LCOM & Department News

UVM Part of NIH Study of Rural South's Health & Longevity Challenges

May 22, 2019 by Jennifer Nachbur

(May 22, 2019) In an effort to understand why some people born in rural communities in the South live shorter and less healthy lives than their counterparts elsewhere in the same counties as well as across the country, researchers from the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont at 11 other institutions will be participating in a new longitudinal cohort study aimed at combating this issue - the Risk Underlying Rural Areas Longitudinal Study (RURAL) .
(May 22, 2019) Why are some people born in the rural South less healthy and prone to die sooner?

In an effort to understand why some people born in rural communities in the South live shorter and less healthy lives than their counterparts elsewhere in the same counties as well as across the country, researchers from the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont (UVM) today announced they will be participating in a new longitudinal cohort study aimed at combating this issue.

The Risk Underlying Rural Areas Longitudinal Study (RURAL) will allow researchers to learn what causes the high burden of heart, lung, blood and sleep (HLBS) disorders in Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and offer clues regarding how to alleviate them. 

With funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, this six-year, $21.4 million multi-site prospective cohort study will include 50 investigators from 15 other institutions, including UVM University Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Russell Tracy, Ph.D., FAHA, ABCC.

To better understand why certain factors amplify risk in some rural counties and what renders some communities more resilient, the researchers will be recruiting and studying 4,000 multi-ethnic participants from 10 of the most economically disadvantaged rural counties in southern Appalachia and Mississippi Delta and parts of the rural South.

Using a self-contained mobile examination unit, ‘a research center on wheels,’ a transdisciplinary team will conduct an approximately four-hour detailed baseline examination on the study participants. Familial, lifestyle and behavioral factors, along with medical history including risk for HLBS disorders will be recorded. Environmental and economic factors will also be studied and standard and novel risk factors for HLBS disorders will be assayed. Investigators will use smart phones and wearable activity monitors in order to help collect health and lifestyle information of the participants.

“RURAL is a unique opportunity to work with participants in economically-challenged areas, people who have not had much opportunity to participate in NIH epidemiological studies,” says UVM’s Tracy, who has over 30 years of experience in population studies of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases of aging, and currently directs a national-level biorepository at UVM with more than 4.5 million biosamples.

Tracy explains that UVM’s Laboratory for Clinical Biochemistry Research will help design the overall protocol, especially for the collection of biosamples, such as blood and urine. The lab will serve as the RURAL Biorepository, ultimately storing and making available hundreds of thousands of biosamples for future research. In addition, Tracy’s lab will also perform a variety of clinical and research measurements to help identify critical factors that determine better or worse health status in rural communities. 

“The rural health challenge in the South does not spare any race or ethnicity. These high risk and economically disadvantaged rural communities are vulnerable to clusters of multiple health problems,” explained Vasan Ramachandran, M.D., FAHA, FACC, principal investigator and Boston University director of the renowned Framingham Heart Study, with which he has been affiliated for more than 20 years. “We aim to understand the rural health challenge in the South and share our findings with and offer health education to these rural communities.”

The study coordinating center is Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM). Investigators from the University of Louisville (Kentucky), LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, University of Mississippi Medical Center and University of Alabama at Birmingham, will play a central role in participant recruitment, retention, follow-up, data return, return of results, community engagement and education.

UVM’s Larner College of Medicine is one of 12 institutions participating in RURAL. Other participating institutions are Duke University; Emory University; Johns Hopkins University; Los Angeles BioMedical Research Institute (UCLA); University of California, Berkeley; University of Massachusetts Medical School; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; University of Virginia at Charlottesville; and the Wake Forest School of Medicine. 

Department Highlights

Please join Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger in congratulating Allison Manuel and Evan Elko

Dr. Allison Manuel is a post-doctoral fellow in our group.  Her abstract to be presented at the American Thoracic Society conference was chosen to receive an Abstract Scholarship . The scholarship includes a full In-Training Registration to the 2019 ATS International Conference in Dallas, Texas.  

Evan Elko is a PhD student. He just received notice that his F31 NIH application entitled: “Role of peroxiredoxin-4 in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis”  will be funded.

Congratulations to Evan and Allison.

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Department alumni, Dr. Bobbi Pritt, M.D. featured in Vermont Medicine Magazine. To read her story click on the photo below.

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Dr's Leonard and HuberA Remarkable Gift from Dr. Sally Huber, Ph.D.

