, but often maybe not as much emphasized part of our education.
ERIK: No. Yeah, I think you're right.
JUAN: And she's kind of like the epitome of, she's not a busybody but she does so much, right? We really have no excuse, like “I don't have time for this”, “I don't have time for that”, she actually balances life quite well and kind of pushes it in all directions. Yeah, cuz she also organized or organizes the Scholastic – yeah. I'm gonna edit this out. Actually, but what I'm trying to say, but I don't remember it is the Scholastic Research Symposium. She organizes that.
KARL: I do vaguely remember talking or hearing about that. Although once again, I'm not the big research guy. Sitting in the room with the M.D./Ph.D.s, you know, I'll cede that to you for –
ERIK: We should know it all.
KARL: But yeah, Dr. Haudek, very interesting person. Very wonderful human being too, I think we’ve all had some real positive experiences. She just always is a very kind friendly person, always willing to help you out. I remember one time – she would just do these nice things for our class. One time she brought in a big old platter of cookies and there's all these different cookies and treats and sweets from, Dr Haudek. Like where were these cookies where are these sweets coming from she like, “oh, you know, I had a little get-together this weekend” and we kept trying to talking with her about it and we kind of got hers like, “oh, well, it was my birthday this weekend”. “Well, Dr. Haudek, you didn’t tell us it was your birthday!”. And so of course, later in the day we surprised her during histology. We all sang Happy Birthday to her and it was just a very sweet moment and well deserved for a very wonderful human being. Also, an amazing ballroom dancer. Apparently. Yeah, that's another thing she'll mention briefly in her last lectures, but interesting thing we’ll get into in the interview today. She also, her and her husband are involved in the world of – I guess you call it competitive dancing, although apparently they haven’t competed as much in the last few years, but it's another interesting little thing we get into; and also talking about kind of how you can have an intense hobby like that and have that be an important part of work-life balance in some of these kind of, I guess high-intensity fields like, you know, the professions in science and medicine; or it's easy to get absorbed in your work, but it's important to always have other things in life, too and we get into that a little bit as well.
ERIK: Sounds like a good talk.
JUAN: Let's get over to the episode.
ERIK: Yep. All right.
JUAN: Here we are. Juan Carlos Ramirez, one of the hosts for the Resonance podcast, the Baylor College of Medicine.
KARL: This is Karl, I was the writer for this episode and thank you for joining us Dr. Haudek.
DR. HAUDEK: My pleasure to be here, I really like talking to you.
KARL: Yes, we're very happy to be talking to you. Dr. Haudek, for those who don't know, she is the course director for Foundations of Basic Science and Medicine which is kind of the first set of courses that students start on here at the medical school; and also a very wonderful and kind human being, and we thought it'd be lovely to have a chance to talk to her today for this podcast episode. So Dr. Haudek we thought we'd just start out by asking if you could tell us a little bit about your background.
DR. HAUDEK: First of all, I maybe thank you for having me here. I really enjoy telling you and your colleagues more about me, my personal life, my professional lives, my interests, and so on.
I am originally from Austria. I was born and raised in a town called Innsbruck in the Alps. So I was told I could ski before I could walk with, like, Innsbruck was a town where the Olympics were twice. But I was 10, my family moved to Vienna, the capital of Austria. No mountains, no skiing. And so I had to start dancing.
After high school, I went to the University of Technology in Vienna and I started genetic engineering with an emphasis on biochemistry, of which I graduated with a Master's degree. We do not have Bachelor’s degrees, at least at that time. You just go to the Master's degree right away. And after the Master's degree, only if you have a Master's degree, you are eligible to enroll in a Ph.D program, which I did I enrolled in Vienna in my Ph.D program and that was biochemistry. And I started this program and I had the opportunity to go and explore a different country. I always wanted to be in an English-speaking country. I always wanted to be somewhere else. I traveled a lot my whole life. I was very interested in learning about other cultures and other people, so I really really like this opportunity to go for one year to Dallas, Texas and work at UT Southwestern.
