Parkes Family’s Mission of Advancing Asthma Care Continues with UR Professorship

Jun. 8, 2017
Georas with Parkes family
Members of the Parkes family with Steve Georas, M.D., the Walter & Carmina Mary Parkes Family Endowed Professorship. Pictured are: Thomas and Brenda Parkes, Jon and Susan Parkes McNally, Georas, Barbara and Walter Parkes, and Linda Parkes Clement and Joseph Clement.

 The family of the late Mary M. Parkes, for whom the UR Medicine asthma center is named, is continuing its mission of advancing care and research with creation of the Walter & Carmina Mary Parkes Family Endowed Professorship at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Physician-scientist Steve N. Georas, M.D., professor of Medicine, Environmental Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, was installed as the inaugural Parkes Family Professor June 5.

Walter and the late Carmina Parkes, and their children Susan, Tom and Linda, were driven to open the first asthma center in the region. They have been a steady force in the growth of the UR Medicine’s Mary M. Parkes Center for Asthma, Allergy and Pulmonary Care, working closely with center leaders, educators and scientists. The center is located on Red Creek Drive in Henrietta and serves as the leader for the diagnosis, treatment and research of acute asthma, allergies and other pulmonary diseases.

headshot of Georas
Steve Georas, M.D.

“It was our family’s dream to honor the memory of our daughter with the center. Now, establishing a professorship allows us to make it everlasting,” said Walter Parkes, chairman of O’Connell Electric Co. The family has committed $1.5 million to the University.

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 University of Rochester Medical Center Board as well as 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 is a steadfast supporter and has collaborated with the 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, M.D., CEO of URMC and UR Medicine and dean of the 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, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Medicine and the 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 busy clinician-scientist who balances the 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 Intensive Care Units at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial and Highland hospitals, as well at Mary M. Parkes Center for Asthma, Allergy and Pulmonary Care.

“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, M.D., Chief of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care and the 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 is studying 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 also 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. He is an internationally recognized thought leader in asthma research, and has served on advisory committees to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and numerous professional societies. Later this year he will chair the NIH panel review for the PrecISE Asthma Network, which will establish the next generation of asthma centers developing personalized treatments for severe asthmatics.

A graduate of Brown University and its medical school, he 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 & Critical Care Medicine until 2010. Georas has been honored for his teaching and mentorship of students, post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty.

He has published more than 85 research articles and chapters on asthma immunology and the care of patients with pulmonary diseases.