February 8, 2023 | Volume V, Issue 3
Medical Class of 2025 Celebrates Completion of Foundations Curriculum
Faculty, staff, and students gathered in the Hoehl Gallery in the Larner College of Medicine’s Health Science Research Facility to honor a milestone in the Class of 2025’s medical education journey at the Foundations Awards Celebration on January 26, 2023. The annual event marks the medical students’ completion of Foundations – the first level of the Vermont Integrated Curriculum – and recognizes the students’ accomplishments and the teachers and staff who helped them along the way.
Foundations Director Karen Lounsbury, Ph.D., kicked off the event, welcoming attendees to the celebration. Larner Dean Richard Page, M.D., followed with additional remarks, and then Class of 2025 medical student leader Justin Henningsen presented a recap of class members’ medical education journey to date.
Class of ’25 medical students who participated in the presentation of awards included (in order of appearance) Angela Russo, Caitlin Early, M.P.H., Kadi Nguyen, Elizabeth Kelley, Jennifer Toner, Gabriela Sarriera-Valentin, Justin Henningsen, James Fanning, Nic Hutt, Jharna Jahnavi, Ellen Mats, and Taylor Walker. Faculty and staff award presenters included (in order of appearance) Ira Bernstein, M.D., professor and chair of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences; Karen George, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for students; Christina Wojewoda, M.D., associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine; Shirley McAdam, Standardized Patient educator; and Dr. Lounsbury.
At the close of the awards presentations, Elise Everett, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences and level director of clinical clerkship, welcomed the Class of 2025 to Clinical Clerkship – the second level of the Vermont Integrated Curriculum. Class of 2025 medical students are currently preparing to take Step 1 – the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination – and will begin the clinical portion of their education in March 2023.
Pictured above (left to right): Neeki Parsa ’25, winner of the Wellness Award, with Class of 2025 Wellness Committee members Mats, Jahnavi, Walker, and Mimi Falcone (Photo: David Seaver)
UVM Cancer Center to Launch CAR T-Cell Program
Novel therapy turns patient’s T-cells into ‘personalized cancer-killing machines’
Starting this spring, the UVM Cancer Center will offer a novel, highly effective form of cancer treatment called CAR T-cell therapy. The UVM Cancer Center will be the only health care institution in Vermont and northern New York to provide this treatment.
CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy, or CART as it is known, is a promising treatment that harnesses the power of the body’s own immune system to target cancer cells. Normally, our T cells attack foreign invaders like cold viruses, fighting off infections that could make us sick. While T cells can kill off many kinds of cancers before they become established, cancer that is developed and diagnosable is able to evade the immune system.
But maybe not for much longer.
CAR T-cell therapy re-engineers a patient’s own T cells to recognize a specific cancer, turning the re-programmed T cells into personalized cancer-killing machines.
Currently used to treat lymphomas, leukemia, and multiple myeloma, this leading-edge therapy gives patients another option when chemotherapy or other current treatments fail. The therapy also offers great promise for someday treating patients with breast, prostate, and other types of cancers.
“It’s unlike any other therapy that’s ever been given before,” says James Gerson, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Larner College of Medicine, who joined the UVM Cancer Center in September 2022 and will direct the new CAR T-Cell program. “This therapy is a living, breathing treatment that goes back into the patient and lives with them for years. It’s exciting to be starting a new CAR T-cell program here at UVM, and to offer this potentially curative therapy to patients in the region.”
Pictured above: Dr. Gerson sits in an exam room at the UVM Medical Center with a blurred CAR T-cell image displayed on a computer monitor in the background. (Photo: Andy Duback)
Carney Comments on Confronting Medical Misinformation
Below is an edited excerpt from a commentary written by Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for public health and health policy and professor of medicine at the Larner College of Medicine. Dr. Carney is board-certified in both internal medicine and preventive medicine and served as Vermont’s Commissioner of Health under three gubernatorial administrations championing improvements in children’s health insurance, preventing teen smoking, and improving cancer screening. She was recently awarded the UVM President’s Distinguished University Citizenship and Service Award for her innovative teaching, creative leadership, and service to the UVM community.
The public increasingly has access to an explosion of new scientific and medical information, and people are much more likely to use social media as part of their search for health information.
