McNair Foundation supports research for a more promising tomorrow

One of the many important goals of The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation is to create a different tomorrow through education and medical research, and this focus can be seen through its support of Baylor College of Medicine.

Most recently, the eighth annual McNair Symposium was held, featuring presentations by current McNair Scholars at Baylor.

The symposium is a chance for McNair Scholars and McNair M.D./Ph.D. Scholars to share their work with colleagues and future collaborators. In that spirit, many Scholars took part in a video tribute to the late Bob McNair. They discussed the importance of sharing their work with others and what impact the McNairs have had on their lives, research and their patients.

The McNair Scholars program is supported by the McNair Foundation and managed by the McNair Medical Institute at Baylor. It was created to identify and recruit influential researchers in neuroscience, cancer and juvenile diabetes. Similarly, the McNair M.D./Ph.D. Scholars program trains highly motivated M.D./Ph.D. students as physician-scientists who split their time between conducting biomedical research while still caring for patients.

At Baylor there currently are 15 McNair Scholars, three emeritus McNair Scholars, 14 McNair M.D./Ph.D. Scholars and 26 McNair M.D./Ph.D. Scholar alumni. The most recently named McNair Scholar, Dr. Hsiao-Tuan Chao, assistant professor of pediatrics and molecular and human genetics, is the College’s first McNair M.D./Ph.D. Scholar alumni to also be named a McNair Scholar. Read more about her research on neurodevelopmental disorders here.

The work of McNair Scholars goes beyond Houston. In March, Dr. Ben Arenkiel, associate professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor, and teaching fellows from his lab visited public middle and high schools in Rutherford County, N.C., Bob McNair’s hometown, as part of the McNair Science Education Collaborative. The Collaborative is an effort of The Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation to expand hands-on learning opportunities and cultivate real-world connections in the medical research field. The researchers met with teachers and students to link science curricula with transformational medical research in ways that enrich learning experiences and spark students’ passion in the fields of science and medical research.

Thirty years ago, Bob and Janice McNair created a college scholarship program for students attending the North Carolina high school that Bob attended as a teen. Now known as The Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation, the organization has awarded nearly $9 million in scholarships and has transformed the entire community of Rutherford County. Before the program launched, 34 percent of high school seniors were meeting college admission requirements. Today, more than 85 percent of seniors meet the University of North Carolina requirements.

Since Bob McNair’s passing in November 2018, Janice and their children – Ruth, Cary, Cal and Melissa – carry on the important work of the McNair Scholars program.

-By Graciela Gutierrez