October 20, 2021 | Volume III, Issue 20

Class of 2025 White coat Class photo

Medical Class of 2025 Celebrates White Coat Ceremony

On Friday, October 8, the Larner College of Medicine held an in-person White Coat Ceremony for the medical student Class of 2025 in UVM’s Ira Allen Chapel. While a welcomed change from 2020’s livestreamed ceremony and students’ self-cloaking, the 2021 event featured signs of ongoing pandemic precautions, including a limited number of guests and required masks for all attendees.

The ceremony opened with a welcome from Larner College of Medicine Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education Christa Zehle, M.D., followed by remarks from Larner College of Medicine Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., who told students, “You will find that when you wear a white coat, you feel different, and you are treated differently.” He added, “We must all earn the right to wear it. When we put it on either literally or figuratively, we must live up to the promise it provides.”

UVM Medical Center President and Chief Operating Officer Stephen Leffler, M.D., spoke to the students’ ability to adapt to change during a pandemic. In the Humanism in Medicine Keynote Address, Devika Singh, M.D., associate professor of medicine, infectious disease specialist, and 2021 faculty recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, implored students to figuratively “take down their masks” throughout their careers to show humanism and compassion in their work.

Read the full Class of 2025 White Coat Ceremony article.

Read and watch Dr. Singh’s full keynote address.

Pictured above: Members of the Larner College of Medicine medical Class of 2025 gather on the steps of UVM’s Ira Allen Chapel following the White Coat Ceremony (Photo: Andy Duback).


Larner Community Event: "Cartography" at the Flynn

Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., together with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Office of Medical Education Wellness Committee, invites all members of the Larner College of Medicine community to gather together for a special performance of “Cartography” at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts on November 6, 2021 at 7:30 p.m.  (See below for ticket details.) 

The Flynn describes the show as, “Designed for audiences young and old, ‘Cartography’ is a sumptuous and deeply felt exploration of life through the eyes of several refugees. Journey with four young people as they leave their worlds behind and begin anew. Created by Brooklyn-based theater artist Kaneza Schaal and author Christopher Myers, and drawn from their work with refugee youth in the U.S. and internationally, this visually stunning show combines simple storytelling with interactive video technology, and is performed by a diverse company of actors from El Salvador, Syria, Lebanon, and Rwanda.”

A block of 100 tickets has been purchased for the Larner community and more will be provided if interest exceeds the current ticket inventory. Please sign up as soon as possible, using the link below, to obtain your tickets. Tickets must be picked up within 24 hours of request. Tickets not picked up in 24 hours will be redistributed. 

Reserve tickets for “Cartography”

NOTE: The Flynn requires proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from all ticket holders before entering the theater. All attendees must wear a mask while inside the venue. The Flynn requires all its staff, crew, and volunteers to be vaccinated.

Pictured above: Five “Cartography” cast members stand on a stage, with purple set decorations in the background and white rectangular props behind each performer. (Photo: Elman Studio via Flynn website)

Schweitzer Fellowship Graphic

2020-2021 Schweitzer Fellows Navigate Service Projects During Pandemic

Five pairs of medical students in the Class of 2023 spent hundreds of hours over the past year tackling an important issue in tandem with a community partner through The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Program. Several of the projects required quick pivots to virtual formats due to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inspired by famed physician-humanitarian Albert Schweitzer’s message of service, medical students develop leadership skills and address the social factors that impact health. Since 1996, over 200 Larner medical students have completed more than 25,000 hours of service as fellows in the New Hampshire-Vermont Schweitzer Fellows Program.

