Department News

Hehir Invested as Inaugural Holder of the James F. Howard Jr. Professorship in Neuromuscular Disorders

January 30, 2024 by Angela Ferrante

Michael Hehir, M.D., professor of neurological sciences, was invested as the inaugural holder of the James F. Howard Jr. Professorship in Neuromuscular Disorders.

In a formal ceremony held January 26, 2024, at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine, Professor of Neurological Sciences Michael Hehir, M.D., was invested as the inaugural holder of the James F. Howard Jr. Professorship in Neuromuscular Disorders. Hehir is also chief of neuromuscular medicine and program director of the Neuromuscular Medicine Training Fellowship at the University of Vermont Medical Center. This endowed professorship was established through the generosity of James F. Howard Jr., M.D.’74, and his wife, School of Nursing alum Adrienne (Brown) Howard ’75. The professorship supports clinical research in myasthenia gravis (MG), a chronic neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the voluntary muscles.

Howard, known as “Chip,” was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, in 1948. From a young age, he set his sights on a career in medicine. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UVM in 1970 and his medical degree from the UVM College of Medicine in 1974, followed by residencies in internal medicine and neurology at Albany Medical Center Hospital, New York; the University of Virginia Hospital; and the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He became an assistant professor of neurology and medicine at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill in 1979, and was promoted to associate professor in 1985 and full professor in 1992. Howard is the former James F. Howard Distinguished Professor of Neuromuscular Disease and the prior chief of the Neuromuscular Disorders Section at UNC. He was also an adjunct professor of clinical sciences (neurology) at North Carolina State University. A practicing neurologist for more than 40 years with a focus on myasthenia gravis and other neuromuscular disorders, he is a leading expert in the field and has authored more than 110 abstracts, 150 articles, 35 book chapters, and 3 books. He was the 2019 recipient of the European Academy of Neurology Investigator Award and a member of the NIH-funded rare disease clinical research network, MGNet. In 2003 a chair was endowed at UNC in Howard’s name for the exceptional care given to a patient years before.

“Neurology is a very small discipline. Neuromuscular medicine is even smaller,” stated Howard in his address to Hehir and other members of the UVM and Larner communities. “In our field, legacies are built through this close community—who mentors you, who you mentor. It is this interconnectedness that allows us to help support each other.”

With members of the Howard and Hehir families attending both in person and virtually, UVM Provost and Senior Vice President Patricia Prelock, Ph.D., hosted and led the event in the Larner College of Medicine’s Hoehl Gallery. UVM President Suresh Garimella, Ph.D.; Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and President and CEO of the UVM Health Network Medical Group Jason Sanders, M.D., M.B.A.; Chair of the Department of Neurological Sciences at UVM Gregory Holmes, M.D.; and President and CEO of the UVM Foundation Monica Delisa joined Prelock.

Group of officials at Hehir Investiture
From Left to Right: UVM Provost and Senior Vice President Patricia Prelock, Ph.D., UVM President Suresh Garimella, Ph.D., Adrienne Howard, James F. Howard Jr., M.D., Michael Hehir, M.D., UVM Foundation President and CEO Monica Delisa

Michael Hehir is a highly respected neuromuscular researcher and clinician known for his leadership in collaborative clinical research projects. He has contributed to projects validating a novel measure for treatment-related adverse events and developing a remote monitoring system for myasthenia gravis patients. With leadership roles in such organizations as the Muscle Study Group and the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine, he is a national leader in neuromuscular disease education. Hehir has published more than 50 articles in prestigious journals, directs a Neuromuscular Medicine Fellowship, and is actively involved in national service and leadership.

In addition, Hehir plays a key role in graduate and undergraduate medical education at the Larner College of Medicine and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, contributing to neurology and broader medical contexts. He is also a community educator for the MG Foundation and the New England ALS Association, emphasizing evidence-based palliative care.

“He’s a clear thinker, a problem solver, a trustworthy colleague, and a wonderful person to work and lead with,” said Holmes. “Our department values him and his contributions immensely—Dr. Hehir is someone we could always count on. He is incredibly deserving of this, one of the highest honors our institution can bestow on a faculty member.”

Endowed positions are among the most prestigious of academic accolades. Investing outstanding faculty members with endowed chairs and professorships allows the university to recognize and celebrate academic achievement, and to further encourage scholarship, service, and clinical excellence. Hehir is an excellent example of an outstanding faculty member—he is a highly respected researcher, clinician, teacher, and scholar. Hehir has dedicated his career to improving the lives of patients and families who face complex and challenging journeys. Through his research, teaching, and leadership he constantly improves our ability to care for patients here in Vermont and around the world.

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