November 3, 2021 | Volume III, Issue 21

Members of the Larner medical student Class of 2022 gather in small groups in the Reardon Classroom during the Nutrition, Metabolism and Gastrointestinal Systems course

Larner Awarded Full 8-Year LCME Accreditation

The Larner College of Medicine has been awarded continued accreditation for a full eight-year term by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the accrediting body for all medical degree (M.D.) programs in the U.S. and Canada.

The reaccreditation process is rigorous, involving 18 months of self-study organized by 12 standard areas of medical education containing 93 specific elements that are examined for compliance. At Larner, this work was accomplished by a task force and committee structure involving over 300 members of the College community. The self-study also includes a detailed survey of the medical student body, called the Independent Student Analysis, which is written and administered by the students themselves. After the self-study is submitted for review, the LCME conducts a site visit, typically over two or more days. 

This year, the process was complicated by the unique circumstances and limitations presented by the pandemic, which necessitated a pivot to online self-study meetings and a “virtual site visit” by the LCME reviewers over two afternoons in April 2021. Adding to the challenge were the effects of an October 2020 cyberattack on the UVM Medical Center, the College’s clinical education affiliate.

“Despite those challenges, and thanks to the amazing ingenuity, resilience and energy of people from across our community – faculty, staff, and students both in Vermont and Connecticut – our self-study was completed in-full and on time,” said Dean Richard L. Page, M.D.

At Larner, 84 of the 93 elements were found to be fully satisfactory by the LCME.

In the coming weeks the College will prepare plans to address areas for further attention and present an interim report to the LCME in December 2022. The College’s Continuous Quality Improvement Committee will systematically address all standards and elements in preparation for the 2029 LCME site visit. Stay tuned for the announcement of a celebration to mark this milestone for the College.

Read the full article about the College’s LCME accreditation.

Pictured above: Members of the Larner medical student Class of 2022 gather in small groups in the Reardon Classroom during the Nutrition, Metabolism and Gastrointestinal Systems course. (Photo: David Seaver)

: Graphic features a dark green background with the words Celebrating Excellence in Research in yellow capital letters, with the words Dean’s Excellence in Research Celebration underneath it in white capital letters, and a laurel wreath image on the right side of the image.

Celebration of Research Highlights Excellence at Larner

Last week, the Larner College of Medicine hosted its annual Dean’s Excellence in Research Celebration, a three-day series of events that highlight the hard work and achievements of graduate students and research faculty, staff, and alumni.

Held virtually for the second year in a row, the 2021 event launched on October 25 with the Graduate Student Trainee Showcase, and continued on October 26 with the Distinguished Alumni Award Presentation & Lecture by Junjie Chen, Ph.D.’93. On October 27, Anne Dixon, M.A., B.M., B.Ch., delivered the Research Laureate Lecture.

The celebration wrapped up on October 27 with remarks by Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., and UVM Vice President for Research Kirk Dombrowski, Ph.D., and the 2021 State of Research at the College & Research Excellence Awards presented by Gordon Jensen, M.D., Ph.D., senior associate dean for research. Dr. Dombrowski made note of the fact that the College’s 370+ research awards represented more than half of all such awards garnered by UVM researchers in fiscal year 2021, a year in which UVM achieved a milestone $204 million in total research funding.

Below is a snapshot of the awards presented:

  • Graduate Trainee Showcase – Junior Graduate: Bryn Loftness, Ph.D. student in the Complex Systems and Data Science program; Senior Graduate: J.J. Bivona, Ph.D. student in the Cellular, Molecular, & Biomedical Sciences program.
  • Trainee Awards for Outstanding Research Publication – Graduate Student: Leslie Sepaniac, Ph.D.’21; Medical Student: Rhys Niedecker ’24; Postdoctoral Fellow: Michelle Kloc, Ph.D.; Resident: Stephen Ranney, M.D.
  • UVM Health Network Medical Group Awards – Junior Researcher of the Year: Tim Plante, M.D., M.H.S.; Senior Researcher of the Year: Roger Soll, M.D.; Research Grants: Diego Adrianzen-Herrera, M.D., and Sherrie Khadanga, M.D.; Innovation Grant: Michael Hehir, M.D.
  • Staff Awards – Scientific Research Staff: Susan Richardson, Ph.D. Research Coordinator: Alex Friendand Patricia Lutton.
  • Larner College of Medicine Faculty Awards – Research Mentorship: Jason Bates, Ph.D., D. Sc.; Dean’s Clinical Trials Research Award: Richard Solomon, M.D.; Rising Star New Investigator: Michael Previs, Ph.D.; Mid-Career Investigator: Jason Stumpff, Ph.D.; Research Laureate: Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D.

