Luby honored with leadership award from Dallas County Medical Society

By Remekca Owens

Dr. James Luby, Professor of Internal Medicine, has received the 2013 Charles Max Cole, M.D., Leadership Award from the Dallas County Medical Society (DCMS) for his contributions during North Texas’ recent outbreak of West Nile virus.

Dr. James Luby
Dr. James Luby

The annual award honors a DCMS member for outstanding service to the medical profession and to the community.

In summer 2012, the greater Dallas County area became the epicenter of one of the most severe West Nile virus seasons in history, with more than 30 deaths locally and more than 1,000 reported infections of the mosquito-borne disease. When ground spraying measures proved ineffective, Dr. Luby assembled the medical community’s expertise, culminating in a formal recommendation for Dallas County officials to use aerial spraying to mitigate mosquito populations. 

“Dr. Luby exemplified quiet courage in his leadership through the West Nile outbreak,” said Dr. Wendy Chung, DCMS board member and Chief Epidemiologist with Dallas County Health and Human Services. “He recognized quickly that this season was on an unusually severe trajectory, and his own persistence motivated others in an effective manner. He kept asking, ‘What else can we do?’ ”  

In addition to educating the public about common symptoms and protection measures, Dr. Luby treated patients stricken with the virus. About 80 percent of infected people are asymptomatic, but about 1 percent experience neuroinvasive symptoms that can severely damage the central nervous system, sometimes fatally.

“I am honored to receive the annual award commemorating Dr. Max Cole, a former member and President of the Dallas County Medical Society,” Dr. Luby said. “Control of West Nile virus transmission and urban epidemics of this virus are, and will continue to be, a challenge for those who are interested in infectious diseases and preventive medicine.” 

Dr. Cole, who died in 2009 at age 95, completed residency training at Parkland Memorial Hospital and later joined the UT Southwestern Medical School faculty as Clinical Professor of Surgery. He went on to serve as President of the Attending Staff at Parkland and Chief of Surgery at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. He was president of the DCMS in 1964 and the Texas Medical Association from 1969 to 1970. The first Cole Award was given in 1985 to Dr. Cole for his numerous contributions on the national, state, and local levels.