That one year turned into six years. I did finish my PhD, yes, and then after I finished it – actually, I had to go back to Austria to finish it and defend it, but then I was offered the postdoc position. My mentor was Dr. Brett [Giroir]. He was, you can see nowadays, in the White House talking about the COVID 19 testing kit incidences. Yeah, it was interesting for me to see him now on TV.
KARL: That's very interesting.
DR. HAUDEK: It is. After six years in Dallas, I was ready to move on. I knew I wanted to stay in the US. Also, because I met my nowadays husband in Dallas and we both decided to stay in the US. And we applied all over the US for jobs, and it was Houston where we both had an offer, and be both very good offers. And that's how I came to Baylor.
KARL: So was biology, biochemistry – was that a passion that you always had, even as a child?
DR. HAUDEK: Actually, it was chemistry. My high school, I had a teacher who really really influenced me greatly. I just loved the way she talked. I loved her lessons, was very easy for me to learn it. And I actually wanted to study pharmacy, it was my real passion – organic chemistry, pharmacy, yet in Austria at that time, pharmacy – I didn't know much about industry at that time. But working in a drugstore was not my future and vision and so I decided not to study pharmacy, but keep it a little bit more open. So I started chemical engineering.
I think that the drug before I started chemical engineering. Yes. And then in the last years of my study I had my first course in biochemistry and I learned about DNA and proteins and I thought “oh, this is really cool because I love that thing”. And so I took an elective in genetic engineering and I took electives in biochemistry. And also I graduated in chemical engineering and knew at that time that my PhD should be in Biochemistry.
KARL: Interesting. So it's kind of a process of experiences one leading to the other.
DR. HAUDEK: Exactly.
JUAN: And you get to use those skills to this day.
DR. HAUDEK: Well, I forgot a lot of it. I remember a few years ago. I went back to Austria and I had to go through all my books and course notes and everything, and I had notes in my hand and I don’t remember ever writing them.
JUAN: I think some of us feel that way about six months ago in med school, perhaps they can – when did I write this?
KARL: So did you want to ask a little bit about her research experiences, Juan?
Dr. HAUDEK: Okay, so my research experience. When I accepted my PhD advisor position in Vienna, I knew that I wanted to study a topic in Biochemistry, and I knew that I would like to go to an English-speaking country. And so when I first met him, Dr. Hans Weiler – I am still very close with him today – he told me that he has this project which involves investigation of the transcriptional aspects in the promoter region of the Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha gene with special emphasis on Nuclear Factor Kappa B and AP1 transcription factor protein-coding regions in the baboon compared to the human. And I remember sitting down looking at him and the only thing that I really understood was it somehow involves a monkey?
Well, everything else sounded great. And so I decided I'll go for it and I'll do it. And this is how my most intimate relationship with TNF-α or TNF started, because TNF has been my protein of Interest throughout my whole research career. I started with the role of TNF in sepsis, and it’s purely genetic engineering – sequencing and identifying promoter of the transcriptional regions in the promoter region in sepsis. And then, after a few years from sepsis, I was interested in TNF in the heart, during heart failure specifically – not just to sepsis – and that is actually what brought me to Baylor. Dr. Douglas Mann, he used to be Chief of Cardiology at Baylor. So he was interested in TNF in heart failure. And that was also the reason why I came to Baylor, to work with him and his group.
And from there on, after my postdoc was finished, I stayed at Baylor and I moved into the Michael E. DeBakey Heart Research Center, which was located or still is located in a Methodist Hospital in the Fondren building. So my lab and my office for more than 15 years was on the sixth floor in the Fondren building in Methodist, and I was interested in chronic heart failure. And during that time TNF was a little bit pushed into the background because I was more looking into general cytokines and growth factors that influence the differentiation of precursor cells or stem cells into fibroblasts or other cells in the heart, not specifically cardiomyocytes, but other cells. And so that's how my journey into stem cell research started.
