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THINKing ahead

McGovern Medical School alumni leverage neurology expertise and philanthropy to advance pediatric tumor research

THINKing ahead

Neurology is personal for Shaun Varghese, MD ’09. As a college student, he remembers the shock of hearing his cousin—an Indian immigrant like much of Varghese’s family—died in his sleep from a seizure. Poor access to neurological care in India and no health insurance in the United States meant the condition went untreated.

“That inspired me to focus on neurology, more specifically children and others who may not have access to the care they need,” Varghese said.

Together with his wife Cristina Marchesano, MD ’09, whom he met while they were both students at McGovern Medical School, he founded and leads THINK Neurology for Kids, a pediatric neurology practice with five locations throughout the Houston area. They focus on providing accessible, comprehensive neurological and developmental care with short waiting times.

“We strive to do comprehensive work-ups on our patients,” Marchesano said. “Because we’re so thorough, we find a lot of problems not easy to spot.”

During his neurology residency, Varghese met David Sandberg, MD, Dr. Marnie Rose Professor in Pediatric Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School. An expert in pediatric brain tumors and minimally invasive surgical techniques, Sandberg had just joined the McGovern Medical School’s faculty.

After Varghese and Marchesano founded THINK Neurology, they got to know Sandberg better, developing a friendship based on mutual respect and shared values in serving patients. They learned about his research in minimally invasive treatment methods for pediatric brain tumors. Among other initiatives, Sandberg currently leads several clinical trials studying new ways to deliver chemotherapy directly to the brain, avoiding the negative effects of systemic chemotherapy.

“He’s passionate about his research, and I believe his work can make a huge difference in pediatric neurosurgery,” Marchesano said. “But like all researchers pursuing breakthroughs, he needs funds to launch new ideas.”

Inspired by Sandberg’s dedication and innovation in pediatric neurosurgery, Varghese and Marchesano made a significant commitment in early 2021 to endow the THINK Neurology Chair in Pediatric Tumor Research and Innovation. In concert with the UTHealth Houston Many Faces. One Mission. fundraising campaign and its focus on advancing brain and behavioral health, this prestigious faculty endowment will provide funds each year for the holder to pursue discoveries that will help children overcome brain tumors.

Varghese and Marchesano said both their families emphasized the importance of giving back, values they hope to pass on to their own children. The THINK Neurology Chair represents not only their commitment to pediatric neurosurgery, but also their discovery that serving others brings a deep fulfillment.

“What makes me happy?” Varghese asked. “It’s not money or possessions. Those things don’t bring true happiness. What makes me happy has been finding my purpose—giving—and then living it out.”
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