February 26, 2020 | Volume II, Issue 4
CVRI Holds Inaugural Early Career Investigator Challenge
Highlighting the work of promising early-career cardiovascular scientists is the primary goal of the new Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) of Vermont “Viridis Montis Early Career Investigator Challenge in Cardiovascular Disease” competition, which took place on February 5, 2020.
Four finalists delivered oral abstract presentations before a panel of five invited judges, including University of Vermont Provost Patty Prelock, Ph.D., and distinguished cardiovascular researchers from the Larner College of Medicine faculty. Zhaojin “Scarlett” Li, M.S., a Neuroscience Graduate Program doctoral student, was selected as the inaugural winner for her research abstract, titled “Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibition Reverses Vasoconstriction and Impaired Dilation of Pial Collaterals During Chronic Hypertension.”
The new merit-based scientific abstract competition, which was co-organized by Jonathan Flyer, M.D., and Margaret Infeld, M.D., was developed by the CVRI Early Career Advisory Committee, chaired by Sherrie Khadanga, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and assistant director of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. “Knowing that competition brings out the best in people, and to make it more fun, the committee opted for this challenge format,” said Dr. Khadanga.
Read more about the CVRI Viridis Montis Challenge and finalists.[LINK TO COME]Pictured above, from left to right: Jonathan Flyer, M.D., assistant professor of medicine; Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., professor of medicine and CVRI board member; Marilyn Cipolla, Ph.D., professor of neurological sciences and Ms. Li's mentor; Ms. Li; David Schneider, M.D., director of CVRI-VT, professor of medicine, and director of cardiovascular services; and Margaret Infeld, M.D., cardiology fellow.
Jemison Named Assistant Dean for Technology/CIO
On February 20, 2020, Jill Jemison was named assistant dean for technology/chief information officer at the Larner College of Medicine. In an announcement to the Larner community, Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., noted Ms. Jemison’s “longstanding and expanded role in our education and research missions,” and praised her as “a transformative leader and advocate for technology, with impact throughout our College.”Jemison joined the College in 2002 to lead the transition to online learning and was named manager of online learning in 2004. Since 2010, she has led the College’s Technology Services team, overseeing infrastructure, programming, education technology, audio-visual services, and desktop computing and support. She is also a faculty mentor in the Public Health Projects course for medical students. In this new role, she will continue to report to Senior Associate Dean for Finance and Administration, Brian Cote, M.B.A.
TGIR Center Hosts Coronavirus "Slam"A new virus, emergent from Wuhan in central China, seems to be spreading fast. And UVM is responding fast, too. “We know these epidemics evolve quickly,” said Cindy Noyes, M.D., an infectious disease specialist who co-leads the University of Vermont Medical Center’s preparations for the potential arrival of novel diseases like SARS, Ebola—and now this coronavirus, 2019-nCoV.
In addition to a careful count of masks and other extensive planning at the hospital, Noyes stressed the value of “temporizing people’s anxiety,” she said. “What is the risk? There’s a lot we don't understand yet.”
She was speaking to an array of scientists, physicians, and students as part of a first-ever on-campus “virus slam,” on February 6, organized in just a few days by the university’s Translational Global Infectious Diseases Research Center. Over two hours, some twenty experts, from five UVM colleges and institutes, gave five-minute mini-talks. These stretched from explaining the biochemistry of the virus’ interaction with the human immune system; to interpreting the latest data from the World Health Organization; to pondering the wisdom of an unprecedented effort to bring new vaccines from lab to clinic in 16 weeks; to noting the eons-long ecological dynamics that have led bats to be key reservoirs of viruses.
The experts were sharing knowledge, challenging forecasting models, reporting out on their own research—and considering what needs to be explored now to best confront this new disease.
A central fact is that these kinds of coronaviruses exhibit “constant recombination,” said UVM molecular biologist Markus Thali—an endless procession of new coats and costumes as they move from wild animals to people and then from person to person, possibly ping-ponging around the globe. Which means the epidemic might get more deadly or fade quickly. So much is unknown. “Welcome to medicine,” said Dr. Noyes to a student in the audience.
Vermont Oxford Network Improves Care for Newborns in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, 28 of every 1,000 babies die within their first 28 days of life, a stark contrast to an infant mortality rate in the United States and other high-income countries of about four deaths for every 1,000 live births.
With a goal of cutting infant death rates to 12 per 1,000 by 2030, the Ethiopian Pediatric Society and the country’s Ministry of Health turned to Burlington, Vt.-based Vermont Oxford Network (VON) for help. VON collects data from neonatal intensive care units to find ways to improve the quality of care for newborns. Through VON’s global health program, directed by Associate Professor of Pediatrics Danielle Ehret, M.D., M.P.H., its volunteers have provided training and support to Ethiopian healthcare professionals for more than a decade, including training three neonatologists – the first ever in Ethiopia to specialize in intensive care for newborns.