After a few years after identifying factors and identifying a stem cell source in the bone marrow and in the blood, I circled back to TNF, and in my last research here – so I investigated specifically the TNF signaling cascade in those precursor cells. What makes them differentiate into a cardiac fibroblast or what makes them differentiate into a monocyte or macrophage. So here TNF again.
KARL: Interesting. So I – and forgive me, I don't have a super large amount of, fund of knowledge in this area, but is the main interest in fibroblasts because they'd be involved in scarification of the heart tissue?
DR. HAUDEK: Yes. Fibroblasts were always underestimated because the focus was always on the cardiomyocyte, and only in the in the late 2000s the role of the fibroblast was acknowledged. It was not just the structural cell, but it actually has some function, some very important functions. And yes, it is most important also in acute myocardial infarction where some of the heart tissue dies off and the scar tissue forms. And yes, it's the fibroblasts who mediate the scar tissue. And yes, I work peripherally on this, but my main interest was fibroblasts during chronic heart failure such as on the hypertension.
So I worked with mouse models that received angiotensin infusions or surgical mouse models in which their aorta was constricted or mouse models with mini infarctions. And then observe over time how fibrosis develops and what the process is for scar formation in acute heart failure. How detrimental it is in long-term chronic disease development because the more fibrosis you have the more elasticity is lost, and the heart needs to overcome the resistance and pump harder. And so long-term, you do want to inhibit fibrosis in a chronic condition.
KARL: That makes sense. And it probably could also derange some of the contractile activity if it's interfering with the constriction of the myocytes and the organization of the myocytes. So that actually sounds really interesting. So, basically you were exploring the role that these fibroblast have in chronic heart failure patients and – just real quick. How does TNF circle back?
DR. HAUDEK: So TNF signals through two different receptors, receptor 1 and receptor 2. Receptor 1 is highly investigated and it's also the receptor sought to be signaling apoptosis in cells. Whereas TNF receptor 2 is thought to signal positive effects of TNF in cells in general, but the role of TNF receptor 2 is less much, is much less known that of TNF receptor one. And so my goal really was to sort out the differences between those two receptors, which was kind of difficult because you really had to work with knockout models because they were – most antibodies available for inhibit, or most Inhibitors of TNF that are available target both receptors and don't discriminate between the two.
KARL: So by knockout models, basically, you would find a mouse lineage that had one receptor functional but the other receptor not functional and sequence it.
DR. HAUDEK: Exactly.
KARL: Interesting. And did you find anything you think is particularly noteworthy you'd like to share with us?
DR. HAUDEK: Well the way in our studies, it was the TNF 1 receptor that was detrimental. I confirmed but there was, but again it was one specific myocyte process that has the option of either differentiating into a monocytes or into fibroblasts and there are those M1 and M2 macrophages in the middle – I don't want to go into detail – and the TNF really made a significant difference in which of the two outcomes it can steer the differentiation.
KARL: Okay. And the monocyte would be the more beneficial outcome, whereas the fibroblasts would lead to the more chronic heart failure type outcome?
DR. HAUDEK: It depends on the situation. Sometimes you want one, sometimes you want the other. So in an acute model for instance, you first want to have the monocytes that clear the wound, and clear off debris, and want – you need inflammation to start the baseline for good scar formation. It’s a timely asset, the inflammatory cells in the heart, and then after they have done their job the scar formation process starts. Now, that’s in acute infarct. Now in chronic infarct, in chronic heart failure, you do not have cardiomyocyte self-death so you don't lose cells, so there is no need for scar formation. So fibroblasts that would develop in long-term heart failure would deposit collagen in between cells, and does make it sticky in between cells and influence the mechanical aspects and electrochemical aspects between cells and that contributes. So in long-term heart failure, you want to inhibit fibrosis actually and also only have a minimum amount of new cells as well.
