December 15, 2021 | Volume III, Issue 24
Looking Ahead, with Gratitude
Dear Larner Community,
As our calendar year and academic semester come to a close, and we look ahead to yet another year where the global pandemic permeates every aspect of our lives, I want to acknowledge the amazing contributions of our faculty, staff, and students. The education of physicians and scientists has continued unabated, in this time when their service has never been so anticipated. Our research breadth and impact have increased, spanning from the study of vaccines to investigating best practices for disseminating health information to our rural community.
The valiant efforts of our clinical faculty, staff, trainees, and students has been nothing short of amazing. In the setting of unimaginable circumstances, these individuals have risen to the task of caring for the patients and families that depend on us. This has not been easy, and we continue to face challenges even as we make progress in many ways, so we all acknowledge those on the front line.
This week we gathered to celebrate our 8-year LCME accreditation with ice cream (yes, in December, to make up for the party we postponed in August) and commemorative LCOM ice scrapers. Many of you could not attend, of course. The ice cream is gone, but please stop by my office to get your ice scraper to acknowledge your contribution to our LCME review success.
With the holidays upon us, along with the semester break, I hope you get some time off—you deserve it. For those covering the clinical services, thank you for your service on behalf of our entire community.
Warm wishes for the holidays and a happy new year,
Pictured above: Photo of UVM campus during winter featuring a snow-covered UVM green and Ira Allen Chapel in the background. (Photo: Sally McCay)
Larner Welcomes CDC Chief Medical Officer Mitchell Wolfe, M.D.'95
Mitchell Wolfe, M.D., M.P.H., chief medical officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a Class of 1995 Larner alum, returned to campus on December 13 for the first time since receiving his medical degree here 26 years ago. During his personal, non-CDC-related visit, he shared insights and learned about ongoing work in education and research at his medical alma mater.
After graduating from medical school, Dr. Wolfe entered a family medicine residency at the Community Hospital of Sonoma County, Calif., earned an M.P.H. degree from the University of California, Berkley, and completed the preventive medicine residency program with the California Department of Health Services. He joined the CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the National Center for Environmental Health, and went on to lead the Clinical Outcomes Team in the Behavioral and Clinical Surveillance Branch of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. He also directed CDC offices in Vietnam and Thailand, and the CDC Global AIDS Program Thailand/Asia Regional Office. Dr. Wolfe also served as Acting Director of the CDC Washington Office from 2017 to 2019. He retired from the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service in 2020 with the rank of Rear Admiral.
During his daylong visit at UVM, Dr. Wolfe met with President Suresh Garimella and with members of the University’s Translational Global Infectious Diseases Research Center. He also took part in sessions with the medical classes of 2024 and 2025. In the afternoon, he appeared as part of a special panel discussion, titled “Global Perspectives on Health,” in the College’s Sullivan Classroom (also livestreamed via Zoom to the Larner and College of Nursing and Health Sciences communities). Panelists also included Mark Levine, M.D., Vermont Commissioner of Health, Larner Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., Associate Dean for Public Health and Health Policy Jan K. Carney, M.D., M.P.H., Chair of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and UVM Vaccine Testing Center Director Beth Kirkpatrick, M.D., and UVM Medical Center President and COO Stephen Leffler, M.D. The panel discussed the importance of public health and global health work, and the pathways to those career opportunities, as well as issue surrounding health equity and the planning and education needed for future pandemics.
Wolfe noted that his “career arc” was strongly influenced by his experience as a UVM medical student. “I was really affected by the physicians I worked with, who demonstrated to me caring and dedication to helping,” Wolfe said.
Eva Wilton, Administrative Coordinator, Office of Medical Student Admissions
Larner College of Medicine Medical Student Admissions Coordinator Eva Wilton started working at the University of Vermont two years ago after working in public affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. The recipient of a media studies, journalism and digital arts degree from St. Michael’s College, Wilton was not new to Vermont, nor to living in multiple countries across the world. As the daughter of a U.S. Department of State employee, she has also lived in Japan, Argentina, and Austria where she attended high school in Vienna.
In her role as admissions coordinator, Wilton is responsible for overseeing and facilitating virtual interview days, coordinating the implementation of admissions events, responding to general email and phone inquiries, supporting the interim associate and assistant deans for admissions on research initiatives, and managing matriculation requirements. She ensures all interviewers are prepared with necessary materials and familiarizes them with Zoom technology and breakout rooms. The Larner Office of Medical Student Admissions interviewed 650 applicants via Zoom from August 2020 through March 2021. She is proud that her work contributed to the office’s record number of applications for 124 spots in the Class of 2025.
“Eva is a pleasure to work with—always willing to lend a hand—and has been such an important member of our team,” says Liz McElhinney, M.Ed., director of pre-matriculation programs in the Office of Medical Admissions. “I want to make sure everyone at the college knows her.”
“I am grateful for Liz and Cary, who have been incredible mentors,” Wilton says. “They have informed me on how diversity influences every aspect of admissions, and they approach their work in an innovative, holistic, and empathetic manner. I am proud to contribute to the mission to recruit and train future physicians.”Wilton enjoys being part of the Larner community and gets involved as much as possible, assisting with the White Coat Ceremony, facilitating Step 1 and Step 2 USMLE exams, among other efforts. She says her favorite part of her job is collaborating with the admissions team and ensuring they identify, select, and recruit a diverse group of medical students.
