December 16, 2020 | Volume II, Issue 24

Dr. Kirkpatrick stands at the podium to deliver the announcement about the COVID-19 vaccine trial at Governor Scott’s October 27, 2020 press conference

Dear Larner Community,

Our Larner College of Medicine’s mission is to educate a diverse group of dedicated physicians and biomedical scientists to serve across all disciplines of medicine and medical science; to bring hope to patients by advancing medical knowledge through research; to integrate education and research to advance the quality and accessibility of patient care; and  to benefit Vermont and the world through engagement with our diverse communities. .

Beginning in Fall 2019, our faculty, staff and students embarked on an inclusive, thoughtful analysis of our mission, values, priorities, and goals, as we developed our strategic plan for the next five years. The pandemic  certainly complicated this process, but also underscored the importance and value of our work. 

Now is the time to roll out Vision 2025: A Unified Strategic Plan for the Larner College of Medicine. It will only be valuable if it is woven into our culture, guiding our decisions and actions. To remind ourselves daily about how our actions impact this vision, we have condensed Vision 2025 into a succinct card format that you will see in mailboxes and countertops around the College, and which can be downloaded here. We encourage you to keep the card tucked in your white coat pocket, on your desk, or pinned to your  bulletin board to serve as a reminder of who we are, the values we share, and the path we continue to take together.

As always, thank you for all you do in support of our missions,


Richard L. Page, M.D.
Dean, The Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine
The University of Vermont

Read more about the College’s strategic plan in “The Vision Ahead” on the Larner home page. 

Image above: Vision 2025 graphic. Text reads “VISION 2025 A Unified Strategic Plan for the Larner College of Medicine”

Public Health Project Poster

Public Health Projects Highlight Findings of Statewide COVID-19 Story

This fall, Class of 2023 medical students participated in the largest and most comprehensive public health project ever completed by a University of Vermont medical student class. On December 10 and 11, they shared posters from their 17 Public Health Projects via a virtual Poster Session and Community Celebration that featured findings from a statewide survey conducted collaboratively between the College and United Ways of Vermont.

Titled “Our Community’s Health: What’s Important to You?” the survey’s aim was to gain an understanding of health and social needs from the community’s perspective to best meet priorities for the coming year, in light of the ongoing pandemic.

COVID-19 has changed our lives,” said Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for public health and health policy and director for the Public Health Projects course. “Our goal, in partnership with the United Way of Northwest Vermont, was to learn about strengths and needs in Vermont communities since the pandemic began.”

In the survey, respondents were asked questions pertaining to the following categories: Basic Needs, Equity and Discrimination, Access to Care, Community Concerns, Quality of Life, Community Priorities, Health Information, and COVID-19 Impact. 

Each group of second-year medical students reviewed literature and best practices, analyzed data from more than 1,000 surveys, presented results, and made recommendations based on their findings. 

Read the full story here.

Pictured above: An image of a Class of 2023 Public Health Projects poster, titled “Mental Health in Vermont Communities during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Woman looking at computer in lab

Plante and Colleagues' Study Details First AI Tool to Help Hospital Labs Rule Out COVID-19

Hospital-based laboratories and doctors at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic might soon add artificial intelligence to their testing toolkit. A recent study authored by Timothy Plante, M.D., M.H.S., assistant professor of medicine, Aaron Blau, M.D., clinical instructor in surgery, Class of ’22 medical student Adrian Berg, and colleagues from Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Calif., describes the performance of South Burlington, Vt.-based Biocogniv’s new AI-COVID™ software. 
In their study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JIMR), the team found that the software was highly accurate in predicting the probability of COVID-19 infection using routine blood tests – evidence that it could help hospitals reduce the number of patients referred for PCR testing, which has occasionally been in short supply.
Complete Blood Count and Complete Metabolic Panels are common laboratory tests ordered by emergency departments and have a rapid turnaround time. These tests provide insight into the immune system, electrolytes, and kidney and liver function. The researchers were able to train a model that analyzes changes in these routine tests and assigns a probability of the patient being COVID-19 negative.
The AI-COVID model was validated using real world data from Cedars-Sinai as well as data from geographically and demographically diverse patient encounters from 22 U.S. hospitals, achieving an area under the curve (or AUC) of 0.91 out of 1.00.
Link to the full article about the JIMR study.
Pictured above: Dr. Plante sits in front of a computer screen displaying the study manuscript and images of the performance results of the AI-COVID™ software. (Courtesy photo) 


Want help making smart, healthy, COVID-safe decisions this winter? Take a peek at two risk infographics from UVM Medical Center/Larner infectious disease experts that can help you weigh the risks of individual activities. View the full infographic.