The 2020-21 projects included:

  • A pilot project aimed at combating social isolation in older adults developed by Jenna Elkhoury ’23 and Liam John ’23 in collaboration with Champlain Housing Trust and Cathedral Square.
  • The Vermont Resuscitation Initiative, developed by Sean Muniz ’23 and Cyrus Thomas-Walker ’23 as a means to “increase bystander CPR training in Chittenden County and Vermont as a whole,” in partnership with the emergency department at UVM Medical Center.
  • A video series on topics including study skills, friendship and boundaries, self-care and making healthy choices, my first job, and unity, as well as staged Zoom events, created by Mark Oet ’23 and Victor Abraham II ’23 in collaboration with the Milton Public Library’s Teen Space program.
  • An afterschool program for third- through fifth-grade girls at Edmunds Elementary School in Burlington, Vt., titled “Marie’s Curious Girls,” and designed to educate and inspire participants to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematical sciences developed by Delaney Sztraicher ’23 and Jennifer Risi ’23. 
  • A mentoring program, conducted through the HERO program, created by Niv Badrinarayanan ’23 and Akua Frimpong ’23 that matched high school students from underrepresented backgrounds with a first- or second-year medical student at the Larner College of Medicine.

Read the full article, titled “In Service to Community: Meet the 2020-21 Schweitzer Fellows.”

Pictured above: Graphic featuring four interlocking differently colored puzzle pieces that create a square, each piece with a person pushing it, and two ladders depicting a means of connection to and from the lower puzzle pieces to the top pieces.

Terri Messier- Meet the Staff

Terri Messier, Research Analyst, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

For the past 23 years, Terri Messier has contributed to scientific discovery at the Larner College of Medicine, working in a variety of departments, including biochemistry, molecular physiology & biophysics, pediatrics, and medicine. She began at UVM as a laboratory technician, then advanced to the role of senior technician, andfor the past 20 yearsshe has served as a research analyst.

Prior to UVM, Ms. Messier worked at Northwest Medical Center as a medical technologist. She left UVM briefly to work with Larner alum Mark Brann, Ph.D., founder of the former Receptor Technologies, a biotechnology startup that became Acadia Pharmaceuticals in 1997. Ms. Messier assisted with the relocation and build-out of the new lab space for Acadia in San Diego, but returned to Vermont to be closer to her family and for the changing seasons.

Ms. Messier, who currently works with Brian Cunniff, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, says she loves research for many reasons.

“Working in research provides an opportunity to share ideas and knowledge,” she says.  “It is exciting that the projects we work on could potentially make a difference in helping others. I am fortunate that I have worked for and with great mentors and co-workers that helped shape me as a researcher, and that I have made many lifelong friends in the process.”

In her free time, Ms. Messier enjoys gardening, kayaking, fly-fishing, nature walks, photography, birding, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, and snowshoeing. She’s an active “citizen scientist,” working with the Cornell School of Ornithology FeederWatch to record and photograph species of birds that visit her backyard.

“Terri has been integral to the success of numerous laboratories in the Larner College of Medicine and is one of the most pleasant and respectful people in this community," says Dr. Cunniff. “She is well-respected not only by her research colleagues but all individuals she interacts with at UVM.”

Green graphic that reads


Join the Larner College of Medicine for the annual Dean’s Excellence in Research Celebration from October 25-27. The event will be held virtually this year due to ongoing COVID-19 safety precautions.

The three-day agenda includes:

  • Graduate Student Research Showcase
  • Medical Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Alumni Award Recipient Presentation
  • 2021 Research Laureate Lecture
  • Dean’s Excellence in Research Awards

Find Zoom links and additional event details.

Mahima Poreddy

By connecting with each other in spaces that promote learning and making mistakes, we can question the structures we have   come to accept.” 

  Mahima Poreddy, Class of 2024 medical student.

Read Mahima Poreddy’s blog post—the third of four in the Race Dialogue Series—titled “How Do We Support Underrepresented Students and Faculty in Medicine?”

Pictured: Mahima Poreddy.

Investiture of Randall Holcombe, M.D., M.B.A., as the inaugural J. Walter Juckett Chair in Cancer Research

Wednesday, November 3, 2021, 4:00 p.m., Hoehl Gallery, Health Science Research Facility

Link to the ceremony livestream here.