JUAN: What if something like this discovery in acute versus the chronic, what does that sort of mean for in the clinical setting? Is that change therapy or – ?
DR. HAUDEK: And again, it's been a few years, so everything I say is the status of a few years ago. So I have that disclaimer. Myocardial infarct, in the beginning, was the first target of most clinical trials and also stem cell therapies. However, nowadays even so myocardial infarct is very prevalent. If a patient receives adequate care within a certain amount of time, which is pretty standard today, the survival chances are very very high. In other words, today, if a patient seeks help adequately and timely, the patient will survive the infarct. However surviving infarct is the first step – then afterwards comes the long remodeling phase, the adjusting to it, the regeneration of the tissue. So a lot of problems – long-term chronic problems – happen three to five years after the infarct. So now that most patients survive we have increased problems of remodeling and long-term impact. So just go back in time when people died of a heart attack, then there was less prevalence of remodeling and long-term failure.
KARL: Yeah, your heart was just gone.
DR. HAUDEK: The second thing is – obesity, diabetes, one of those really classical clinical scenarios that are very prevalent nowadays. They all impact heart function in a chronic way. Hypertension for instance. A lot of people have hypertension and this, in addition to treating their hypertension diseases and symptoms, their heart is the one suffering also because the pressure is higher on the heart and the heart has to work a lot harder against that long-term hypertension. So eventually, yes, there will be mechanisms that will lead to heart failure.
JUAN: With people that have the, sort of, these predisposing factors like obesity and hypertension, the set, sort of does that change the timeline of when they need to seek help or or when these remodeling issues occur after the myocardial infarction?
DR. HAUDEK: That is a very good comment. I have to say I have not been working on this in the last five years, so I'm not really up to date. But yes, I do know that current research is really geared towards how to influence that remodeling phase. And also how can you reverse adverse remodeling back to normal? There is a lot of research going on in that direction.
KARL: So I think you touched on stem cell therapies in this discussion. I’m wondering if you could kind of discuss how that kind of circles back in here. And some of the issues surrounding that you may encounter.
DR. HAUDEK: I love the whole stem cell topic. Also, I never – I do not consider myself as a typical stem cell investigator. I am always peripherally working with them. I think the closest I ever worked with stem cell was in the late 90s in Dallas, but I worked with mouse embryonic stem cells and I tried to differentiate them into cardiac myocytes; and it was a side project, Dr. Shuar and I we worked on this together. And for a whole year, I tried everything, every protocol, everything and I think I only saw like three beating cells in this whole year. So that experiment was a failure.
KARL: So three that contracted like muscles, that actually had a contractile to them? Okay.
DR. HAUDEK: These typical signs for cardiomyocytes, you can see it easily in the in the dish if cells are contracting then they are most probably cardiomyocytes. And so that was my first long-term experiment with embryonic stem cells and even though it was a failure and we did not continue that project and I never picked up on it, but it really set the stage for me to really think about what are those cells? Why do we work with them? And what did I actually try to do? Now again, this was in the late 90s, meanwhile, there are protocols out there how to differentiate pluripotent stem cells into cardiomyocytes. Plenty of them. So today probably would be an easy, easy process. However, it really intrigued me, and at that time, while I was doing it, I did not think about it that much but afterwards – maybe in the early 2000s – I revisited this project. I don't know that it's just me that if something doesn't work, I'm very persistent and I always go back and think about what went on and so my interest sparked in embryonic stem cell research.
