A Bittersweet Farewell to Dr. Carrie Byington
Dec 13, 2016 4:00 PM
There are some people who have such a natural talent and passion for the work they do that it’s often difficult to imagine your institution without them.
For the University of Utah Health Sciences, Carrie L. Byington, M.D., is one of them.
Over the course of her 21-year career here, she’s established herself as a world-class clinician researcher in pediatric infectious disease. She’s grown the numbers of women and others under-represented in medicine with successful mentoring and training programs. She’s started important conversations about gender compensation equity in academic medicine. She’s built infrastructures that will take us into the future of population health and precision medicine. And she was tapped by both the U.S. Olympic Committee to keep travelers safe from Zika virus and by the National Institutes of Health to study Zika.
All of this, of course, hasn’t gone unnoticed.
We are preparing to say a bittersweet goodbye to Dr. Byington as she plans to return to Texas A&M University, her alma mater, to serve as vice chancellor for health services, dean of the College of Medicine and senior vice president for the health science center. I’m sure the school is keenly aware while Dr. Byington’s achievements are remarkable, so too is the woman behind them.
As a Mexican-American growing up in southern Texas, Dr. Byington has said she knew she wanted to practice medicine from a young age, but didn’t have clear role models or a family history in medicine that would help get her there. But she did, indeed, get there. During her medical career, Dr. Byington set out to mentor others who might be in similar situations. Her passion for and dedication to mentoring others has been transformative for the diversity and high levels of achievement we see among our investigators today.
Dr. Byington developed a two-year training program at the University for pediatric investigators who conduct clinical and translational research. A member of the Robert Wood Johnson Harold Amos scientific advisory committee, with NIH support she created a summer research program for American Indian students that has been recognized nationally. Over the years she has personally mentored more than 100 undergraduates, medical students, residents, fellows and junior faculty conducting clinical and translational research.
Through her 2013 appointment as our associate vice president for faculty and academic affairs, Dr. Byington created and guided additional innovative programs to support and mentor researchers. The Vice President’s Clinical & Translational Research Scholars Program assists junior faculty from all Health Sciences colleges, and the EDGE Scholars program (Enhancing Development-Generating Excellence) works to support and increase the numbers of clinician scientists at a system level.
Dr. Byington has also made lasting and significant impacts on faculty at all levels by revising the retention, tenure, and promotion processes and implementing paid parental leave for School of Medicine faculty. Her leadership led to a comprehensive, systemwide compensation analysis by gender, and a review of volunteer and adjunct faculty members to support both their performance and improve their experience, and I had the great pleasure of co-authoring an editorial with Carrie on gender disparities in academic medicine last year.
Dr. Byington has been a leader in the Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), first as director of education and workforce development and becoming the principal investigator in 2013 together with co-PI Dr. Will Dere. Committed to providing a strong research infrastructure and training environment, CCTS built crucial biostatistics, informatics, and training programs that support the Utah Genome Project and the new Department of Population Health Sciences.
As an investigator Dr. Byington has focused on developing new molecular diagnostic methods for the detection of respiratory pathogens, partnering with ARUP and BioFire Diagnostics. As a clinician she has been committed to providing excellent care to minority and underserved women and children at the South Main Clinic, where a children's library bearing her name is located.
Dr. Byington recently drew international attention as chair of the United States Olympic Committee's Infectious Disease Advisory Group. She worked to protect those traveling to the Olympics from Zika virus and initiated an NIH study that is focused on improving understanding of how the virus persists in the body and identifying potential factors that influence reproductive outcomes following infection.
In a recent luncheon with the top leaders of our system, Dr. Byington updated us on this important work and shared several pictures of herself with young trainees who assisted with the study at several U.S. locations this summer. She asked us to take special notice of how transformative the experience of working with the athletes had been, both for her and for them. Many of the young people she so enjoyed working with had gained a lasting enthusiasm for clinical research.
It’s clear Dr. Byington draws her energy from seeing the potential in the people who surround her. In an interview last year, she shared:
“As an individual clinician I can only do so much. As an individual investigator I can only do so much. But when I am able to work with young people to help them be successful, it just magnifies what one person can do. It’s really exciting. Potential, I guess is the most exciting thing that I see.”
There can be no doubt that Dr. Byington’s dedication to helping others, whether our most vulnerable patients or a diverse pool of researchers that represent our best hope for the future of health care, has left an indelible mark. I can only imagine the great things in store for Texas A&M as Dr. Byington moves on to the next phase her career. We wish you well, Carrie.
comments powered by Disqus