Research News

Dixon among 2016 UVM Medical Group Excellence in Education and Research Awardees

January 2, 2017 by Mindy Clawson

The 2016 University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Group awards for excellence in education and research – along with grants funding research in medicine and medical education – were presented at the practice’s annual holiday reception on December 13, 2016.

Anne Dixon, M.A., B.M., B.Ch., Professor of Medicine (Photo: Larner COM Creative Services)

The 2016 University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Group awards for excellence in education and research – along with grants funding research in medicine and medical education – were presented at the practice’s annual holiday reception on December 13, 2016.

The following UVMMG Individual Awards carry a $1,500 cash award and $6,000 block grant related to educational efforts.

Senior Investigator of the Year
Anne Dixon, M.A., B.M., B.Ch., professor of medicine and director of the Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine, received the 2016 Senior Investigator of the Year award. Dixon, whose research focuses on asthma, has a stellar national and international reputation in the field of asthma, holding membership on National Institutes of Health (NIH) study sections, review panels, and the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ Office of Research and Development Merit Review Award Program subcommittee. She also serves as director of clinical research at the Vermont Lung Center and has an outstanding record of service to both the UVM Medical Group and the Larner College of Medicine and plays leading roles in several subspecialty societies. Dixon has authored 77 peer-reviewed publications, an edited book and 20 other book chapters. Her extramural funding includes two NIH R01 grants (as principle investigator; an American Lung Association Airways Clinical Research Center Award; and a UVM Medical Group research award as co-PI), and three other NIH grants (as co-investigator).

Other Senior Investigator of the Year award nominees include: Elizabeth Bonney, M.D., professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences; Jay Kikut, M.D., associate professor of radiology; Rodney Craig Scott, M.D., professor of neurological sciences; Roger Soll, M.D., professor of pediatrics; Robert Gramling, M.D., associate professor of family medicine and Miller Chair of Palliative Medicine; and Donald Weaver, M.D., professor of pathology and laboratory medicine.

Junior Investigators of the Year

Alissa Thomas, M.D., assistant professor of neurological science, and Michael LaMantia, M.D., associate professor of medicine, tied for the Junior Investigator of the Year award.

Thomas is a first-year faculty member who recently completed a fellowship at UVM Medical Center in neuro-oncology, during which time she opened two new clinical trials for glioblastoma and meningioma (as principle investigator); a central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma study (as site co-principle investigator); an ependymoma study; and became co-investigator on a NRG study for patients with glioblastoma. She recently received a $460,000, three-year award from the Gateway Foundation for a clinical trial with patients who have brain metastases from solid tumors. Other accomplishments include publication of four original peer-reviewed research articles, with two more accepted and in press.

LaMantia joined the UVM faculty in summer 2016 as the section head of geriatrics. He has 29 publications, with one in press and three under review. One of those was selected by the American Geriatric Society (AGS) as one of the 20 top influential papers in Geriatrics from 2000-2015. His multiple awards include the 2015 AGS New Investigator Award and Prestigious External Award Recognition from IUPUI in 2016. In 2014, he was awarded a highly competitive K23 grant from the National Institute on Aging. His excellent national and international reputation in geriatrics is clear from his numerous speaking invitations and national roles.

Other Junior Investigator of the Year nominees included: Julie Phillips, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, and Diego Lemos, M.D., assistant professor of radiology.

GME Teacher of the Year

Judith Lewis, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and director of the department’s residency program, was recognized for her openness to new ways of teaching and her continual search for ways to improve resident education, which make her an inspiration and a great mentor. She cares deeply about each individual’s growth and shows it on a daily basis. She has won numerous other awards for her work in education and psychiatry.

Other nominees included: Gino Trevisani, M.D., associate professor of surgery, and Halle Sobel, M.D., associate professor of medicine.

CME Teachers of the Year

Anya Koutras, M.D., associate professor of family medicine, and Patricia O’Brien, M.D., assistant professor clinical scholar in medicine, tied for the CME Teacher of the Year award.

Koutras has taught medical students and residents for over 20 years. Since 2010, when she began directing the Family Medicine Review Conference, attendance has increased 34 percent. In 2015, she became course director for the Annual Update on Women’s Health conference. Reviews from participants have been glowing, with the Family Medicine event called the “best conference at UVM in years.”