View Dean Jensen’s State of the Research at the College and Dean's Excellence in Research Awards slides.

Read the full article about the 2021 Celebration of Research Excellence.

Pictured above: Graphic features a dark green background with the words Celebrating Excellence in Research in yellow capital letters, with the words Dean’s Excellence in Research Celebration underneath it in white capital letters, and a laurel wreath image on the right side of the image.

Dr. Cunniff

Cancer Center Research Leads to First-of-Its-Kind Mesothelioma Trial

Bringing a scientific discovery to a clinical trial is challenging. According to Randall Holcombe, M.D., M.B.A., director of the University of Vermont Cancer Center and chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology in the Department of Medicine, “It takes about 20 years from discovery to clinical trials, and even then, only about one percent of potential new agents achieve FDA approval.”

To be in that one percent, you need solid science and formidable funding.

As a Ph.D. student at the University of Vermont, Brian Cunniff, Ph.D.’14, now assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, identified a new therapeutic approach for malignant mesothelioma (MM) in partnership with his advisor, Nicholas Heintz, Ph.D., professor of pathology and laboratory medicine emeritus, and graduate alum Kheng (Newick) Bekdache, Ph.D.

The approach, published in PLOS ONE in 2015, targeted a universal vulnerability in cancer cells that could be exploited therapeutically. Soon after, the pharmaceutical company RS Oncology contacted Dr. Heintz, looking to fund a cure for MM using his, Dr. Cunniff, and Dr. Bekdache’s research as the vehicle.

Dr. Cunniff returned to UVM after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard to continue the work. Over the last four-and-a-half years, he and his research team, in collaboration with Wake Forest School of Medicine and RS Oncology, shown the treatment approach’s anti-cancer activity and are developing and testing a formulation suitable for delivery to humans.

Read the full article about Dr. Cunniff’s research and the new trial.

Pictured above: Dr. Cunniff. (Photo: Andy Duback)

Dr. Dumas, Abigail Testo, Dr. Weston, Pranav Mathkar, Dr. Krementsov, Dan Peipert, Dr. Erdos, and Jenan Husain

Neuroscience Graduate Students Receive White Coats

’Tis the season for coats – white coats, that is!

On October 15, the University of Vermont Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) held its annual White Coat Ceremony in the Livak Ballroom in the UVM Davis Center. Like many recent occasions, the ceremony was a hybrid event, with only the students, their mentors, and a few faculty and staff members participating in-person, and family and friends attending via Microsoft Teams. 

While often associated with medical education, the White Coat Ceremony for new graduate degree students has its own history, dating back to 1989, says Haley Olszewski, NGP program administrator. The ceremony is a rite of passage for many graduate students, she explains, both “marking the transition of graduate students, particularly in the sciences, from the early, largely course-based phase of their education to the more research intense phase of their training.” The event also serves to “emphasize the relationship between the student and their mentor,” she adds.

The ceremony included a presentation on the history and importance of the ceremony by Anthony Morielli, Ph.D., NGP director and associate professor of pharmacology, and an introduction of each of the second-year students receiving their white coats by their respective mentors, followed by the donning of the white coats, and a small reception. 

Four second-year NGP students participated in the 2021 ceremony, including Pranav Mathkar (mentor: Assistant Professor of Neurological Sciences Matt Weston, Ph.D.); Jenan Husain (mentor: Assistant Professor of Pharmacology Benedek Erdos, M.D., Ph.D.); Abigail Testo (mentor: Research Associate Professor of Psychiatry Julie Dumas, Ph.D.); and Dan Peipert (mentor: Assistant Professor of Medical Laboratory Science Dimitry Krementsov, Ph.D.). 

