CVRI 2023 Viridis Montis Challenge Highlights Early-Career Researchers

February 1, 2023 by Cardiovascular Research Institute of Vermont

The Cardiovascular Research Institute of Vermont held its 4th Annual Viridis Montis Early Career Investigator Challenge on February 1, 2023, and Toishi Sharma, MBBS, cardiovascular disease fellow in the Department of Medicine, was selected as the winner.

Viridis Montis competitors stand at the front of the Larner Classroom at the close of the February 1, 2023 event.

The Cardiovascular Research Institute of Vermont (CVRI) held the 4th annual Viridis Montis Early Career Investigator Challenge on February 1, 2023. Organized by the CVRI Early Career Advisory Committee, the Viridis Montis competition provides a unique opportunity to bring together University of Vermont and University of Vermont Medical Center researchers from diverse cardiovascular research backgrounds across the entire early career spectrum to compete for a $5,000 research award. This year the competition was a hybrid format that featured in-person presentations for the first time since 2020, while also having a virtual audience and remote guest judges from outside institutions.

The 2023 Viridis Montis competition launched with an abstract competition that attracted a record number of submissions. Five finalists were selected by an abstract review committee comprised of the members of the CVRI Early Career Advisory Committee, CVRI Board of Directors, and CVRI Distinguished Investigators. Given the applicants' diverse research backgrounds, the competition judging emphasized the ability of applicants to communicate their science clearly to a broad audience.

This year’s finalists were diverse in career stage and background and included:

  • Ryan Hunt, B.S., Ph.D. Candidate, Neuroscience Graduate Program (mentor: Marilyn Cipolla, Ph.D., Professor of Neurological Sciences)
  • Aaron Lambert, M.D.. Clinical Instructor and Resident, Department of Surgery (mentor Kalev Freeman, M.D., Ph.D., professor of emergency medicine)
  • Amreen Mughal, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Pharmacology (mentor: Mark Nelson, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor and Chair of Pharmacology)
  • Toishi Sharma, MBBS. Cardiovascular Disease Fellow, Department of Medicine (mentor: David Schneider, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Medical Director, Cardiovascular Services)
  • Samuel Short, B.A., Class of 2023 Medical Student (mentor: Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., Professor and Vice Chair of Medicine)

Of these Finalists, two were identified as the top scoring abstracts and each received a $500 research award.

The participants with the top scoring abstracts were:

  • Ryan Hunt, with an abstract entitled “Human stroke serum causes endothelial dysfunction in healthy non-ischemic cerebral arteries.”
  • Amreen Mughal, with an abstract entitled "Electro-Calcium coupling in the brain endothelium: A higher order mechanism to control cerebral blood flow."

During the Viridis Montis competition, each finalist delivered an oral presentation followed by questions from the panel of guest judges, who included:

  • Noma Anderson, Ph.D., Dean, UVM College of Nursing & Health Sciences and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders;
  • Philip Ades, M.D., UVM Professor of Medicine and CVRI Distinguished Investigator;
  • Fabrice Dabertrand, Ph.D.. University of Colorado School of Medicine Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Pharmacology, and former UVM Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and CVRI ECAC member;
  • Diann Gaalema, Ph.D.. UVM Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology; and
  • Markus Meyer, M.D., University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Medicine and former UVM professor of medicine.

The high-level performances during the competition resulted in very close judging. After thorough consideration, the judges selected Toishi Sharma, who presented on “Platelet FcγRIIa expression, a powerful marker of cardiovascular risk in women,” as the winner of the 2023 Viridis Montis Early Career Investigator Challenge. 

The CVRI extends gratitude to all those who participated in and contributed to the successful production of this meritorious event.