Accolades & Appointments


Larner College of Medicine Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., and Claude Deschamps, M.D., immediate past president & CEO of the University of Vermont Health Network Medical Group and former senior associate dean for clinical affairs, recently announced that Ramsey Herrington, M.D., has been appointed the inaugural Emergency Medicine Health Care Service Leader. The goal of this new Health Care Service is to support talent recruitment and retention in alignment with the needs and aspirations of current and future faculty members. Dr. Herrington, who began his new role on October 1, 2021, is an associate professor of surgery, has served as division chief of emergency medicine since 2017, and also serves as Specialty Council Chair, Emergency Medicine, for the UVM Health Network. Under his leadership, the UVM Health Network successfully launched its first accredited residency in emergency medicine, and numerous high quality faculty members have been recruited to work across the Network and contribute to our clinical and academic missions. Read an article about Dr. Herrington's appointment.

Kate Strotmeyer and Nick Lemon
Anne Dougherty, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and Gender Equity Liaison for the Larner Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI), has accepted an expanded role as ODEI Director for Gender Equity. In this new role Dr. Dougherty, who has served as Gender Equity Liaison since November of 2018, will continue to coordinate workshops, speakers, and awards related to the Larner Gender Equity Initiative. Among her new responsibilities will be the development of new mentoring and resource programs for women and underrepresented minorities in medicine, as well as analysis, tracking, and collaboration on efforts to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion in faculty recruitment.

Kristen Pierce, M.D., professor of medicine, has been selected as the recipient of the Vermont Medical Society's Physician Award for Community Service for 2021. This award is granted annually to a physician licensed in the state of Vermont who has compiled an outstanding record of community service. Dr. Pierce was recognized for demonstrating outstanding commitment to health equity in the community and state both through her leadership with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial and “countless hours devoted to ensuring that immigrants, refugees, black and brown community members, and many other community members received accurate, sensitive, and timely information regarding the COVID19 vaccine.” Dr. Pierce will receive this award during the virtual 208th Annual & Collaborative meeting of the Vermont Medical Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter, the Vermont Academy of Family Physicians and the Vermont Psychiatric Association on November 5 and 6.

Yangguang Ou
David Punihaole

Assistant Professors of Chemistry David Punihaole, Ph.D., and Yangguang Ou, Ph.D., have been named 2021 recipients of the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health's (VCCBH) Pilot Grant Award. Drs. Punihaole and Ou, who are both VCCBH pipeline investigators, will receive $200,000 in funding over two years to support their research on the use of novel chemical imaging and rapid electrochemical sensing techniques to assess the pathophysiology of variant amyloid-β fibrils involved in Alzheimer’s Disease and Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy. The VCCBH Pilot Grant Award program is supported by the deans of UVM’s Larner College of Medicine, College of Nursing & Health Sciences, College of Arts & Sciences, College of Engineering & Mathematical Sciences, and the Graduate College, as well as the Cardiovascular Research Institute of Vermont. In addition, the Department of Chemistry provided matching fund support.

Pictured at left: Drs. Ou (top) and Punihaole.

van den Broek-Altenburg

A paper, titled “The effect of unobserved preferences and race on vaccination hesitancy for COVID-19 vaccines: implications for health disparities,” by a team of UVM researchers, has been awarded a first place 2021 PhRMA Foundation Health Disparities Challenge Award and published in the September 2021 Supplement to the Journal of Managed Care + Specialty Pharmacy. First author is Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology. Coauthors are Stephane Hess, Ph.D., of the University of Leeds, England; Jamie Benson, B.A., research specialist in radiology; and Adam Atherly, Ph.D., professor of medicine and director of the Center for Health Services Research. Read the Supplement and article here.

Emmett Whitaker
Emmett Whitaker, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology, received one of five $250,000 2021 Mentored Research Training Grants from the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research. Dr. Whitaker will be studying sevoflurane induced cerebrovascular dysfunction in infant offspring from pre-eclamptic pregnancies. Mentored Research Training Grants help physician-investigators develop the skills, preliminary data for subsequent grant applications, and research publications needed to become independent investigators. Faculty members who have completed their core anesthesiology residency training within the past 10 years are eligible to receive these awards.



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The Larner College of Medicine
at The University of Vermont
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