Read more about the event and research areas of focus for Mathkar, Husain, Testo, and Peipert.

Pictured above (from left to right): Dr. Dumas, Abigail Testo, Dr. Weston, Pranav Mathkar, Dr. Krementsov, Dan Peipert, Dr. Erdos, and Jenan Husain.

Faculty Voices Banner
Devika Singh standing at a podium in a white coat speaking
Quote MarksYour path ahead will be full of hard stories to hear. You will listen and be humble and honor folks that see more struggle than you can imagine. And, you will want to cry. A lot and often. And, that is okay. Feel free to take down your mask sometimes.” 

Devika Singh, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and 2021 Faculty Recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award

(Excerpted from Dr. Singh’s Humanism in Medicine Keynote Address at the Larner Medical Student Class of 2025 White Coat Ceremony on Friday, October 8, 2021.)

Read Dr. Singh’s full speech, titled “Take Down Your Mask,” on the UVM Larner College of Medicine blog.

Pictured: Dr. Singh.

Green graphic that reads

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

View the ceremony livestream.

Accolades & Appointments

Matthew Albaugh

Matthew Albaugh, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, has been selected to participate in the Joint National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Early Career Investigator Showcase (ECIS). The ECIS awardee selection process is highly competitive; Albaugh was among eight people selected across NIDA and NIAAA to speak. Albaugh will present his work on adolescent cannabis use and brain development.

Cole Davidson
With support from a $50,000 UVM Cancer Center pilot project seed funding grant in 2020, fifth-year Ph.D. candidate Cole Davidson has discovered the presence of glycogen in a thyroid cancer cell. Glycogen—a storage form of sugar that maintains blood sugar levels in the body—is also used by cancer cells to grow and divide. A student in the Cellular Molecular and Biomedical Sciences program, Mr. Davidson is mentored by Frances Carr, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology, and Eyal Amiel, Ph.D., associate professor of medical laboratory science. His research marks the first time that glycogen has been detected in anaplastic thyroid cancer. Researchers in the Carr Lab are currently investigating whether a Pfizer drug invented to treat diabetes could be repurposed for cancer treatment. Mr. Davidson’s work was recently published in Cancers. (Pictured at left: Cole Davidson at work in the Carr Lab.)

Rachel Garfield
Rachel Garfield, M.H.S., Ph.D., has been appointed as the new executive director of the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program (VCHIP) and an associate professor of pediatrics. Dr. Garfield is currently vice president and co-director of the Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). She has 20 years of experience in Medicaid policy research and is an expert in the analysis of insurance coverage and access to care for low-income populations. Dr. Garfield, who begins her new position in early 2022, replaces Judith Shaw, Ed.D., M.P.H., R.N., who retired in July 2021.

Joseph Ravera
Joseph Ravera, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and director of pediatric emergency medicine, has accepted the position of course director for the Human Development and Reproductive Health (HDRH) course in the Vermont Integrated Curriculum. Dr. Ravera, who received his medical degree from the Larner College of Medicine in 2010, completed an emergency medicine residency at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and practiced in California and New Zealand before returning to Vermont as an emergency medicine physician at the UVM Medical Center. He is an active member of the UVM Medical Center Pediatric Trauma Committee and serves on several EM Residency committees.

Kadi Nguyen, Jennifer Toner, Gabriela Sarriera Valentin, Justin Henningsen, Elizabeth Kelley.

Class of 2025 medical students Kadi Nguyen, Jennifer Toner, Gabriela Sarriera Valentin, Justin Henningsen, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Kelley have been elected as the newest members of the UVM Larner College of Medicine’s Medical Student Council by their classmates. Together, they will work with medical students from the Classes of 2024, 2023, and 2022, as “a liaison between all medical students, administrative offices, and other non-medical UVM student organizations.” Learn more about Medical Student Council.

