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Dr. Karen Storthz named ‘Professor Emerita’ by UT Board of Regents

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 4:42pm

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Karen Adler Storthz, PhD

Karen Adler Storthz, PhD, who retired in 2010 as associate dean for research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Dentistry, has been named “Professor Emerita” by the UT System Board of Regents in recognition of her outstanding 26-year career.  She is currently an adjunct professor at the School of Dentistry and research director for Assurance Biosciences, Inc.

Storthz’s research has focused on the association of viruses with certain cancers, in particular, human papilloma viruses (HPV) and their connection to oral and cervical cancers. Her laboratory was one of the first to demonstrate the association of HPV and oral cancers, and her NIH-funded research continues in collaboration with Rice University, Drexel University and others.

For half her career, Storthz also served as associate dean for research, dividing her time between teaching, administration and research.  Maintaining time for research was often a challenge, but she has published 95 papers in peer-reviewed journals while maintaining memberships in national and international research organizations and serving on panels, committees and study sections for the NIH, American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Dental Research and others.

She also made time to mentor others, including nearly 50 students from the UTHealth School of Public Health, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) and from advanced education programs at the School of Dentistry.  She received the President’s Award for Mentoring Women in 2005 and was twice honored for mentorship by the School of Dentistry Student Research Group.  She is also a four-time winner of Dean’s Teaching Excellence Awards at the School of Dentistry, with similar awards from the GSBS. 

Storthz is among the inventors of technology licensed to Assurance Biosciences, Inc., a Houston biotechnology company, where she is currently research director. The company, founded in 2010, is developing a saliva-based biomarker test based on the research of Dr. Charles Streckfus.  As a companion to mammograms, the test will help distinguish whether findings are benign or malignant. The company is currently collecting samples from three clinical trial sites and anticipates having the test on the market by mid-2012.

She received her master’s and doctoral degrees in microbiology and immunology from Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans and was an NIH postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Virology and Epidemiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston before beginning her career at the School of Dentistry, where she achieved tenure in 1989.

Being named professor emerita is especially meaningful, as it is academia’s highest honor, she said. “I consider it the capstone of my academic career.”

The University of Texas awards emeritus status to a retired dean, chair, professor or associate professor who has exhibited “the highest academic, research and service standards” as well as “a record of service to the university that stands out among his or her peers.”  At the School of Dentistry, the retiree’s colleagues originate the nomination, which must be approved by the department chair, dean, health science center president, UT System officials and, finally, the Board of Regents.

Interim Dean John A. Valenza, DDS, said the title is well deserved.  “Dr. Storthz has given so much of her time and effort to this school, it is truly our pleasure to see this honor bestowed upon her,” he said. “I’m especially delighted that she is still an active researcher and faculty member of the school.”