March 22, 2023 | Volume V, Issue 6
Wells Named Inaugural Director of Social Medicine
Christa Zehle, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education, has announced the appointment of Katie Wells, M.D., M.P.H., as the inaugural director of social medicine in the Office of Medical Education (OME) at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, effective April 3, 2023.
In her new role, Dr. Wells will collaborate closely with medical educators and colleagues in Larner’s OME, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), Dean’s Advisory Committee on DEI, Medical Education Anti-Racism Task Force, and across the community and UVM Health Network. She will be responsible for reviewing and further developing the college’s social medicine curriculum, providing student and faculty mentoring on social medicine and health equity-related topics, and helping establish Larner as a leader in health equity and social justice research and education.
“It has been clear that our college would benefit from having a director of social medicine, and I congratulate Dean Zehle on this outstanding appointment. Dr. Wells’s experience in care and advocacy for equitable care of diverse and underserved groups, both here and abroad, make her the perfect candidate to fill this important inaugural role,” said Richard L. Page, M.D., dean of the Larner College of Medicine.
An assistant professor of emergency medicine, Wells was recruited to join the UVM faculty in 2018 as the first director of international emergency medicine. She also serves as the Department of Emergency Medicine’s network director of health equity, director of DEI, a member of the faculty and residency selection committees, and chair of the New American Indigenous Migrant Health (NAIMH) Task Force. A co-faculty advisor to the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) medical student leadership group, Wells co-led the implementation of the social determinants of health curriculum in the required fourth-year medical student emergency medicine rotation and pioneered the development of the health equity curriculum for the Department of Emergency Medicine. Her UVM honors include the Gender Equity Rising Star Award, the Alpha Omega Alpha Distinguished Faculty Award from the Larner medical Class of 2022, and co-recipient of a Frymoyer Scholarship for the development of a novel multidisciplinary gender-affirming care curriculum.
Senior Medical Students’ Futures Revealed at Match Day
Energized and costumed in “under the sea” themed outfits, headbands, and trinkets, members of the medical Class of 2023 enjoyed an upbeat, emotional, and life-changing Match Day in the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine’s Hoehl Gallery on March 17. The 113 students participating were among a record-breaking nearly 43,000 future physicians taking part in the National Resident Matching Program’s 2023 Main Residency Match®.
For the first time since 2019, the college’s festivities took place in the Hoehl Gallery in the Health Science Research Facility. Per tradition, bagpiper-extraordinaire H. James Wallace, M.D., radiation oncologist and associate professor of radiology, led a parade of medical students to a jam-packed Hoehl Gallery for the event, which included remarks by Larner Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., UVM President Suresh Garimella, and Class of 2023 Student Council representative Lud Eyasu, as well as a skit performed by staff of the Office of Medical Education.
Of the Class of 2023 medical students participating, 42 were matched into primary care residencies (internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics). Class members matched at 77 different institutions across 29 states, with eight students matching to residencies at the University of Vermont Medical Center.
Students in the Class of 2023 were in the middle of the second semester of their first year of medical school when the pandemic shutdown occurred and their learning moved online.
The pandemic “further exposed the cracks in the medical system and how patients can be affected,” says Williston, Vermont, native Warren Grunvald, who matched in emergency medicine at Advocate Health Care in Oak Lawn, Illinois. “It is empowering to be part of the wave of post-Covid physicians who are ready to address these growing inequalities.”
Pictured above: Class of ’23 medical student Victor Abraham (center) embraces his loved ones after learning about his match to a psychiatry residency at Columbia University Medical Center on Match Day.
Combatting RSV: Diehl Recounts Journey from Lab to Treatment
In fall 2022, public health warnings of a possible “tripledemic” blared across news headlines due to an early-season surge in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Marked by cold-like symptoms including cough and runny nose, RSV is reported to be the leading cause of infant hospitalizations in the U.S. and three million hospitalizations per year globally. Annually, the virus causes up to 10,000 deaths in adults age 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite a recent rise in awareness, RSV has been around for a long time. In fact, biomedical scientists have been working to develop vaccines to prevent RSV infection since the 1960s, but it has only been in the past several months of uptick in cases that several candidate vaccines have reached the regulatory review and approval stage.
In November 2022, the European Commission approved one of the therapies developed for the prevention of RSV in newborns and infants. Called Beyfortus, or nirsevimab, and developed by AstraZeneca and Sanofi, the medicine is awaiting FDA approval in the U.S. Sean Diehl, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, is a co-inventor on the patented technology that led to nirsevimab’s success as a preventative treatment — a process that began through research started in 2003.
“Previously, there had been failed or dangerous RSV vaccines,” said Diehl, who was working as a postdoctoral fellow with immunology research pioneer Hergen Spits, Ph.D., at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands from 2003 to 2008. Their team’s research led to the development of a method for discovering antibodies against infectious diseases. Diehl continues — to this day — to use the platform to study antibodies to dengue virus, Zika virus, norovirus, and other pathogens in his research in UVM’s Vaccine Testing Center..
Pictured above: Diehl (left) in his laboratory with former graduate student Huy Tu, Ph.D., in 2019.
