UT Southwestern scientist named to Texas Women's Hall of Fame
DALLAS — July 7, 2006 — Dr. Ellen Vitetta, director of the Cancer Immunobiology Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been selected as one of the most accomplished women in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry announced today.
Dr. Vitetta is one of four class of 2006 members selected for the Texas Women's Hall of Fame, established in 1984 by the Governor's Commission for Women. The honor recognizes individuals who have attained significant levels of achievement and whose contributions have made an enduring impact on the Lone Star State.
The more than 120 members include first ladies, teachers, scientists, astronauts and athletes. Dr. L. Ruth Guy, former professor emeritus of pathology at UT Southwestern and a noted innovator in medical technology and blood banking who died recently at the age of 93, also is a member.
In addition to Dr. Vitetta, the 2006 inductees are: Amanda Dunbar of Allen, artist; Kathy Foster of Houston, director of the Casa de Esperanza de los Ninos, a haven for children in crisis; and Dr. Shirley Neeley, Texas commissioner of education. The women will be honored in an Oct. 11 ceremony in Austin.
"I am truly honored to be recognized by Governor Perry and to join such a remarkable and diverse group of women," said Dr. Vitetta, who holds the Scheryle Simmons Patigian Distinguished Chair in Cancer Immunobiology.
Women play vital roles in science, education and technology, Dr. Vitetta said, noting that Dr. Linda Buck, a UT Southwestern alumna who trained in Dr. Vitetta's lab, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 2004.
"It is vitally important that we foster young women's interests in science and medicine, and it is especially critical to attract girls into these fields, as well as to support women at all stages of their scientific careers," Dr. Vitetta said.
Dr. Vitetta served as chair of UT Southwestern's Women in Science and Medicine Advisory Committee for 10 years and has been a strong advocate for women in science and medicine on campus. In addition to the 15 faculty teaching awards she has earned from students, she was recently chosen as both a founding member of the UT Southwestern Academy of Teachers and the UT System's Academy of Health Science Education.
"Ellen Vitetta is an internationally recognized researcher, an exceptional teacher and an exemplary role model for women scientists," said Dr. Kern Wildenthal, UT Southwestern president. "Her selection as a member of the Texas Women's Hall of Fame is a testimony to her outstanding accomplishments."
One of the most highly cited researchers in the country, Dr. Vitetta is known for her work characterizing B lymphocytes, a type of immune cell, and her co-discovery of Interleukin-4, an important molecule that helps regulate many cells, both within and outside the immune system.
In the 1980s, she turned her attention to translational, or "bench to bedside" research. She and her colleagues developed biological agents, or immunotoxins, to kill cancer cells through targeted therapy. These immunotoxins function selectively to eradicate cancer cells without damaging the surrounding normal tissue. Dr. Vitetta and her colleagues also developed and recently completed the first human clinical trial of a recombinant vaccine for the deadly toxin ricin - a potential bioterror threat.
Dr. Vitetta is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. She served as president of the American Association of Immunologists in 1994 and received the AAI's Mentoring Award in 2002. In addition, she has garnered several major awards from other professional scientific organizations.
Biographies and photographs of the members of the Texas Women's Hall of Fame are on display at a permanent exhibit that opened in 2003 on the campus of Texas Woman's University in Denton.
Media Contact: Amanda Siegfried
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