And also I never did it again in the lab myself. I read up on the literature. I got involved in discussions. I researched on my own and then also expanded into adult stem cells and fetal stem cells. And I started talking, first to family members and then to friends, and then to others about what do they think about it? And I realized that many people either did not think about it at all or had a very non-scientific view, and that intrigued me even more. And so I started in the Houston community going around to schools, retirement communities, other communities, and talked to people about stem cells and I realized there was a huge need because in the 2000s, early 2000s was really the hype of stem cell therapies and stem cell supply and I think during the elections for president, I think it was President Obama, it came out that in his election communications, he had to make a statement about stem cells and that intrigued me a lot. It's like, why would that matter for a president? Actually, it was under President Bush that the big stem cell debates started. But why would that matter? Why would that be a stake in the election? Why not talk about cancer or obesity or something – why stem cells? And so that that made me look into this and also other people around me are interested. So to come to a point, it was my goal to educate the public, and private, and students about what stem cells really are, what you can do with them, what is their promise, why is there such a hype about it? And what do we do now?
JUAN: Yeah, I think one of the most memorable things that you've said to us as a medical students while you're teaching these stem cell lectures is to – you really challenged us to think about, you know, stem cells and know more about it obviously for medical school, but to sort of dive into the ethical hurdles that have been brought up in the past and then the present and what we think will happen in the future. To think about these things as physicians. How do you think that's kind of changed in the past and now, and sort of going forward?
DR. HAUDEK: First of all, I don't think it has changed. I think it's the same hurdles, the same ethical decisions, the same problems. I do have to say that I only have this one hour with medical students and there is a lot of scientific knowledge I probably should emphasize more on while teaching the first class. And so I – every year before, up to the minute before I enter MacMillian, I'm thinking “am I going to talk about this today or not?” Because, so far I’ve always decided for yes, I'm going to do this, because in the end there are always a few students who are impacted by what I say. There are also students who are totally not impacted and they receive email saying, like, why you do this, it was absolutely not relevant, and I should just quit doing this. So I get both messages. But I do think that this is my one and only opportunity to bring it up. And so I think I will keep doing this.
My goal here is not just to challenge students about thinking about stem cells, but also in general challenge students to not take everything at face value. I think it is really important, the critical thinking and having an opinion about anything, and I use stem cells. But anything that they have to make their own decisions in life, what do they believe in and whatnot. And that goes through their medical training, through their basic science training, through whatever other training everyone has. And so I'm very passionate about this, yes. I wish I would have more hours.
KARL: Well, I think it's valuable. Often throughout science and including the medical field we can get tempted to think of just the very cold, factual, logical scientific side of things, but we really especially in medicine kind of exist in an interface with very high ethical implications, and a lot of the decisions and things we have to think through and make decisions about are going to involve taking scientific information and an ethical framework and sort of trying to interface between those two to do, you know, what we think is right for the patients and for society. So I think it is a valuable exercise to consider the ethical implications of what you're doing as a scientist.
DR. HAUDEK: Thank you. Yes, I would like to continue also with the induced pluripotent stem cell technology that is now readily available. The discussion has mellowed down a little bit because more and more people really take advantage of IPS cells and kind of step away from the embryonic stem cell. It has its own set of problems, granted, but it does not have the problem of the destruction of an embryo. That is a huge, huge, huge advantage over all the other ones. Now with the adult stem cells there has never been that problem to begin with –there are other ethical problems, standardization problems and things, but with the IPS technology I think that will go forward and that will be the future of stem cell therapies. In combination, and I want to really emphasize, that in combination with tissue engineering. Stem cells alone, by itself, will have a big impact but the greater impact will be the combination of stem cells with scaffolds, with material, with equipment, with devices, together.
KARL: You’re talking about, like, so this is a gross simplification. We don't just have the cell that's maybe been induced to differentiate around a certain pathway, but we might have some sort of mesh framework that the cells are provided to grow around to help shape the structure that they're trying to make – is that what you're saying?
DR. HAUDEK: Exactly. So it is absolutely necessary to collaboration between scientists and clinicians, but to involve engineers, to involve engineers knowledgeable about different materials. Physicist who can calculate a nanotechnology to make very, very thin fibers for instance. 3D printing, 3D printing opens the door to having these 3D scaffolds where cells can be seeded on and then as a whole can be used in an application. So I think in the future this is really where, in my personal opinion, will be the greatest impact.
