The family of the late Mary Parkes is continuing its mission of advancing care and research with the Walter and Carmina Mary Parkes Family Endowed Professorship at University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Physician-scientist Steve Georas, professor of medicine, environmental medicine, microbiology and immunology, was recently installed as the first Parkes family professor.
Walter Parkes; his late wife, Carmina; and their children Susan, Tom and Linda were driven to open the first asthma center in the region. They established the UR Medicine’s Mary M. Parkes Center for Asthma, Allergy and Pulmonary Care, working closely with center leaders, educators and scientists. The center located on Red Creek Drive in Henrietta serves as the leader for the diagnosis, treatment and research of acute asthma, allergies and other pulmonary diseases.
“It was our family’s dream to honor the memory of our daughter with the center,” said Walter Parkes, chairman of O’Connell Electric Co. in Victor. “Now, establishing a professorship allows us to make it everlasting.”
Mary Parkes was diagnosed with acute asthma as a young girl and went on to study nursing. She was an intensive care unit nurse before the lung disease progressed. She was hospitalized more than 50 times in the decade before her death in 1991. The center was established in 1995.
“We are so happy to be working with UR Medicine, because it is always moving forward and we are proud to be a part of that energy,” said Susan Parkes McNally, executive vice president and treasurer of O’Connell Electric and member of the UR Medical Center board and its advancement, facilities and quality of care subcommittees. “We look forward to what we can continue to do and achieve in providing care for people with chronic pulmonary issues.”
McNally has supported and collaborated with Junior Builders Exchange to organize an annual golf tournament for the past 21 years to support the Parkes Center. This year’s tournament will be held Sept. 7.
“URMC’s partnership with the Parkes family is essential to the success of clinical, research and education programs designed to improve asthma care,” said Mark Taubman, CEO of URMC and UR Medicine and dean of School of Medicine and Dentistry. “Their support will serve as a lasting tribute and will further enable the innovative work being done in pulmonary diseases.”
“The establishment of this professorship by the Parkes family will be critical to advancing the pulmonary division’s clinical, educational and scientific efforts,” said Paul Levy, department of medicine chairman and Charles Ayrault Dewey professor of medicine. “The mantra that long-term relationships define so many aspects of our lives could not be more true than when I think of working closely with the Parkes family for nearly three decades. The early years of planning the Parkes Center, followed by renovations and the expansion of patient services were critical to the success of the center. Now the family has ‘raised the bar’ even higher with the establishment of an endowed professorship.”
Georas is a clinician-scientist who balances patient care with leadership of a National Institutes of Health-funded laboratory at URMC. He is part of the collaborative teams caring for patients in the medical ICUs at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial and Highland hospitals as well the Parkes Center.
“Steve Georas’ clinical and scientific contributions are integral to the advancement of our programs and benefit our patients on a daily basis,” said Patricia Sime, chief of pulmonary diseases and critical care and C. Jane Davis and C. Robert Davis distinguished professor in pulmonary medicine. “Dr. Georas is an internationally recognized physician-scientist who has focused his career on advancing our understanding of the fundamental causes of asthma and translating his research to improve the care of patients with asthma.”
Georas studies how the lung’s immune system responds to inhaled particles, allergens and viruses and how this process breaks down in asthma, leading to potentially dangerous immune responses that can cause allergic airway inflammation and difficulty breathing. He is working to develop techniques to identify people who are at greater risk of developing life-threatening asthma and need intensive therapies.
“The support we’ve received from the Parkes family for our asthma research is invaluable and has allowed us to make steady progress toward new pathways for asthma treatment,” Georas said.
A graduate of Brown University and its medical school, Georas completed an internal medicine internship and residency at Duke University Medical Center. After a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University, he joined its faculty and conducted research into asthma and allergies. In 2006, Georas joined URMC and served as chief of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine until 2010. He has published more than 85 research articles and chapters on asthma immunology and the care of patients with pulmonary diseases.