Pictured at left (from left to right): Kadi Nguyen, Jennifer Toner, Gabriela Sarriera Valentin, Justin Henningsen, Elizabeth Kelley.



Lahey T, Reeves S, Desjardins I, Nelson W. “Organizational Ethics Support for Health Care Leaders during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond” Journal of Hospital Ethics 2021:7(2):58..

Ades S, Herrera DA, Lahey T, Thomas AA, Jasra S, Barry M, Sprague J, Dittus K, Plante TB, Kelly J, Kaufman PA, Khan F, Hammond CJ, Gernander K, Parsons P, Holmes C. Cancer Care in the Wake of a Cyberattack: How to Prepare and What to Expect. JCO Oncol Pract. 2021 Aug 2:OP2100116. doi: 10.1200/OP.21.00116. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34339260.

Finnie SM, Brach RJ, Dawson CA, Epstein SB, Goyal RK, Lounsbury KM, Eldakar-Hein ST, Lahey T. A new roadmap for social medicine curriculum design based on mixed methods student and faculty evaluations of the preclinical curriculum. BMC Med Educ. 2021 Aug 20;21(1):442. doi: 10.1186/s12909-021-02885-4. PMID: 34416885; PMCID: PMC8376629.

Onuigbo MA, Ross A. Pseudohyperkalemia and the Need for Imperative Caution With the Newly Introduced Potent Potassium Binders: Two Cases. Cureus. 2021 Aug 14;13(8):e17179. doi: 10.7759/cureus.17179. PMID: 34548981; PMCID: PMC8437584. (This was a publication with a UVM Medical Student)

 Onuigbo MAC. Stopping RAS Inhibitors in Advanced Chronic Kidney Disease and Cardiorenal Outcomes-Several Unanswered Questions Remain. Am J Med. 2021 Aug;134(8):943. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2021.03.031. Epub 2021 May 4. PMID: 33961836.

Onuigbo, M., & Izuora, A. (2021). The Impact of Elective Withdrawal of Long-Term Renin Angiotensin Aldosterone System Blockade in Chronic Kidney Disease Patients with Progressive Acute Kidney Injury: A Prospective 40-Months’ Single-Unit Cohort Study. Medical Research Archives, 9(9). doi:10.18103/mra.v9i9.2549

Gupta S, Short SAP, Sise ME, Prosek JM, Madhavan SM, Soler MJ, Ostermann M, Herrmann SM, Abudayyeh A, Anand S, Glezerman I, Motwani SS, Murakami N, Wanchoo R, Ortiz-Melo DI, Rashidi A, Sprangers B, Aggarwal V, Malik AB, Loew S, Carlos CA, Chang WT, Beckerman P, Mithani Z, Shah CV, Renaghan AD, Seigneux S, Campedel L, Kitchlu A, Shin DS, Rangarajan S, Deshpande P, Coppock G, Eijgelsheim M, Seethapathy H, Lee MD, Strohbehn IA, Owen DH, Husain M, Garcia-Carro C, Bermejo S, Lumlertgul N, Seylanova N, Flanders L, Isik B, Mamlouk O, Lin JS, Garcia P, Kaghazchi A, Khanin Y, Kansal SK, Wauters E, Chandra S, Schmidt-Ott KM, Hsu RK, Tio MC, Sarvode Mothi S, Singh H, Schrag D, Jhaveri KD, Reynolds KL, Cortazar FB, Leaf DE; ICPi-AKI Consortium. Acute kidney injury in patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors. J Immunother Cancer. 2021 Oct;9(10):e003467. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2021-003467. PMID: 34625513.

Carey M, Stedman N, Giglio C, Bruzzese C, Eldakar-Hein S, Lahey T. “Ethical Hospital Discharge: A Balanced Algorithmic Approach.” Journal of Hospital Ethics 2021; 7(3):104-111.

Gau J, Nwora C, Eldakar-Hein S, Sanghavi M, Lahey T, Repp AB. “Things We Do for No Reason: Routine Inclusion of Race in the History of Present Illness” Journal of Hospital Medicine 2021 (in press)




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