At the end of last week's Research Day, Dr. Leonard gave a surprise announcement: a very generous bequethment of $5 million by research faculty emerita, Dr. Sally Huber! The funds will go toward two endowed professorships for junior investigators in our department. The endowments will be named for her parents, Elmer R. Huber and Blodwen S. Huber, and will support junior research faculty for five years.(9/2018)

This amazing support will allow junior faculty time and funds to gain independence while pursuing the milestone achievement of being awarded their first R01 grant.

Heintz Awarded 2018 Distinguised Graduate Alumni Award

Dr. Nick Heintz, Ph.D. received the 2018 UVM Medical Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate Alumni Award​, which is presented to Larner College of Medicine (LCOM) alumni who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in basic, clinical or applied research; education; industry; public service/humanitarianism; and/or outstanding commitment to the LCOM community.

He accepted his award at the college's Celebrating Research Excellence event at the end of October. (September 2018)

Kida Received Certificate of Commendation

Dr. Kida receives award from the State of Vermont...read more here. (August 2018)

Leonard and Committee Publish Through National Academies Press

Dr. Debra Leonard, along with a committee under the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, ​published "Returning Individual Research Results to Participants: Guidance for a New Research Paradigm" through The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2018 (Committee Member). (August 2018)

Excellence in Education

The Larner College of Medicine’s second year medical students nominate and elect faculty who they want to recognize for their outstanding teaching and support over their first years of the Foundations education. (February 2018)

Pathology nominees (winners in bold):

AMWA Gender Equity Award  - Pamela Gibson; Sharon Mount; Rebecca Wilcox

Dean Warhsaw Integration Award - Rebecca Wilcox

Silver Stethoscope Award - Scott Andreson; Maureen Harmon; John Lunde

Above and Beyond Award - Ronald Bryant; Rebecca Wilcox

Foundations Course Director Award -Rebecca Wilcox

Outstanding Foundations Course Award

  • Cardiovascular, Respiratory & Renal Systems: (Ron Bryant; Kelly Butnor; and Pam Gibson are the primary pathologists in each section of the course, respectively)
  • Nutrition, Metabolism & the Gastrointestinal System: Course Director is Rebecca Wilcox

Foundations Teaching Award - Ronald Bryant; Pamela Gibson; Rebecca Wilcox; Christina Wojewoda

Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger Receives Patent

Yvonne Janssen-Heinger was awarded a patent on the ​concept that strategies to inhibit GSTP has utility for the treatment of patients with pulmonary fibrosis. Congratulations, Yvonne! (January 2018)

Drs. Bronwyn Bryant and Phillip Munson inducted into the Teaching Academy

Last week Bronwyn and Phillip were inducted into University of Vermont's Teaching Academy. The Teaching Academy sustains and supports an interdisciplinary community of educators who value the scholarship of teaching and learning while facilitating educator development; improve the efficiency and quality of medical education through collaboration and scholarship; and promote an academic environment that increases the value and impact of educators locally, regionally, and nationally. (January 2018)

Dr. Leonard Video Recording Available 

Dr. Leonard gives a series of talks on Genomic Medicine in Vermont for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI)​. A video recording of the talk is available here >> (October 2017)

Department Members Took Part in the March For Science

Banner carriers: Dr. Debra Leonard, Sara Kwolek & Dr. Sharon Mount. Also, in view are Doug Taatjes,Ph.D., and Dr. Rebecca Wilcox. (April 2017)

Janssen-Heininger Featured Woman in Science

Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., was chosen as the featured ​Woman in Science by the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine! She got pretty colorful with some of her answers, so definitely worth a read. (March 2017) Read the story >>

Buskiewicz Publishes in Science Signaling

Dr. Iwona Buskiewicz, Ph.D., publishes study in Science Signaling, revealing potential key to alternative Lupus treatment.  (February 2017)

Genomic Medicine Laboratory Grand Opening (January 2017)
Larner College of Medicine Foundations Awards

Pamela Gibson, M.D. won the AMWA Gender Equity Award, which honors a male or female faculty member who promotes a gender-fair environment for the education and training of physicians and gender diversity in the field. Pam is Co-advisor of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. (January 2017)

Rebecca Wilcox, M.D. won the Foundations Course Director Award, and her Nutrition, Metabolism, and Gastrointestinal System (NMGI) course won Outstanding Foundations Course Award. Rebecca was also nominated for the Foundations Teaching Award. (January 2017)

Mark Fung, M.D., Ph.D. and Andy Goodwin, M.D. were also nominated for the Silver Stethoscope awards, which recognizes the faculty member who had few lecture hours, but made a substantial contribution to students’ education. (January 2017)