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June 18, 2020 | Volume II, Issue 12


Health Workers, Leaders, Students Demonstrate Support at #WhiteCoatsforBlackLives Vigil

More than 250 University of Vermont Medical Center and Larner College of Medicine staff members, students, and leaders gathered June 5 at 1 p.m. in solidarity with medical centers across the U.S. for a silent demonstration of support for racial justice in honor of George Floyd and others who have died due to racism and police brutality. 

Spread out across the plaza between UVM’s Dana Medical Library and Converse Hall, participants took a knee for eight minutes and forty-six seconds–the length of time that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. 

The event was organized by Amy Teleron, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, with support from Joanna Conant, M.D., assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, and communicated via social media, email, and word-of-mouth across the medical center and College.

“This vigil represents our commitment to ending racism,” said Dr. Teleron. The event “was an opportunity for each and every one of us to silently reflect and commit to standing up against racism,” added Conant.

Read more about the #WhiteCoatsforBlackLives vigil.

Pictured above: Staff and students of the UVM Medical Center and Larner College of Medicine silently take a knee outside of the hospital and medical school in support of #WhiteCoatsForBlackLives. (Credit: Ryan Mercer, UVM Medical Center)



Atherly Receives Robert Wood Johnson Grant to Study Community Health Teams

A new, three-year $500,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will allow members of the UVM Center for Health Services Research (CHSR) at the Larner College of Medicine, led by center director and Professor of Medicine Adam Atherly, Ph.D., to explore the effectiveness of community health teams in improving the quality and efficiency of health care delivery. Community health teams are composed of nurses, social workers, dieticians, substance abuse counselors, and other roles–all designed to provide services beyond those typically encountered in a doctor’s office.

“In many cases, a patient’s medical problem is linked to underlying behavioral or environmental situations,” said Dr. Atherly. “it could be an economic problem, for example, where what’s really vital for a long-term solution is for that person to be connected to community resources for housing or food. There’s no drug or surgery that’s going to help that person. That’s where community health teams come in.”

Researchers will be using community-based focus groups and other surveys, and extensive analysis of de-identified electronic health record and insurance claim data. The CSHR, which Dr. Atherly founded in 2018, is well-poised to lead this work, and will also bring in partners from across the University, such as Senior Associate Dean for Public Health and Health Policy Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H.

Read more about the research project. 

Pictured above: Professor of Medicine Adam Atherly, Ph.D.  


VIGR Celebrates Milestones, Grant Support

Despite the many challenges academic institutions have faced in 2020, the Vermont Integrative Genetics Resource (VIGR) shared core facility at the University of Vermont Cancer Center and Larner College of Medicine has achieved strong funding support and met significant milestones over the past six months.

Led by Director Julie Dragon, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, VIGR serves scientists from across the university, state, and country. It is an umbrella for four shared resource facilities—DNA Analysis; Microarray; Massively Parallel Sequencing; and Bioinformatics—meant to amplify the intersectional nature of the work across resources. Staff for the first three facilities are Scott Tighe,director of technologies, Jessica Hoffman, senior technician, and Pheobe Laaguiby, M.S., laboratory technician. The Bioinformatics facility is staffed by  Koren Eckstrom, M.S., and John Hanley, Ph.D.

Dr. Dragon, Mr. Tighe and Bernard (Chip) Cole, Ph.D., director of the Vermont Space Grant Consortium/National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/EPSCoR program, received a $100,000 NASA/EPSCoR International Space Station Flight Opportunity grant to collaborate with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on “optimization of a one-step, small footprint nucleotide extraction device for DNA/RNA extraction under space conditions.” They also received a $575,000 Army Visual and Tactical Arctic Reconnaissance (AVATAR) award as part of a UVM and U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory Partnership initiative.

Projects that have utilized the Larner College of Medicine-funded Oxford Nanopore Sequencer include Mr. Tighe’s work with the MetaSUB consortium, which was recently published in  Nature Medicine, and the sequencing of the entire genome of the Mysis ‘shrimp’ with Matthew Wargo, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics. The team also sequenced the genomes of two Cannibis indica strains using this instrument for a cancer treatment research study led by Jeffrey Spees, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine and UVM Cancer Center member.

Read the full story.

Visit the VIGR website.

Amazing grace


On June 10, Wanda Heading-Grant, Ed.D., vice president of UVM Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and other UVM leaders, students, faculty, staff, and community members presented an online event, titled “Amazing Grace: Finding Answers Together.” 

View the Amazing Grace video and get information about teach-in sessions.

Access a list of anti-racism self-education resources compiled by Class of 2023 medical student Krisandra Kneer.


Wilburn Discusses COVID-19 Antibody Testing and Immunity

There has been much discussion in the media about the use of serology (antibody) testing in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of this information is misleading, setting unrealistic expectations on how we could use testing to re-open the economy, or identify a person’s COVID-19 immunity status. Clayton Wilburn, M.D., an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, is director of clinical chemistry, immunology, and point-of-care testing in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Read his comments on the use and limitations of COVID-19 serology testing in a Q&A, titled “COVID-19 Antibody Testing and Immunity,” on the UVM Medical Center blog.

Photo above from the National Cancer Institute.



Quote MarksFor the duration of this month, I remain the ‘Jeopardy’ resident, on-call anytime to be deployed to help fill in any service (labor & delivery, ED, adult inpatient service, pediatric wards, clinics) as my co-residents get pulled for testing or others are out sick. It really puts our jack-of-all-trades skillset to use, which is cool. But this has made for some long days...”

~Excerpted from a UVM Larner College of Medicine blog post by Michael Ohkura, M.D., a Class of 2018 alum and second-year resident in the UCLA Family Medicine Residency Program. (Read the blog post.)

Pictured above: Dr. Ohkura.

Accolades & Appointments

Library Assistant Professor Gary Atwood, M.S.L.I.S., interim director of the Dana Medical Library, has been awarded a Medical Library Association (MLA) 2020 Research Institute Fellowship. For his fellowship project, Atwood will examine the information-seeking habits of undergraduate students, focusing on incoming nursing students, their knowledge about the research process, and what experiences they have had prior to UVM.

The Health Disparities and Cultural Competence Advisory Committee under the VT LEND program was named a 2020 Diversity Team Awardee by Profiles in Diversity Journal. The inaugural award honors “the collaboration and synergy created by teamwork” and recognizes “the importance of diverse contributions” from members of an organization “who have joined together to advance the cause of diversity and inclusion each and every day.”

Kelsey Gleason, Sc.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Graduate Public Health Programs, is the co-recipient of a UVM GUND Institute COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund Award. She and Gund Fellows Pablo Bose, Ph.D., associate professor of geography, and Brendan Fisher, Ph.D., associate professor of the environment program, will conduct a project, titled “Environment, refugees and risk: mapping environmental vulnerabilities, epidemic outbreaks and camps.”


Jill Jemison, assistant dean for technology and chief information officer, received the 2020 Service Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Institutional Resources (GIR) during their annual membership webinar on June 10. The Service Award was instituted in 2019 “to recognize an individual for significant and long-lasting impact in the field of academic medical center information technology, and to the GIR community.” Read more about Ms. Jemison’s award.


Gary An, M.D., professor of surgery, and Robert Chase Cockrell, Ph.D., assistant professor of surgery, received a $2.8 million four-year grant as co-investigators on a $22 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-supported initiative led by the University of Pittsburgh. The project aims to develop a device combining artificial intelligence, bioelectronics, and regenerative medicine to regrow muscle tissue, especially after combat injuries. Read more about the project.

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Published by the Office of Medical Communications
The Larner College of Medicine
at The University of Vermont
Copyright 2020