Cushman, Higgins, Stein, and Heil Recognized with UVM Faculty Awards

May 17, 2023 by John Turner

The University of Vermont (UVM) recently recognized Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., and Gary Stein, Ph.D., as University Distinguished Professors, and Sarah Heil, Ph.D., was named a 2023-24 University Scholar.

(Clockwise, from top left) Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., Sarah Heil, Ph.D., and Gary Stein, Ph.D. (Photos: Andy Duback, David Seaver)

The University of Vermont (UVM) recently announced the recipients of the 2023 Faculty Awards, and four Larner College of Medicine faculty were among the honorees. 

Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., and Gary Stein, Ph.D., have been recognized with the University Distinguished Professor Award—the highest academic honor that UVM bestows upon a faculty member. Holders of this title are recognized for having achieved international eminence within their respective fields of study and for the truly transformative nature of their contributions to advancing knowledge. On May 21, Cushman, Higgins, and Stein were officially recognized as University Distinguished Professors at the University Commencement Ceremony. All three of the new University Distinguished Professors are UVM Cancer Center members.

Sarah Heil, Ph.D., was named a 2023-24 University Scholar in the category of Basic and Applied Science. This award recognizes sustained excellent in research, creative, and scholarly activities as well as the encouragement of a climate of scholarship at UVM. Heil is being honored for her excellence in her field and her ability to foster academic achievement in others. 

Cushman is a professor and vice chair in the Department of Medicine and holds a secondary appointment as a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine. Her career has exemplified excellence in research, collaboration, and service. A nationally and internationally recognized scholar in the epidemiology of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and venous thromboembolism, she has over 690 published works (including original manuscripts, reviews, guidelines and book chapters), and has been recognized nationally as ranking in the top one percent of researchers in the field of clinical research. Building on major longitudinal studies, her most impactful contributions include novel insights into the role of inflammation in the etiology of cardiovascular disease, especially among African Americans, the role of the D-dimer coagulation marker on thrombosis risk, and the critical role of blood pressure in explaining population differences in risk of death from stroke. Cushman is also celebrated for her significant contributions to the American Heart Association, her service as editor (editor-in-chief, associate editor, guest editor) for multiple internationally recognized journals, her mentoring and promotion of the next generation of scientists, and her limitless dedication to UVM.

The Donaldson Professor of Psychiatry and Psychological Sciences, Higgins is vice chair of psychiatry and director of the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health. He also holds a secondary appointment as a professor of psychological science in the College of Arts and Sciences. One of the most influential and important leaders in the substance use disorder (SUD) field, his work in contingency management revolutionized treatment approaches for patients with SUDs, providing one of the few efficacious clinical interventions to change human behavior (such as reducing smoking and alcohol use). Higgins has been recognized with a number of top honors in his field, including the Nathan B. Eddy Memorial Award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD)—the oldest and largest international scientific association on substance use disorders. He was elected and served as president of CPDD from 2007-2008, and served as president of the American Psychological Association’s Psychopharmacology and Substance Use division, and was an elected Fellow in the International Association of Behavior Analysis and in four American Psychological Association divisions. Higgins has published 448 papers which are highly cited. He served as the Behavioral Pharmacology editor for the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior and on the editorial boards of numerous peer-reviewed journals in the field of addictions. 

Stein is a professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and holds a secondary appointment as a professor of surgery. He also serves as the Vermont director of the Northern New England Clinical and Translational Research Network. His work, which spans the fields of cancer, bone biology, genetics and epigenetics, pathology, and physiology, works to reveal new biologic mechanisms that control cellular proliferation and differentiation, especially genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of regulation that are compromised in cancer cells (and also in skeletal disease). His many basic science initiatives are purposefully directed to translate into improved clinical care and outcomes for cancer patients: new methods of early diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Stein is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has published over 1000 papers and edited 25 books and has served on the editorial boards of more than 25 biomedical journals. In addition, he has mentored more than 185 graduate students and junior faculty, and has served on a number of regional, national, and international scientific advisory boards that formulate research priorities and policies.

Heil is a professor of psychiatry and associate director of both UVM’s Center on Rural Addiction – a Health Resources and Services Administration Regional Center of Excellence – and Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science in the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health. In 2016, she was recognized with the Mid-Career Investigator award at the inaugural Larner College of Medicine Dean’s Excellence in Research Awards event. Heil has published nearly 125 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, which have been cited more than 5,000 times. She is an elected Fellow in two divisions of the American Psychological Association, a member of the consulting editorial board of the journal of each division, and a Fellow of the College of Problems of Drug Dependence. She serves on numerous committees at the department, college, and university level, and was elected to the Larner College of Medicine Faculty Standards Committee. She has served on more than 20 second-year projects, Master’s, preliminary exam, and doctoral committees for students, and regularly lectures in undergraduate, graduate, medical student, and resident courses. In addition, her service includes being appointed by the governor to the Vermont Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board, membership on the medical advisory board of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and being appointed to the Vermont Maternal Mortality Review Panel.