In 2017, Ethiopia became the first low-income country to join VON; the Ethiopian Neonatal Network now includes 28 hospital members. VON’s work in Ethiopia caught the attention of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which granted Dr. Ehret funding for a Phase I study to better understand the landscape of neonatal care for premature, or preterm, babies in the country.Read more about the VON’s program in Ethiopia.
Amy Ligay, Business Support Generalist,
Department of Surgery
In the bitter cold of the beginning of 2018, Amy Ligay began working at the Larner College of Medicine in the Department of Surgery as a business support generalist. She joined UVM after nearly two decades in early childhood education,
including more than 15 years as the executive director and administrator of Vermont-based National Association for the Education of Young Children-accredited children’s centers.
In her role, she manages tasks for the department’s 14 divisions, including assisting surgical research faculty with reappointments and promotions, maintaining an efficient and effective office environment – ordering supplies, submitting FAMIS
reports, and creating purchase orders – and providing administrative support.
Ms. Ligay says she enjoys “being part of an extremely supportive, creative, and diligent group of physicians, nurses, physician assistants, Ph.D. researchers, faculty scientists, administrators, coordinators, and academic and office assistants.”
“Amy brings a smile and kind word to everyone she crosses paths with, is dedicated and hardworking, and takes the university’s Our Common Ground values very seriously,” says Julie Paris, administrator in the Department of Surgery. “Besides doing an excellent job with her primary work functions, she is also our sustainability coordinator, and is always thinking of ways we can operate more sustainably,” like reducing waste, reusing, recycling, and composting.
Sobel and Riser Spearhead Longitudinal Addiction Medicine Curriculum
In 2013, the pioneering efforts of Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine John Brooklyn, M.D., catapulted Vermont into the spotlight as a national leader in the treatment of opioid use disorder with the state’s launch of the “hub and spoke” model. Now, Halle Sobel, M.D., associate professor of medicine, and Elly Riser, M.D., clinical instructor in medicine, and colleagues are ensuring the next generation of physicians are prepared to deliver quality, compassionate care to patients with the disorder, continuing Vermont’s leadership in this arena. Dr. Sobel recently received a three-year, $101,555 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to create a longitudinal addiction medicine curriculum for medical students at the Larner College of Medicine. “We educate medical students on how to manage diabetes with insulin, and we should be doing the same with opioid use disorder,” Dr. Sobel says.
Co-investigators supporting this work include Dr. Brooklyn, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Sanchit Maruti, M.D.; Director of Curriculum Evaluation and Assessment Leigh Ann Holterman, Ph.D.; Department of Medicine Quality Program Project Director Stephen DeVoe, M.P.H., M.S.; Clinical Clerkship Coordinator Jacqueline Drouin, M.P.A.; Director of Simulation Education and Operations for the UVM Clinical Simulation Laboratory Cate Nicholas, Ed.D., M.S., P.A.; and Standardized Patient Educator Shirly McAdam.
The curriculum will further streamline students’ introduction to addiction medicine during their first and second years of school and build upon that structure in their third and fourth years with mandatory “X Waiver” training, which will allow the students, upon their completion of residency, to prescribe buprenorphine as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) plan. Other components include targeted group case studies directed by Drs. Brooklyn and Maruti during the Bridge Week prior to psychiatry clerkship; a standardized MAT objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) at the end of the third year; and an optional fourth-year elective during which students could choose to work at an addiction treatment center, residential treatment center, or as a member of a Medication Assisted Treatment team to further their training. The first step of the new process, the “X Waiver” training, begins this March as the Class of 2022 completes a one-week orientation before entering their clinical clerkships.
Pictured above: Dr. Sobel, left, and Dr. Riser.
Accolades & Appointments
Associate Professor of Medicine and Directory of Nuclear Cardiology Friederike Keating, M.D., was featured in the American College of Cardiology’s Cardiology magazine, for leadership roles she’s taken on in her professional career and for her mentorship of aspiring women leaders. The article is titled “Building and Strengthening the Pipeline of Women Leaders.”
Professors of Psychiatry Hugh Garavan, Ph.D., and Sarah Heil, Ph.D., and Associate Professor of Psychiatry Alexi Potter, Ph.D., received a National Institute on Drug Abuse Phase I grant connected to their HEALthy Brain and Child Development Study. The study seeks to compare typical brain development beginning in the prenatal period through early childhood to brain development in children who experience early exposure to opioids.
Larner College of Medicine Class of 2023 medical
student Christopher Flynn, a mentee
of Michael LaMantia, M.D., M.P.H.,
Miller Chair in Memory and Aging, chief of geriatrics, and director of the
Center on Aging, was accepted into the Medical Student Training in Aging
Research Program at Harvard University. The program begins this summer and is
funded by the American Federation on Aging Research and the National Institute
With leadership from Assistant Professor of Surgery Thomas Willson, M.D., the UVM Cleft and Craniofacial Program was recently certified as an American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) Approved Team. The certification of the program as a Cross-Specialty Team was awarded for a period of five years beginning on January 1, 2020.
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