July 28, 2021 | Volume III, Issue 14

Dean Richard Page

Dear Larner Community,

It has been 18 months since the COVID-19 pandemic brought great change to our everyday lives. Much of that change involved our work lives. We shifted to remote working and teaching, made changes in our laboratory procedures and, along with our fellow Vermonters, chalked up an admirable record of getting through the worst of the pandemic as safely as possible. 

Thanks to the truly remarkable rapid development of effective vaccines and, once again, Vermonters' best-in-the-nation response to vaccination, we are poised to return to campus on Monday, August 2. Just a week later we will welcome members of the Larner Class of 2025 to campus. They, along with our incoming graduate students, will be the newest members of our community, and I believe that from their first day on campus they will sense the supportive nature of our institution -- the quality that helped us face the difficulties of this past year-and-a-half and remain true to our academic, clinical and research missions while maintaining our high standards of professionalism. I hope you will join me in welcoming our new students.

The pandemic is still with us, and we must remain vigilant and compliant with all public health procedures, especially since there are several areas of the country that have not equaled Vermont's response. The plan is to greet each other in person on campus, but there will be fewer hugs and handshakes than in the past.  Things are changing so quickly that I cannot guarantee we will not need masks; please keep up with guidance from the College and UVM. I truly look forward to seeing and greeting as many of you as possible in the coming weeks, as we continue our important work, together. 

So, let me be the first to say, welcome back!



Pictured above: Dean Page (Photo: Andy Duback) 

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Vermont Center on Cardiovascular and Brain Health Hits Stride at One-Year Anniversary

Nearly a year ago, the Vermont Center for Cardiovascular and Brain Health (VCCBH) quietly launched during the pandemic’s stay-at-home order, with little of the typical fanfare surrounding a $12 million-dollar five-year Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant. As VCCBH shifts into year two, the junior investigator projects, educational activities, and team members supporting all aspects of the new research center are hitting their stride and already achieving notable scientific and clinical advances. 

Co-led by Professor of Medicine Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., and University Distinguished Professor and Chair of Pharmacology Mark Nelson, Ph.D., VCCBH’s support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a testament to the Larner College of Medicine’s internationally recognized cardiovascular, vascular, and neurovascular expertise and contributions to those fields. The Center celebrated its success at the first VCCBH annual symposium, which took place via Zoom and attracted more than 100 attendees from all over the world on June 1 and 2, 2021. 

“It’s been really quite a ride to get this research center launched during the middle of the pandemic,” admitted Dr. Cushman during her opening remarks at the event. “We’ve been incredibly productive and I’m just so happy to have reached this point of having our first symposium.”

Joining Dr. Nelson and Dr. Cushman in welcoming attendees was U.S. Representative Peter Welch, UVM President Suresh Garimella, and Larner Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., who remarked in his welcome: “A unique aspect of the Vermont Center for Cardiovascular and Brain Health is that it brings together expertise in both brain and heart health to allow for collaboration and synergy in the research and investigators that it is supporting.”

The four project directors currently supported by the COBRE—Katharine Cheung, M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc., assistant professor of medicine, Osama Harraz, Ph.D., assistant professor in pharmacology, Masayo Koide, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology, and Denise Peters, P.T., D.P.T., Ph.D., assistant professor of rehabilitation and movement science—represent the Center’s cross-disciplinary focus. 

“We’re providing our project directors a high level of support that allows them to conduct research that propels them to be able to perform research independently, with their own funding,” says Dr. Nelson.

Read more about the VCCBH.

View the VCCBH symposium welcome remarks and project director presentations video.

Pictured above (from left to right): VCCBH Project Directors Cheung, Harraz, Koide, and Peters.

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UVM Hosts 9th Biennial Stem Cells Conference

Despite the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 200 investigators from across the globe came together for the ninth biennial “Stem Cells, Cell Therapies, and Bioengineering in Lung Biology” conference July 12 to 15. The invite-only event, hosted by the University of Vermont, took place virtually this year.

First held in 2005 and called the “Adult Stem Cells & Lung Biology” conference, this year’s event was attended by researchers from five continents and 13 countries. Participants, which include both top researchers and trainees, had an opportunity to discuss recent study findings, explore opportunities for new collaborations, and identify the most important needs and priorities for future programs in stem cell, cell therapy, and bioengineering approaches to explore lung biology and/or prevent and treat lung diseases.

UVM President Suresh Garimella welcomed attendees on July 12. UVM Larner College of Medicine Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., delivered a welcome to attendees on July 13, and on July 14, UVM Vice President for Research Kirk Dombrowski, Ph.D., provided a welcome to conference participants.

