As Originally Published in Health Fitness Sport Magazine By Lana Maciel
Houston’s health and medical scene is one of the biggest and best in the country. So it’s no surprise that the city is home to some of the most talented doctors, specialists and health advocates. Here are a few locals worth noting for their expertise and dedication to their field.
By Lana Maciel
Samir Becic is a man on a mission. His quest: to make Texas one of the fittest and healthiest states in the country by 2015. It’s a tall order, especially with Texas holding five of the top 10 slots in last year’s “Fattest Cities in America” rankings, but if anyone can make it happen, it’s Becic.
Not only has he received several honors as Bally’s “No. 1 Fitness Trainer in the World,” but Becic’s energy and enthusiasm for leading a fit and healthy lifestyle are nothing short of contagious. With the establishment of his national movement, Health and Fitness Revolution (HFR), he is leaving no stone unturned, traveling to big cities and small towns all across Texas to offer seminars, health fairs and educational materials to various schools, corporations, organizations and even politicians.
“What I want to do for Texas is change the unhealthy obesity pattern that has come to light and give people an inspirational outlook when it comes to health,” Becic said. “Becoming healthier is a life-changing journey that becomes contagious when shared.”
Becic’s goal of reintroducing the fundamentals of physical fitness and nutrition to people in Texas is a small step in taking his HFR to a national scale. But he believes it can be done.
“In a state that can offer so much positivity and possibilities,”he said, “there needs to be more of a health awareness that focuses on the betterment of everyone, spanning from the young generation to the retired one.”
Michele Johnson, MD
Dr. Michele Johnson is quite a unique individual in her field. As one of the very few female neurosurgeons in Houston, she has dedicated her career to treating and improving quality of life for patients with herniated discs, Parkinson’s disease, brain aneurysms and spine injuries.
Even while juggling the duties of work and being a mom with a 16-month-old son, she enjoys every minute of her long days in the O.R., which often involve treating trauma patients.
“The biggest reward of my job is giving someone a better quality of life, and sometimes even saving their life,” Johnson said. “It’s amazing to be able to help someone walk when they were just in a crisis situation. I consider it a privilege to operate on someone’s body, help them feel better and make their pain go away.”
Now in her fourth year at Memorial Hermann, Johnson wears many hats in her job. In addition to serving as medical director for the neurosurgery clinic at the Mischer Neuroscience Institute, she is also the director of the spine program and an assistant professor for neurosurgery at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, where she mentors a number of residents.
Johnson’s continued dedication to the field has led to her current involvement in a clinical trial on a drug used to treat patients with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and her career goals include a more in-depth look at how to better treat patients in neurosurgery.
“Tragedies occur unexpectedly, and I want to make sure I do the best that I can to help someone who is injured in those situations.”
Larry Kwak, MD, PhD
As a student in high school, a young Larry Kwak was introduced by his mentor to the idea that one could harness the immune system to fight cancer. The notion struck a chord in Kwak’s mind, and from that moment, he committed to a life of studying how to make it happen.
“That idea was the spark that ignited an underlying passion in me to take an idea from laboratory testing and see it all the way through to its first in-human clinical trial,” Kwak said. “That bench-to-beside approach was the dream and aspiration for my career, to make the discovery in the lab and then take it to the hospital room and offer it to patients.”
After a 20-year pursuit of cancer vaccine research, Kwak saw the idea become a reality with his creation of the BiovaxID lymphoma vaccine, an agent that helps patients manage their disease more effectively.
His findings from a Phase 3 trial presented in 2009 showed that the patient-specific vaccine prolonged the dormant state of follicular lymphoma in patients, with some staying in remission for several years. This breakthrough, along with Kwak’s 20-year dedication to the field, earned him a nod as of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2010.
“When I came home and told my kids about being named to the list, their reaction was, ‘Why would anyone work on the same problem for 20 years?’” Kwak said with a laugh. “But I think it’s a tribute to my persistence.”
For the past 24 years, Christi Myers has become a recognizable face in medical and health reporting for the city of Houston.
Whether she’s covering a story on where to find the latest medical treatments and procedures in town or traveling the world to report on medical practices for the military overseas, Houstonians are sure to receive up-to-the-minute news with her “Health Check” reports. She’s even willing to dig into the investigative side of exposing the dangers of bacteria and chemical pollution in the most common of places.
While her career has covered a full spectrum of informative health-related features and human-interest stories, the topics that she feels have the most impact on the community are those that relay helpful tips to viewers.
“I like reporting on topics that are new or different,” Myers said, “especially when it involves simple advice that people can use in their everyday lives to stay healthy. I think that’s what everyone finds most helpful.”
In her career, Myers has received 11 Emmy nominations and won a regional Emmy for her story on a father who donated part of his liver to his infant son. Her commitment to the health community even prompted the start of two citywide donor drives, one of which was a bone marrow drive that found a match for a 67-year-old leukemia patient. If all goes well, that patient could possibly receive his long-awaited transplant this month. It’s these kinds of stories, Myers said, that make her job a rewarding one.
“I love what I do because I really believe that it makes a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
As published originally on Health Fitness Sport Magazine