Pictured above: Graphic with light blue background and white COVID-19 virus icons scattered about – as though to mimic falling snowflakes. Text reads “Winter Fun or Risk? Learn More.”

Accolades & Appointments

Patrick Mullen and Zhaojin Li

Mercedes Avila, Ph.D., M.Ed., director of the VT LEND program and associate professor of pediatrics, received the Vermont Public Health Association’s (VtPHA) 2020 Public Health Champion Award at the VtPHA’s virtual annual conference on December 3. She was honored for her commitment to advancing health equity and addressing and eliminating health disparities in Vermont. The Public Health Champion Team Award went to John Brooklyn, M.D.,clinical associate professor of family medicine, Harry Chen, M.D., clinical assistant professor of family medicine and former Vermont commissioner of health, Barbara Cimaglio, former Vermont deputy commissioner of health, and Beth Tanzman, M.S.W., executive director of the Vermont Blueprint for Health for their work on the Hub and Spoke system of Medication Assisted Treatment for Vermonters in recovery from opioid use disorder.

Read more about these awardees on the VtPHA website.


Mary Cushman
Professor of Medicine Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., has been appointed Secretary of the Faculty for the Larner College of Medicine. Her three-year appointment begins immediately. The role of Secretary is bestowed upon a full professor and alum of the College, has responsibility for faculty meeting minutes, and serves as Faculty Marshal during graduation ceremonies. Dr. Cushman, who is vice chair for emerging researchers in the Department of Medicine and director of the Thrombosis and Hemostasis Program in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at UVM Medical Center, replaces recently-retired Professor of Surgery Bruce Leavitt, M.D., who served for several years in this role.

Patricia King

Three members of the Larner College of Medicine community have been chosen for President Garimella’s DEI Display Committee. Tiffany Delaney, MA.Ed., director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Montana Lara, a neuroscience graduate program student, and Avery Rasmussen, a Master of Public Health program student. The committee will be chaired by Professor of History Paul Deslandes, Ph.D., and will work to dedicate a prominent area of the Davis Center to honor and celebrate our common commitment to unity, respect, diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. The committee will begin meeting this month and the office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will provide administrative support.

Pictured at left (clockwise, from top right): Ms. Delaney, Ms. Rasmussen, and Ms. Lara.

Anne Dixon
Anne Dixon, M.A., B.M., B.Ch., professor of medicine and director of the Vermont Lung Center, was one of 19 experts on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Expert Panel Working Group that developed new Asthma Management Guidelines released December 1, 2020. Link to the guidelines in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Dr. Fung
Mark Fung, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology & laboratory medicine and director of HLA & Stem Cell Processing Labs, has been elected a new trustee of the American Board of Pathology (ABPath). The board of trustees is made up of 13 members – 12 board-certified pathologists and one public member. The trustees are elected for three-year terms and can serve up to four terms. Dr. Fung will serve as chairperson on ABPath’s Test Development & Advisory Committee for Transfusion Medicine/Blood Banking.

Andrea Villanti
Andrea Villanti, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of psychiatry, and co-leader for the UVM Cancer Center’s Cancer Control and Population Health Sciences research program, was a featured speaker for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) first annual event in Vermont, titled, “Achieving Health Equity: A Conversation About Cancer Care in the Green Mountains.” Dr. Villanti joined Vermont Commissioner of Health Mark Levine, M.D., Vermont Senator-elect Kesha Ram, Representative-elect Taylor Small, and community physician and UVM Cancer Center Community Advisory Board member Melissa Volansky, M.D., to present on health disparities and policy related to tobacco use in the state of Vermont. Watch a video recording of the event on the ACS CAN website.



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