The spread of misinformation was so extreme during the pandemic – from unproven remedies to vaccine myths – that the U.S. Surgeon General launched a campaign against health misinformation for the public. From a public health perspective, shouldn’t we leverage opportunities to promote high-quality health information available to people through internet sources and social media? On a population level, making it easy for people to find reliable health information online would go a long way toward improving health.
In late August 2022, California legislators passed a law allowing their medical regulatory board to discipline physicians, defining “false or misleading” medical information about COVID-19 vaccines and treatments as “unprofessional conduct.” Earlier, in 2021, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) publicly reminded physicians that because of their ethical and professional responsibilities, high level of public trust, and risks to patients, spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation could potentially result in disciplinary measures to their medical license. By the end of November 2022, California’s law – before it took effect – already had two legal challenges, and on January 26, 2023, a federal judge halted the law’s enforcement. It is unclear yet what the outcome of the new California law will be.
It is important to identify where people get health and scientific information and whom they trust, and to address challenges of improving health literacy on a patient and population level. Health literacy is a skill that takes practice, and as scientists, health care, and public health professionals, we can present – at every opportunity – clear, accurate, and easily understandable health information.
Pictured above: Dr. Carney (Photo: Brent Harrewyn)
UVM’s Dana Medical Library now offers Geographic Information Services support for faculty, staff, and students, which includes assistance with finding geographic data or analyzing data that is associated with locations. More information about GIS Support and Consulting Services can be found here.
Accolades & Appointments
Toishi Sharma, M.B.B.S., a cardiovascular fellow in the Department of Medicine, won first place in the Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) of Vermont’s fourth annual Viridis Montis Early Career Investigator Challenge. Dr. Sharma receives a $5,000 prize for her research project titled “Platelet FcyRIIa expression, a powerful marker of cardiovascular risk in women,” which she conducted with her mentor David Schneider, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. The merit-based competition highlights outstanding cardiovascular research being conducted by early-career investigators from across the University of Vermont (UVM), UVM Larner College of Medicine, and UVM Health Network. Organized by the CVRI Early Career Advisory Committee, the event took place on February 1 in the Larner Classroom. Five finalists delivered oral abstract presentations before a panel of five invited judges that included Noma Anderson, Ph.D., dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences; Fabrice Dabertrand, Ph.D., former faculty member in the UVM Department of Pharmacology and current associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine; Philip Ades, M.D., professor of medicine; Markus Meyer, M.D., adjunct associate professor of medicine and associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota; and Diann Gaalema, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry. In addition to Sharma, the finalists in the competition were Ryan Hunt, doctoral candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program; Aaron Lambert, M.D., general surgery resident; Amreen Mughal, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology; and Samuel Short, Larner Class of 2023 medical student.
The Larner medical Class of 2025 elected Justin Henningsen as the 2023-2024 president-elect of the Medical Student Council, effective March 17, 2023 (Match Day). In addition, current president-elect Elise Prehoda, Class of 2024 medical student, will transition on Match Day into her new role as the 2023-2024 student body and student council president. Henningsen, who previously served as the Medical Student Council’s chair of student leadership, will become student body president and president of the Medical Student Council in 2024-2025 (the Class of 2025’s fourth year).
The Medical Student Council recognizes outgoing Class of 2023 members, including Vinh Le, president, and senior leadership team members Lud Eyasu, Kyle Kellett, and Cyrus Thomas-Walker, for their service to the college and to the medical student body.Pictured at left: Henningsen (top) and Prehoda
Sara Tourville, medical student coordinator for the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, was honored by the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO) with the annual Donna Wachter Clerkship Coordinator Award. The award recognizes an outstanding Ob-Gyn clerkship coordinator as identified by the individual’s department chair. APGO, which represents academic obstetricians-gynecologists throughout the United States and Canada, bestows only one clerkship coordinator award per year. Tourville’s nominators describe her as a team-oriented problem-solver and the driving force behind innovations in the clerkship, frequently championing different systems for tracking student outcomes or aspects of the rotation that could use improvement. “This is an incredible honor, and I’m thankful for the continued support of my department,” Tourville said.
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