Food Security Initiative Buoyed by Generous Gift
According to a September 2021 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, nearly one in four people in Vermont were experiencing food insecurity—lacking the financial resources to consistently access adequate food for their household—before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, that figure has risen to one in three.
A grassroots effort led by Larner College of Medicine alum and Associate Professor of Pediatrics Keith Robinson, M.D.’07, and key partners across the academic medical center and state, has established an invaluable resource to ensure pediatric patients and their families receive the quality and amount of food they need.
A pediatric pulmonologist and vice chair for quality improvement and population health for the UVM Children’s Hospital, Dr. Robinson says the seeds of the initiative were planted around 2016. A longtime proponent for food security, he, along with nurses, social workers, nutritionists, and other UVM pediatricians, had been screening patients for food insecurity on the inpatient pediatric unit. In reviewing the findings, he discovered that 24 percent of pediatric patients admitted for cystic fibrosis (CF) were food insecure. First, the pediatric pulmonology team established an informal food bank at the Children’s Specialty Center for CF families, then expanded access to families in the pediatric inpatient unit and other specialty clinics, and finally, to the pediatric outpatient clinics.
Just months before the onset of the pandemic, in November 2019, Dr. Robinson and leaders from the UVM Children’s Hospital (Caroline Hesko, M.D.; Kristin Fontaine; Kathleen Browne, LICSW; Richard Colletti, M.D.) formed the Vermont Pediatric Population Health Coalition. They joined with the UVM Health Network, OneCare Vermont, Vermont Department of Health, and the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program to prioritize and address population health issues impacting children and families. “We collectively decided to improve food insecurity screening in key clinical areas and establish reliable interventions for patients and families,” says Dr. Robinson.
The coalition’s work sparked the attention of a Vermont couple whose generous philanthropic support has helped both upgrade the food bank to a “food pharmacy” and provided critical training through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). An IHI Improving Population Health Action Community group was also created, with a multidisciplinary group of professionals—including social workers, case managers, nurses, community outreach workers, public health specialists, and representatives from such community programs as the Vermont Food Bank, Hunger Free Vermont, Feeding Chittenden, and others.
The initiative’s aim to develop a sustainable framework to improve outcomes for these families is seeing success. Not only are these measures connecting families to healthy food, but to all of the resources available to support them.Pictured above (left to right): Katy Davis, Hunger Free Vermont; Kristin Fontaine, senior pediatric outreach coordinator, UVM Medical Center; Caroline Hesko, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics; Dr. Robinson; Ceili Quigley, M.S.W., social worker case manager, UVM Medical Center; Laura Dattilio, R.N., assistant nurse manager, UVM Children’s Hospital. (Photo: Ed Neuert)
We aren’t real patients but we are real people. We play assigned roles but bring our own personalities to them, as well as our bodies, which vary in age and condition. Because we’re realistic in our approach and have specific information to share, students can interact with us in the same way they would in a clinical setting. The standardized part of it ensures that, whichever case we’re playing, each of us is adhering to the same format, with the same information, technique, and goals for treatment.”
– Peter Kurth, Standardized Patient, UVM Clinical Simulation Laboratory.
(Excerpted from a Q&A blog post recently written by UVM Standardized Patients (SPs) Peter Kurth and Nicole D’Elisa about their experience as SPs and the importance of SPs in a well-rounded medical education curriculum.)
Pictured: Peter Kurth (foreground) and Class of 2024 medical student Erik Zhang (background).
Accolades & Appointments
Hannah Despres, a Ph.D. student in the Cellular, Molecular, & Biomedical Sciences (CMB) program, has been re-elected as a member of the UVM Larner College of Medicine Graduate Student Council. She is joined by newly-elected Master of Medical Science students Joseph Owuor (who is also a senator for the UVM Graduate Student Senate) and Matthew Mullen; fellow CMB Ph.D. student Sean Lenahan; and Accelerated Master of Science in Pharmacology student Dorcas Lohese. As members of the council, they represent and support the interest of all graduate students receiving training at the College and through its affiliate graduate programs.Pictured at left (clockwise from top left): Owuor; Despres; Lohese; Lenahan; and Mullen.
The Larner College of Medicine Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group (LMIG) is a medical student interest group (SIG) created by Class of 2024 medical student Elise Prehoda, Assistant Professor of Surgery Erin Ostby, M.D., and Stas Amato, M.D., clinical instructor and UVM Medical Center surgery resident, in December 2020. The group recently received the Rising Star award from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. “For us, it was most exciting to have recognition of the work we put into getting the SIG up and running despite the holdbacks from the pandemic,” says Prehoda. The SIG is co-led by Class of 2024 medical students Rebecca Lapides and Jake Ermolovich, with early assistance from Class of 2023 medical students Amberly Lao and Sydney Chatfield.Pictured, at left (from left to right): Class of 2024 medical students and LMIG members Finlay Pilcher, Nicole Walch, Sean Taylor, Shari Zaslow, Jake Ermolovich, Rebecca Lapides, and Elise Prehoda pose around a "UVM Larner College of Medicine" sign outside of the College's Medical Education Building.
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