The event included a pre-conference workshop on Friday, July 9, and 14 sessions featuring UVM faculty as moderators or panelists, including: Daniel Weiss, M.D.,Ph.D., professor of medicine and conference chair emeritus; Bridget Carney, grant proposal manager in the Department of Medicine; Anne Dixon, M.A., BM BCh,professor of medicine and director of the Vermont Lung Center; Dimitry Krementsov, Ph.D., assistant professor of medical laboratory science, College of Nursing and Health Sciences; and Erik Monsen, Ph.D., associate professor and Grossman Chair in Entrepreneurship, Grossman School of Business. Additional presenters included Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences program graduate student Evan Hoffman and Biomedical Engineering program graduate student Alicia Tanneberger, as well as undergraduate students Steven O’Driscoll and Isaac Downs. Mr. O’Driscoll received an honorable mention in the elevator pitch competition and both Mr. Hoffman and Ms. Tanneberger received an honorable mention in the poster competition.

Learn more about the Stem Cells conference here.

Graphic description: Dark green background with lung outline and a lighter green bar running horizontally across, with the conference logo on the right, featuring the words “Stem Cells, Cell Therapies, and Bioengineering in Lung Biology.”


Rachel Adelsheim (left) and Bradley Blansky.QuoteMarkBlueIn thinking about my friends in Paraguay, I began to wonder if the closeness of families, both emotionally and geographically, is a protective factor against feelings of isolation I’ve heard from many of my U.S. friends...This comparison reminded me that even though this pandemic has touched lives across the globe, our shared experience is also a highly personal experience shaped not only by our uniqueness as individuals but also by the culture of the society in which each of us lives.”

 Jett Choquette, Class of 2023 medical student.

Read Jett Choquette’s Global Health Diaries blog post, “In the World With COVID-19: The COVID-19 Vaccine: Celebration and Differences: Part II.”

Pictured at left: Jett Choquette


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The latest UVM Medical Center Foundation Philanthropy Report celebrates the caregivers and staff who overcame extraordinary challenges to care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also honors the community members of all ages who reciprocated through charitable giving, homemade signs, sidewalk art and much more.

Read the report.

Accolades & Appointments

Class of 2023 medical students Niveditha Badrinarayanan and Akua Frimpong were presented with the U.S. Public Health Service’s 2021 Excellence in Public Health Award by Captain Michael Bartholomew, M.D., of the Commission Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service during a virtual ceremony held via Zoom on July 21. Nominated by Professor of Pediatrics and Schweitzer Fellowship advisor Molly Rideout, M.D., the students were recognized for developing the Mentorship Educational Director (MED) program, which they conducted as part of their 2020-21 Schweitzer Fellowship. Capt. Bartholomew (who earned his B.S. from UVM in 1996) read from the nomination letter lauding the students’ ability to draw on personal experience to develop this program, which aims to promote health equity by providing opportunities to youth of color and first-generation college students interested in medicine with access to mentors with whom they can identify. The medical students worked with youth in the Vermont Health Education Resource Opportunity (HERO) program. Due to the pandemic, they adapted the program to be delivered virtually.

Picture of Willie Curry
Neuroscience Graduate Program doctoral candidate Katharine Beca, Ph.D. successfully defended her dissertation, titled “Mediators of Bladder Dysfunction in a Rat Model of Cyclophosphamide-Induced Cystitis,” on July 12. Dr. Beca has been conducting her dissertation research with her mentor, Professor of Neurological Sciences Margaret Vizzard, Ph.D. Dr. Beca has secured a position as a Biomedical Science and Health Writer at Palladian Partners in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Albert Van der Vliet and Caspar Schiffers
Professor of Pediatrics and pediatric oncologist Alan Homans, M.D., began serving as medical director for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta on July 1. The South Hero, Vt.-based camp “provides challenging, extraordinary experiences in a safe and loving environment for children who have or have had cancer and their families.” Any children who are treated in Vermont are eligible to attend the camp free of charge.

Zhaojin (Scarlett) Li, Ph.D., a doctoral student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program, successfully defended her dissertation, titled “Functional Characterization of Leptomeningeal Anastomoses in Physiological Condition and Chronic Hypertension” on July 7. Dr. Li, who conducted research in the lab of Marilyn Cipolla, Ph.D., professor of neurological sciences, has secured a position at Calico Life Sciences.

On June 11, the Department of Medicine presented annual awards to faculty and graduating residents. This year’s Department of Medicine faculty award recipients are: Distinguished Clinician Award –Eric Ganguly, M.D., professor of medicine, and Kim Dittus, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine; Distinguished Mentor Award – Philip Ades, M.D., professor of medicine; Quality Scholarship Award – Preetika Muthukrishnan, MBBS, M.Sc., assistant professor of medicine. At the 2021 Resident Graduation Celebration, the following faculty awards were presented: E.L. Amidon, M.D. Award, Outstanding Teacher of the Year—Subspecialty Medicine – Sheela Reddy, M.D., assistant professor of medicine; Mark A. Levine, M.D. Award, Outstanding Teacher of the Year—General Internal Medicine – Caleb Burr, M.D., assistant professor of medicine. Also presented at the Resident Graduation were the following resident awards: The Harriet P. Dustan, M.D. Award, which recognizes acquisition of new knowledge through research performed during residency – Sundas Khan, M.D.The Frank L. Babbott, M.D. Memorial Award, which recognizes idealism and integrity, dedication to patient care, commitment to the educational mission of the Department of Medicine – Kenyon Bolton, M.D.; Richard E. Bouchard, M.D. Excellence in Primary Care Award, which recognizes provision of high quality comprehensive care, dedication as an educator of patients, medical learners and support staff, and sincere and genuine concern for patients – Kenyon Bolton, M.D.