KARL: And also just a real quick point of clarification. You mentioned induced pluripotent stem cells. So I’m wondering if you can just explain really quickly to the audience that may not know what that is and how that differentiates from the traditional embryonic or other types of stem cell.
DR. HAUDEK: Okay, so that embryonic stem cells stem from zygotes. Actually the zygote divides into a morula and a blastocyst, and then you destroy the blastocyst and take the cells and culture them in a tissue culture plate. And those are your embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells and IPS stem cells are both very highly potent, very high – so that's why they're called pluripotent. That means it has the capacity to regenerate every single cell type, every single of those 220 cell types that are found in the human being. That's why they are super potent. Now, the more often a cell divides and the more often it differentiates, it loses that potency. That's why in an adult organism the stems cells that we isolate are only multipotent. Because they have lost already the capacity of making many cell types. So they usually, they stay within their germ layer lineage. They cannot go to others. Once they move further, eventually, the endpoint is the fully specialized cell.
Now, IPS technology is a method in which you take a fairly differentiated cell, like fibroblasts for instance, and you genetically manipulate that cell to go backwards, which is against every nature mechanism. You use a viral vector to induce the expression of certain transcription factors, specifically, four transcription factors and those four transcription factors are named after the person who invented it and that was Shinya Yamanaka. So those transcription factors are called Yamanaka factors. And so the expressing genes, those Yamanaka factors, are induced into an adult cell and their expression is forced; and by doing so the cell is forced to differentiate backwards into an original pluripotent cell. That's why they are called induced pluripotent cells. So it's going backwards against nature to the same point where embryonic stem cells are, or supposedly are. Now once you have this dish – so you started with fibroblasts, and you have a dish of pluripotent cells, and then the pluripotent cells you can make all the 200 different cell types that you want. And so you only have to have the recipes to do so.
KARL: So the basic advantage is going to be instead of having the ethical implications of potentially having to destroy an embryo, you can take some cells from an adult. And before those stem cells weren't going to be as useful because they only had a limited range of things that can differentiate into, whereas if we can use IPS you can go back and use those cells from an adult theoretically in the same way that we could use in embryonic stem cells. Is that the basic advantage?
DR. HAUDEK: Yes. Thank you.
JUAN: I think it would be nice to sort of switch gears. You also have this side of you that many people don't see – that work-life balance that that is kind of, you set up as a kind of as a role model for us to sort of work on both our professional and then pursue the things that make us happy outside of our scientific pursuits. But in your case, I think it's still somewhat professional. Would you care to elaborate?
DR. HAUDEK: Well, thank you very much for calling me your role model. That that really makes my day because that's really what I want to be.
JUAN: No, absolutely.
DR. HAUDEK: Thank you. Throughout my life, I was always very curious and very open to exploring different aspects. The switch from research into education was a gradual switch. It was not one day to the next, and I did it because – not by default, it was an active decision. I did have opportunities to continue in research, but I actively decided against it. I like – I enjoy working with individuals of any age and any level from students to faculty. I enjoy the one-on-one meetings, enjoy the social aspects, I enjoy the communication. And this is really what's driving me – what has driven me into education and what is still driving me today. So my first advice for life-work balance is really enjoy what you're doing professionally and in your life and in your private life. Yes, we all work hard. But if you really like what you do, it's not really work. If that makes sense.
DR. HAUDEK: I really enjoy going to work. I really enjoy the things that I do and so that is already part of my balance. Now I am also open, I talk about what I think and feel, hopefully in a respectful way. And I always assume the best in the other person in front of me.
KARL: I think that's a good principle.