We are all guilty of making assumptions that have questioned the classical definition of what a doctor ‘looks like,’ but have we ever pondered just how a doctor’s brain learns and processes information?”
— Aathman Swaminathan, Class of 2024 medical student, in a UVM Larner Med blog post titled “Medical Education – Does It Need to Think Different?”
The Lucey Prize, awarded annually, honors the late Jerold Lucey, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and longtime editor-in-chief of the journal Pediatrics, and his legacy of innovation in the field of neonatology and at the University of Vermont. The prize, which aims to inspire others to follow in Dr. Lucey’s footsteps, recognizes completed or near-completed work conducted within the past three years and is based on merit for work that explores new horizons in neonatology and/or other areas of pediatrics.
Eligible candidates and awardee levels include Larner College of Medicine medical students, UVM Medical Center/Children’s Hospital residents and fellows, and UVM early-career faculty members holding the rank of instructor or assistant professor for no more than 10 years. A monetary prize of $1500 will be awarded to each level awardee or their team and will be accompanied by a plaque. Award recipients will be announced no later than April 19, and award presentation will take place on May 13 at Pediatric Grand Rounds.
Sara Tourville, Medical Student Coordinator, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences
“Sara is the ultimate problem-solver, always willing to help anyone and everyone, and she does it with the most positive attitude and huge smile on her face,” says Elise Everett, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences and assistant dean for clerkship curriculum.
The UVM Libraries made a small but significant name change for Dana Medical Library. The new name, Dana Health Sciences Library, emphasizes the health sciences as a distinctive research strength for UVM. It also speaks to the breadth of health science services and resources that Dana librarians provide.
Despite the new name, what will not change for current partners in the College of Medicine is the quantity and quality of collaborative support. “We hope the name change will resonate with anyone who is doing work in the many disciplines of the health sciences,” said Denise Hersey, M.A., M.L.S., director of Dana. “This is your library, too.”
Accolades & Appointments
Katie Barker, Class of 2025 medical student, is first author on a March 2023 Case Report article titled “Cerebral Vasoconstriction and Vasospastic Angina Secondary to Pheochromocytoma” in the journal Practical Neurology. Co-authors include Carrie Mahurin, M.D., cardiology fellow and clinical instructor in the Department of Medicine; Bruno Soares, M.D., chief of neuroradiology in the Department of Radiology; and Adam Sprouse-Blum, M.D., who was senior author on the paper. Dr. Sprouse-Bloom (with whom Barker worked as a medical assistant prior to starting medical school) was her mentor for researching, writing, and publishing the case report. The report describes the first published case of pheochromocytoma — a neuroendocrine tumor in the adrenal medulla — associated with both reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome and vasospastic angina in the same patient. An interesting aspect of the case is that the patient’s headaches and chest pain could be triggered by applying pressure to a particular region of the back. This observation led to the imaging through which pheochromocytoma was discovered. In addition to the article, Barker created a poster that Sprouse-Bloom presented at an American Headache Society meeting in 2022. “Case reports like these are important because they help elucidate how different conditions can present, so that when a physician sees a symptom they can consider this as a differential diagnosis,” Barker said.
Anisha Rimal, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, and Miller Celestin, M.S.N., RN, clinical instructor of nursing, were recently awarded a $50,000 University of Vermont Health Network Medical Group Educational Scholarship Award to support their program titled Finding Affinity and Mentorship (FAM). FAM uses a “cluster mentoring” model to increase avenues of support for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) health care students, decreases the “minority tax” on BIPOC faculty serving as mentors, and creates an interprofessional framework that has the potential to strengthen a network of support for the entire BIPOC health care community. The Larner Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is proud to support this initiative.
Pictured at left (top to bottom): Dr. Rimal, Celestin
The Larner Social Justice Coalition (SJC) medical student leadership group has announced that the following Class of 2026 medical students have been named as SJC organizers: Ru Kambli, Mikaela Joy Mari, Wendy Memishian, and Krystal Ramos Barrera.
SJC serves as a platform to coordinate and create accountability for already ongoing efforts in the Larner community aimed at promoting critical social dialogue in our training and establishing systems of justice and equity in the community. By pooling resources and seeking common ground between the efforts of different groups and individuals, we hope to encourage an atmosphere of critical social consciousness and reflection at Larner. In coalition, we seek to build sustainable curricular and extracurricular vehicles for making social justice and cultural competency a key tenet of Larner’s identity.
Key accomplishments to date include major revisions to the social medicine curriculum, the creation of multiple events educating students and faculty about social determinants of health, co-creation of the anti-racism task force, deepened dialog regarding admissions equity, and beyond.
Pictured at left (top to bottom): Kambli, Mari, Memishian, Barrera
Margaret Tandoh, M.D., FACS, associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and the Richard L. Gamelli, M.D. ’74 Green and Gold Professor of Surgery, has been accepted to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Healthcare Executive Diversity and Inclusion Certificate (HEDIC) program. HEDIC is designed for DEI leaders and focuses on applied skills that will assist participants in successfully implementing diversity projects at their home institutions.
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