Recent News

For University of Vermont-related news, see below. For MaineHealth news, click here.

Elevating Voices: Vermont’s Impact on National STEMM and Education Policies

May 28, 2024 by Angela Ferrante

Although Vermont is a small state, Larner doctors and scientists have continued to gain national recognition. Heidi Schumacher, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, and Debora Kamin Mukaz, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, were each recently invited to two separate events at the White House in Washington, D.C.

From L-R: Debora Kamin Mukaz, Ph.D., attends the "2024 White House Summit on STEMM Equity and Excellence;" Heidi Schumacher, M.D., at the “Every Day Counts Summit: Addressing Chronic Absenteeism and Increasing Student Engagement," also at the White House.

Although Vermont is a small state, Larner doctors and scientists have continued to gain national recognition. Heidi Schumacher, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, and Debora Kamin Mukaz, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, were each recently invited to two separate events at the White House in Washington, D.C. Schumacher, who is also a pediatrician in the University of Vermont Health Network (UVMHN), spoke to a cohort of federal, state, and local educational leaders at the “Every Day Counts Summit: Addressing Chronic Absenteeism and Increasing Student Engagement” on May 15. Kamin Mukaz, who is also the co-founder and president of the #BlackInCardio movement, attended the “2024 White House Summit on STEMM Equity and Excellence: Propelling Progress and Prosperity by 2050” on May 1.

Addressing Chronic Absenteeism

The “Every Day Counts Summit: Addressing Chronic Absenteeism and Increasing Student Engagement,” led by U.S. Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, focused on the impact of absenteeism in school systems across the country and the detrimental effects that prolonged absences can have on students. Chronic absenteeism, defined as students missing 10 percent or more of school, became a significant issue during the COVID-19 pandemic due to school closures, which began during the previous administration. The U.S. rate of chronic absenteeism reached about 31 percent in the 2021–2022 school year. At the event, bipartisan educational leaders—including two governors, two state education chiefs, four local education leaders, and a student—spoke about the importance of data and leveraging evidence-based practices concerning family engagement and the impact of mental health strains. Secretary Cardona highlighted the national efforts of the American Academy of Pediatrics, of which Schumacher is a member, to engage pediatricians around school attendance. "Every state has an American Academy of Pediatrics chapter—and the AAP has been on the forefront of encouraging essential relationship building between pediatricians, families, mental health clinicians and school leaders and staff,” said Schumacher. “Pediatricians are eager to partner with families and schools to ensure that each child is healthy, present and ready to learn every day."

Closer to home, Schumacher has been working to engage state and local leaders across Vermont to elevate health and social contributors to school attendance, and the role that health care partners can play to prevent and respond to chronic absenteeism.Schumacher has also joined Keith Robinson, M.D., associate professor of pulmonology in the Department of Pediatrics, and Stanley Weinberger, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and division chief of pediatric primary care, to launch an initiative within the UVMHN pediatrics primary care division. They aim to include questions related to school performance and attendance in the social determinants of health pre-visit questionnaire that families complete before well-child visits. The rollout, training, and measurement of process and impact are scheduled to begin later this year.

Advancing Diversity in STEMM

The “2024 White House Summit on STEMM Equity and Excellence: Propelling Progress and Prosperity by 2050,” organized by the STEMM Opportunity Alliance (SOA) and hosted by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, focused on strategies to build a U.S. STEMM workforce that expands opportunities and reflects the diversity of the nation by 2050. The SOA is a key partner in the #BlackInCardio movement, of which Kamin Mukaz is co-founder and president.

#BlackInCardio, co-founded in 2020 by Kamin Mukaz and seven other cardiovascular scientists and trainees from around the world, is a trainee-led initiative aimed at promoting Black individuals in the cardiovascular field and raising awareness about issues related to the cardiovascular health of Black communities. The STEMM Opportunity Alliance is a nationwide initiative committed to tapping into America’s culturally rich, innovative, and diverse talent pool to expand the STEMM workforce.

In December 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Doris Duke Foundation announced the launch of the SOA during the inaugural White House Summit on STEMM Equity and Excellence. In 2023, the SOA co-constructed the first-ever National Strategy for STEMM Equity and Excellence with input from over 1,500 community members through 12 convenings across the nation and five virtual town hall sessions. The final strategy was unveiled at a White House Summit on May 1, 2024, and consists of five main pillars: engagement, inspiration, discovery, innovation, and opportunity.

Collaborating with such well-known organizations as the University Innovation Alliance, the American Institutes for Research, and Jobs for the Future, these crucial anchor partners will work in tandem to build strong networks, drive toward ambitious, measurable goals, and realign SOA partners’ support, systems, and accountability measures.

“This was a great opportunity to engage with other organizations and groups that are trying to make STEMM more inclusive of communities that have been historically excluded,” said Kamin Mukaz. “We are going through extremely challenging times in the U.S. and abroad, and this SOA event gave me the opportunity to have frank discussions about institutional and governmental commitment and plans for a more inclusive and justice-minded STEMM landscape.” 

Want to be our next news story?

Have you started a cool new project? Published a paper? Won an award? We want to hear from you! Contact us to be highlighted on our website, in our newsletters, and/or in our press releases.

Check out our newsletter archive:

December 2021

March 2022

August 2022

SpecialEditionAug2022

June 2023

Fall 2023

Winter 2024

Spring 2024

Questions?

Please email us with any questions or for assistance accessing services.

Become a Member

All NNE-CTR members have access to our services and support. Learn more about the free benefits of membership, and join today!