'DocStars' Make a House Call

The Cary Council honored promising UT Southwestern researchers with an event designed to bring science from the research lab to the home

Driving past colorful cascades of streamers, dozens of cars cruised through UT Southwestern Medical Center on May 1. Welcomed by waving research scientists and volunteers wearing face coverings, the slow-rolling parade of guests was an uncommon sight for a Saturday afternoon on campus.

A line of cars drive onto the UT Southwestern campus past trees decorated with colorful streamers
The Cary Council's founder Michael Kahn (left) and event Co-Chair Alexandra Kahn greet guests arriving at UT Southwestern for An Evening with DocStars at Home on May 1, 2021. Southwestern Medical Foundation

The special event was a new take on an annual occasion, “An Evening with DocStars.” The yearly fundraiser celebrates the impact of biomedical research by honoring UT Southwestern faculty engaged in promising early-stage research. The event is hosted by The Cary Council, an organization supporting research at UT Southwestern whose members refer to the institution's exemplary physician-scientists as “DocStars.”

Each year, philanthropic support and sponsorships enable the organization to award significant grants to outstanding UT Southwestern faculty. This year’s recipients of The Cary Council Early-Stage Research Grants included Emily H. Adhikari, M.D.; Owoicho Adogwa, M.D.; and Samuel John, M.D. Honorees were selected by The Cary Council’s Steering Committee from faculty nominated by UT Southwestern leadership.

“Advancing impactful research has been at the core of UT Southwestern’s mission for decades,” said Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D., President of UT Southwestern. “Funds raised through The Cary Council have supported our investigators who are early in their careers, enabling them to accelerate the momentum of their innovative research.”

“Funds raised through The Cary Council have supported our investigators who are early in their careers, enabling them to accelerate the momentum of their innovative research.”

Since 2017, The Cary Council has awarded 12 grants to emerging research investigators. Former recipients have successfully used the awards to demonstrate the promise of their research and secure additional funding. To date, the grants have resulted in nearly $7 million in additional scientific research funding at UT Southwestern.

“The connection between our business and medical communities will continue to thrive in the next generation thanks to the tremendous dedication we have witnessed across The Cary Council,” said Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation. “They are stepping up to lead our region during one of the most dynamic periods we have ever seen, and we are extremely proud to support their mission and their work.”

The Cary Council works to support and strengthen the missions of UT Southwestern and Southwestern Medical Foundation by educating members about the critical role medical research, education, and patient care play in improving people’s health and making Dallas a leading 21st century city. The organization was created in 2015 and is named for Edward H. Cary, M.D., a Dallas physician who spearheaded the founding of UT Southwestern.

A new way to celebrate

Traditionally, The Cary Council honored new grant recipients at an annual cocktail party and science fair. However, public health constraints in response to the pandemic required a creative approach for this year’s celebration.

“We knew this had to be different because no one wanted yet another remote, Zoom-oriented get-together,” said Amanda Eagle George, The Cary Council’s Chair. “But we still wanted to have an event to honor our sponsors who so believe in our mission of raising money for all three research grants.”

An event volunter carries science experiments on a tray to event guests waiting in their vehicle.
A volunteer carries a tray with science experiment kits to guests at An Evening with DocStars at Home held on the UT Southwestern campus on May 1, 2021. Following public health guidance, event volunteers wore face coverings and followed no-touch procedures to help maintain a safe event experience for all guests. Southwestern Medical Foundation

Challenged to provide a safe and socially distanced experience, organizers designed a drive-thru science fair. Stations along the route provided opportunities for guests to pick up swag bags, gourmet treats, coloring activities for children, and take-home science experiments that featured real-world applications of research being done at UT Southwestern.

“It was all about making it fun,” Ms. George said.

“We all so enjoyed that we got to bring home a piece of science and share it with our family.”

Amanda Eagle GeorgeChair
The Cary Council

The family-friendly science kits were created by past grant recipients to demonstrate science concepts related to their research at UT Southwestern. Kits contained familiar household objects as well as items such as petri dishes, test tubes, and pulse oximeters that are more commonly found in laboratories and medical clinics. Faculty filmed instructional videos to guide guests though the activities.

“My daughter and I did two of the experiments when we got home,” said Ms. George, who explained how one of the activities that used a simple potato to demonstrate how leukemia therapies are delivered was “extremely educational.”

Organizers are already thinking about how the success of this year’s event may shape future celebrations.

“Even if we go back to an in-person event as we traditionally had, we all so enjoyed that we got to bring home a piece of science and share it with our family,” said Ms. George. “Now we see how DocStars can be a family-friendly affair where we foster even more curiosity in our kids.”

  • Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.