James Samuel, Ph.D., professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and Wofford Cain Endowed Chair in Infectious Disease, and Lynne Opperman, Ph.D., professor in the department of biomedical sciences at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, are the latest recipients of the prestigious Regents Professor Award. Jean Brender, Ph.D., RN, who served as both professor of epidemiology and associate dean for research at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, was also formally awarded the Professor Emerita status. The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents granted these designations during its November 12 meeting.

Established in 1996, the Regents Professor Award is bestowed annually in recognition of employees who have made exemplary contributions to their university or agency and to the people of Texas. The designation of emeritus/emerita recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the university and the system through their dedicated service, upon retirement. The title is added to each faculty member’s current designation or rank.

Samuel has been an integral part of the College of Medicine faculty since 1994 and has led the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology as Department Chair down a productive and innovative path since 2010.

Samuel received his undergraduate degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.  He received post-doctoral training at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., and worked in the Biotechnology arena for Battelle Memorial Institute and MicroCarb, Inc., prior to joining the College of Medicine.  He has authored more than 92 peer-reviewed manuscripts and is a national and international expert on Q fever.

Also receiving the Regents Professor Award is Lynne Opperman, professor in the department of biomedical sciences at Texas A&M Health Science Center. Throughout her career, Opperman has maintained leadership roles outside the dental school, including a two-year term as president of the American Association of Anatomists that concluded in April 2015. Locally, Opperman has served as president of the Bioengineering Interest Group of Dallas-Fort Worth, seeking and receiving grants to fund team research awards for the organization.

While Opperman concentrates her research on prenatal craniofacial development and craniofacial anomalies in children, as director of technology development at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, she utilizes a team approach to usher potential dental therapies from the research lab to market. In addition, at the predoctoral level, Opperman serves as a mentor for dental students as they conduct predoctoral research and as course director of general histology. She also is course director of the graduate student colloquium.

Before joining the Texas A&M faculty, Opperman’s education spanned continents, including a doctoral degree in developmental biology with undergraduate training in zoology and psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Jean Brender, Ph.D., RN, who previously served as both professor of epidemiology and associate dean for research at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, was also formally awarded the Professor Emerita status.

For over 30 years, Brender’s areas of research interest and expertise focused on women’s and children’s health issues, such as the epidemiology of birth defects; prenatal environmental/occupational exposures and adverse reproductive outcomes; and adverse health effects associated with residential proximity to industrial emissions and hazardous waste sites. She has served as lead investigator on research projects focusing on these areas including the groundbreaking Nitrates, Nitrates, and Nitrosatable Drugs and Risk of Birth Defects Project that was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. This study found an association between higher nitrates in drinking water and some types of birth defects.

Brender served on the National Research Council (of the National Academies) Committee on Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities. She also served for ten years on the Texas Department of Health’s Institutional Review Board and continues to serve as a member of the Texas A&M University’s Institutional Review Board.

Brender is a Fellow in the American College of Epidemiology. She holds both a bachelor’s and master’s of nursing and a Ph.D. in epidemiology.

Since retirement, Brender has focused on volunteering her time to help the indigent and homeless through teaching English as a second language and assisting Austin Street Youth Ministry.

“Drs. Samuel, Opperman and Brender are all worthy of this distinguished honor for their respective contributions to medicine, dentistry and public health,” said Paul Ogden, M.D., interim senior vice president of Texas A&M Health Science Center. “It is our privilege to call them colleagues and we congratulate them on this outstanding accomplishment.”

 

— Holly Shive

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