The VT LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities) program, led by Maria Mercedes Avila, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics, recently received five years of renewed funding from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA). In addition, the program received a four-year grant from HRSA to support the new VT TREE behavioral health training grant.



Heil SH, Melbostad HS, Matusiewicz AK, Rey CN, Badger GJ, Shepard DS, Sigmon SC, MacAfee LK, Higgins ST. Efficacy and Cost-Benefit of Onsite Contraceptive Services With and Without Incentives Among Women With Opioid Use Disorder at High Risk for Unintended Pregnancy: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2021 Jul 14:e211715. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.1715. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34259798; PMCID: PMC8280955.

Gasek N, Dearborn J, Enes SR, Pouliot R, Louie J, Phillips Z, Wrenn S, Uhl FE, Riveron A, Bianchi J, Commins SP, Delance N, Taatjes DJ, Boyson JE, Guthrie K, Petersen TH, Weiss DJ. Comparative immunogenicity of decellularized wild type and alpha 1,3 galactosyltransferase knockout pig lungs. Biomaterials. 2021 Jul 15;276:121029. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.121029. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34311317.

Sprague BL, Ahern TP, Herschorn SD, Sowden M, Weaver DL, Wood ME. Identifying key barriers to effective breast cancer control in rural settings. Prev Med. 2021 Jul 21:106741. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106741. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34302837.

Chukwueke UN, Vera E, Acquaye A, Hervey-Jumper SL, Odia Y, Klesse LJ, Dunbar E, Sharma A, Fonkem E, Thomas AA, Werbowetski-Ogilvie TE, Camelo-Piragua S, Gatson NTN, de la Fuente MI, Armstrong TS, Porter AB, Jackson S. SNO 2020 diversity survey: defining demographics, racial biases, career success metrics and a path forward for the field of neuro-oncology. Neuro Oncol. 2021 Jul 24:noab172. doi: 10.1093/neuonc/noab172. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34302487.

Edwards EM, Greenberg LT, Profit J, Draper D, Helkey D, Horbar JD. Quality of Care in US NICUs by Race and Ethnicity. Pediatrics. 2021 Jul 22:e2020037622. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-037622. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34301773.

Falcones B, Sanz-Fraile H, Marhuenda E, Mendizábal I, Cabrera-Aguilera I, Malandain N, Uriarte JJ, Almendros I, Navajas D, Weiss DJ, Farré R, Otero J. Bioprintable Lung Extracellular Matrix Hydrogel Scaffolds for 3D Culture of Mesenchymal Stromal Cells. Polymers (Basel). 2021 Jul 18;13(14):2350. doi: 10.3390/polym13142350. PMID: 34301107; PMCID: PMC8309540.

Boyson SP, Gao C, Quinn K, Boyd J, Paculova H, Frietze S, Glass KC. Functional Roles of Bromodomain Proteins in Cancer. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Jul 19;13(14):3606. doi: 10.3390/cancers13143606. PMID: 34298819; PMCID: PMC8303718.

Coughlin B, Cushman M. Journal impact factor: Recent evaluation changes and Research and Practice in Thrombosis and Haemostasis. Res Pract Thromb Haemost. 2021 Jul 17;5(5):e12569. doi: 10.1002/rth2.12569. PMID: 34296058; PMCID: PMC8285667.

Chang MC, Eslami Z, Ennis M, Goodwin PJ. Crown-like structures in breast adipose tissue of breast cancer patients: associations with CD68 expression, obesity, metabolic factors and prognosis. NPJ Breast Cancer. 2021 Jul 22;7(1):97. doi: 10.1038/s41523-021-00304-x. PMID: 34294716.

Cohen S, Mietzsch U, Coghill C, Dereddy N, Ducis K, El Ters N, Heuer GG, Sewell E, Flibotte J; Children's Hospitals Neonatal Consortium (CHNC) Neurosurgery Focus Group. Survey of Quaternary Neonatal Management of Posthemorrhagic Hydrocephalus. Am J Perinatol. 2021 Jul 22. doi: 10.1055/s-0041-1732417. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34293803.

Longden TA, Mughal A, Hennig GW, Harraz OF, Shui B, Lee FK, Lee JC, Reining S, Kotlikoff MI, König GM, Kostenis E, Hill-Eubanks D, Nelson MT. Local IP3 receptor-mediated Ca2+ signals compound to direct blood flow in brain capillaries. Sci Adv. 2021 Jul 21;7(30):eabh0101. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abh0101. PMID: 34290098.



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Published by the Office of Medical Communications
The Larner College of Medicine
at The University of Vermont
Copyright 2021