DR. HAUDEK: Yeah, we are all equals kind of, I feel we are equal so I often ask students for advice. My biggest interaction is with the MS1 students during the course, but I really like that some of the students during in their fall-up years. They still come to my office every once in a while and tell me hey, you know, I'm doing this and that or just ask me how you are and then I ask them for advice and say hey, I just did this in the course and I got terrible feedback. What am I doing wrong? So I appreciate that.
As for life-work balance in its essence. Yes, at home, I think it's important to have a supportive partner with whom you have general interests in common, but also who complement each other. There are things I hate to do, like cooking. That’s my husband, and I do the laundry for him because he doesn't like to do that one, so we complement each other. But we do have a common hobby and that is dancing in our case and it is very important to keep our hobbies alive and not move it away because work takes over. So for instance we have a rule we have training every Friday evening for years. There is absolutely nothing that can make me stay on a Friday and work longer than six o'clock. Usually I stay until seven or eight some days but not on Fridays. I just have, even if the deadline is not reached, I have to go home because Friday evening is dedicated dancing evening.
KARL: And you say hobby, but this dancing gets pretty intense. You guys go to competitions and stuff like that. Right? Could you tell us a little more about that?
DR. HAUDEK: It used to be very intense. Unfortunately after hobby, it stops being intense. I started that as a teenager, you know, Vienna is a city to dance, the Viennese Waltz comes from the city. We have, during Carnival – we have more than 300 public dance events in Vienna. Every weekend, you have a choice of 10 different ones, and so it is pretty standard in Vienna to go and learn how to dance. But here in Houston, you learn to play soccer or football. In Vienna, you learn to dance period. I continued dancing after that initial learning. When I came to the United States in my mid-20s, I thought I would start horseback riding or something. So in my mindset I thought okay, this is not old, and then I was in Dallas and I couldn’t resist checking out that one single dance school that exists, but actually they were two dance schools in Dallas. And so I thought, okay, you know just at least go there once and check it out. And coincidentally on that one day, there was this person from Holland who danced there as well, and we immediately clicked and we started to dance.
Well, make this very short that person is now my husband. Dancing went into dating, then went to marriage. So for many years, we stayed social dancing. It's a hobby. It's great exercise, great cardiovascular exercise. It is very social, you meet people. Importantly, it's a hobby that you and your partner together. And I think that also contributes to the work-life balance; you do something with your partner together. And now around 2008, I think we started to become interested in joining competitions. And this is when the really intense time started. And if intense, I mean five evenings per week training. Lessons with trainers, going through the country to different competitions, get your points, get into the system.
And once you are in this, it's just – your mind is set in this, and your ear towards, and it's not just dancing. It's then you have to have to dress up, and you have to have the makeup, then you have to have the connections and the trainings and I think be moved up the chain. And actually I admit I am quite proud of it. We made it into the final six, so our best placement was this international amateur competition for our age group and our type of dance, and that was really a major, major achievement. And our goal was to become among the top three. I think we had good chances. We were on the right roll and Harvey hit. Our house got flooded two feet underwater. And with that, everything changed – you don't have time to do anything other than working, then most necessary things, and taking care of your house, and taking care of your family. And even though everything is great again, we have not found back into the momentum of competitive dancing.
JUAN: But you still do it?
DR. HAUDEK: We still social dance, at least twice a week.
JUAN: Well, I guess now because of the COVID social distancing dance . . .
KARL: Are there talks for virtual dance competitions, virtual dancing, right?
DR. HAUDEK: It's not competitions. They have been canceled, unfortunately. Our dance school has virtual training sessions online and I have a group class where you're just do what the instructor’s doing. Or you can have a personal one-on-one question where you literally put up a video and you dance and the instructor gives you feedback on how you dance.
KARL: Wow. That's great. People still finding ways to stay active even in self-isolation.
JUAN: It really highlights, right, what's important . . .
DR. HAUDEK: Social socializing is important, but I also believe exercise is really important – at least it's important for me. And so since we don't dance that often anymore, I started little bit running. Yeah. I'm not sure if I could call it “running” running. I mean those two months that I run every other day.