Nineteen years ago, O’Brien started the hugely successful Women’s Health and Cancer Conference for patients after her own experience with cancer. Under her guidance, it has grown into a yearly educational forum for patients and providers. She acts as lecturer and MC, gives media interviews and is a friend to the “multitude of patients and participants who have found a place in her heart.”

Research and Education Grants
In addition to the Individual Awards, the UVMMG announced the 2016 research and education grants. These grants were created to help align the academic missions of the UVM Medical Center and the Larner College of Medicine and to enhance multidisciplinary and multi-departmental work.

Research Grants
Each of the UVMMG’s two research grants provides $50,000 for two years for projects that include junior and senior faculty from more than one department and link to infrastructural strengths at our institutions.

Amanda Kolb, M.D., assistant professor of family medicine, won a research grant for her proposal, which will investigate whether risk stratification in family medicine – combined with stratified-specific physical therapy – improves clinical outcomes for patients with nonspecific low back pain compared with those who receive only current physical therapy care. This prospective, longitudinal, randomized, non-blinded controlled trial will be carried out at five UVM family medicine clinics and at the UVM Medical Center’s Urgent Care Center. The team estimates that 4,000 patients with a primary diagnosis of non-specific low back pain are seen annually across our Family Medicine sites, warranting further study that could change the standard of care for low-back-pain management and improve patient outcomes. The team will work with a data analytics team from the Jeffords Institute for Quality to compare data sets.

Michelle Yang, M.D., assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, as principle investigator, and Richard Zubarik, M.D., associate professor of medicine, as co-principle investigator, will conduct research related to patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which often presents at advanced stages with metastases. Specific biomarkers targeted to identify the presence of tumor in the early stages are greatly needed to diagnose and optimize treatment. Their project will examine a specific candidate protein expression panel, evaluating sensitivity and specificity to examine whether these markers can be useful in the early diagnosis of PDAC. The team hopes that the panel may also help stratify clinical phenotypes of PDACs and guild optimal clinical treatment for a patient subgroup. The value of this panel of proteins and their relationship to clinical phenotypes and disease outcome will also be evaluated in cancers of non-pancreatic origin that have been observed to mimic PDAC morphologically.

Education Grants
Each education research grant provides $25,000 for two years of study related to scholarly pursuit. One grant is funded by the UHC Trust; a second has been funded for 2016 by the UVM Medical Group.

Stephanie Mann, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, as principle investigator, and Mark Levine, M.D., professor of medicine, as co-principle investigator, won a grant for their proposal to provide UVM Medical Center resident physicians with the knowledge and experience to practice in the evolving health care delivery system by meeting the objectives of the IHI Triple Aim. They will collaborate with OneCare Vermont to have residents drive the development of post-acute care bundles to ensure high-value care provided after discharge. The team hypothesizes that residents will expand their knowledge and improve the quality and value of care our patients receive and expect this innovation will demonstrate how a GME-supported targeted curriculum can directly impact patient outcomes as residents learn the skills necessary to provide safe, high-quality, patient-centered care. The study’s long-term goal is to design and implement a GM-supported population health curriculum.

Laurie Leclair, M.D., professor of medicine, and Colleen Quinn, M.D., a family medicine specialist at Hudson Headwaters Health Network in Northern New York, will serve as co-investigators on a study that aims to prove that longitudinal incorporation of medical students into primary care practice will improve targeted patient care quality outcomes and satisfaction, based on increasingly popular longitudinal integrated clerkships (LIC). Their new, novel curriculum will apply value-based care and motivational interviewing to diagnosis and treatment of chronic pulmonary disease (COPD) for LIC medical students and health network faculty. The study will determine the impact of LIC medical students on preceptors’ screening for COPD in active smokers, office spirometry utilization, tobacco cessation rates, ED visits related to COPD and 30-day readmission rates for COPD exacerbations. It will be conducted with Hudson Headwaters, which is launching a new LIC with the Larner College of Medicine beginning in spring 2017. Quinn is the coordinator of the LIC at Hudson Headwaters.