KARL: So Dr. Haudek, just changing gears a little bit, talking more about some of your educational work at the school and kind of some of the new roles you’ve taken on in the past few years with the undergraduate medical education office and all that I was wondering if you'd be willing to explain some of that to us give us some inside information, you know.
DR. HAUDEK: So while I did my basic science research, I was always interested in education and I always reached out teaching graduate students mostly in the lab, and in the classroom and then one day in 2010 I met Dr. Goodman. He took me into his wings, or under his wings, and he made it possible for me to start lecturing in the Foundations course. And every year, I had one more or two more lectures. So I went from one lecture at the very beginning to my maximum, I think, of 30 lectures a year ago. But that really changed my life and that really influenced me of making the active decision, devoting my time hundred percent to education. So in 2017 was when I made that final step and I started in the foundations course. It took me two years and meet everyone to get used to things. So in 2018, 19, two years ago, so I course director and it is really an all year-round job. So if you ask me what my typical day looks like I really have to divide it into the first six months, January to June, and into the second six months, July to December.
Let's start with July to December. This may be the most applicable to you. I sit in class every day. I meet with students every day. I write exams every day. I talk to faculty every day. I make schedules. I put out fires. I communicate with everyone. I make sure everyone is where the person is supposed to be. And it's a 12-hour day during that time, it is a really long time. And most of my other projects I work on are kind of reduced during those six months because my primary goal is really that course. So I still do admissions interviewing every Friday. I still participate in curriculum development every Monday. But many of my other things are kind of on the back burner.
Now in the other six months when I do not have to sit in the lectures, I have so many different things to do. And that is also part of what I like. First of all, I do need to write up all the documentation for the Foundations course, but I'm also involved in the faculty development. I am the director of the peer coaching for educators program, which means we support faculty in their teaching skills. We teach them how to be a good teacher. I'm also involved in other faculty development like faculty awards, guidance, I advise people on promotion or I give a lot of workshops for faculty. I'm also on the faculty Senate and I organized three conference. As you know, I organized the Taub and James K Alexander medical research symposium. I organized a symposium for educators, annual educational showcase. This year, new, I organized – or I tried to organize, it was cancelled due to COVID-19 – a regional conference for educators. So that takes a lot of my time.
I do not come in to work on weekends. I really try to stay home. However every weekend I do work from home a couple of hours and I prefer doing things like reading documents or writing; something that I can do sitting on a sofa or not on a desk. I do that throughout the year and yes, once a year again – cancelled due to COVID-19 – or this spring, I go to Vienna to give my stem cell course, two weeks. So that keeps me also busy, on another course. So I'm wearing many different hats depending on which day you run into me. That's what I do.
JUAN: I guess it's fair to ask if there's anything you don't do.
DR. HAUDEK: clinical work. I don't do clinical work. But I do work with clinicians a lot, faculty and student. So if I walk along the whole way down the hallway, I recognize most faces. I apologize, I do not remember the names of many people and especially these medical students. I don't remember MS1s, or 2s, or 3s, because that also changes pretty fast, but I do remember faces and so when I walked down the hallway I just smile and say hi to everyone because there's a highly chance we know each other.
JUAN: It's safe to do.
DR. HAUDEK: And again, that's the part I enjoy of doing and if I have time and if the other person has time, I love to stop and say hi and follow up on what's going on right now.
KARL: Definitely the nice part of teaching, those relationship you can build with people.
DR. HAUDEK: Exactly, yeah.
KARL: We've enjoyed it a lot learning about, you know, stem cells, broken hearts, and the art of ballroom dancing, I guess – can we call that episode, at the title of the episode. Thank you very much for talking to us today. We really appreciate you.
JUAN: We really appreciate it.
DR. HAUDEK: As you know, I'm open, I try to share my experiences, and my pleasure. Thank you.
JUAN: Thank you.