Accolades and Appointments from the Larner Medicine newsletter

Accolades & Accomplishments

October 25, 2023

Laurel leaves

John McGill, M.D.’78; Jared Christensen, M.D.’03, Meagan Costedio, M.D.’03, and Julie Park, M.D.’88; Morris Earle Jr., M.D.ʼ83, Victor Herson, M.D.ʼ73, and Paul Rutkowski, M.D.ʼ63; and Erica Cahill, M.D.ʼ13, William Damsky, M.D.ʼ13, and Ryan Winters, M.D.ʼ08, were 2023’s recipients of Larner College of Medicine Alumni Association Awards, in recognition of their service to the college/community or in their career accomplishments.

Read the full story here

Vermont Medical Society logo

The Vermont Medical Society (VMS) has announced its 2023 VMS Leadership Award recipients, which include the following Larner faculty: Norman Ward, M.D., associate professor of family medicine, Distinguished Service AwardLauren MacAfee, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences, Physician of the Year Award (with co-awardee Brattleboro family medicine physician Denise Paasche, M.D.); and Rebecca Bell, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics, Founders’ Award.

The awards will be presented on Friday, November 3, at 7:00 p.m. in-person and virtually, as part of the 210th Annual & Collaborative meeting of the Vermont Medical Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter, the Vermont Academy of Family Physicians, and the Vermont Psychiatric Association November 3–4, 2023, in Stowe.

VASE logo

Marilyn Cipolla, Ph.D., M.S., professor of neurological sciences (left), and Daniel Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine (right), were inducted into the Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering (VASE) at its Annual Fall Meeting on the Middlebury College campus on October 10. The aim of VASE is to foster a deeper understanding of scientific and technical matters among the citizens of the state of Vermont.

The State of Vermont chartered VASE to honor the accomplishments of scientists and engineers, promote the interests of science and engineering within the state, educate Vermonters about the importance of those fields, and help state government resolve scientific and engineering problems.

Abanaki man being checked for skin cancer

The University of Vermont Cancer Center, in collaboration with the UVM Medical Center dermatology group, partnered with the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation to bring free skin checks to the community at an Indigenous Peoples Day event in Stowe on October 8. Skin checks hosted by Abenaki Health Equity Coordinator Lucy Neal will be available on Wednesday, November 15, at the Holland Food Shelf, 26 School Road, Derby Line, Vermont. 

Read more about this important partnership


Julie Dragon, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, director of the Vermont Biomedical Research Network (VBRN) Data Science Core, and director of the Vermont Integrative Genomics Resource (VIGR), and Scott Tighe, director of technologies for VIGR, plan to travel to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a launch to the International Space Station (ISS) scheduled for November 9, 2023, carrying technology they developed that is a small step toward DNA extraction in space.

This technology could provide ISS crew members with the ability to extract DNA from six samples at the same time with minimal crew interaction and would improve DNA sequencing throughput to rapidly answer health-related questions and find microbial content in samples. Phase I of this project will establish the integrity, assembly, and handling of the custom DNA extraction cartridges in zero-gravity (designed in conjunction with UVM’s Instrumentation and Model Facility and NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab), test DNA extraction efficiency of ISS-deployed samples compared to matched Earth controls, and evaluate performance of microbial preservatives that would allow sample return at ambient temperatures instead of in cold storage.

Kirsten Tracy, Ph.D., senior laboratory technician in VIGR, will travel with Dr. Dragon to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama for space to ground communications with the astronauts to walk them through the experiment in real time. Tighe will retrieve the extraction cartridges and microbes post mission when Space X 29 returns to earth in early December.


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Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Eric Ross, M.D., has made a significant contribution to the latest edition of JAMA Psychiatry with his groundbreaking paper “Estimated Average Treatment Effect of Psychiatric Hospitalization in Patients with Suicidal Behaviors: A Precision Treatment Analysis.“ This research delves into the effectiveness of psychiatric hospitalization in reducing subsequent suicidal behaviors and aims to develop a personalized treatment guideline that takes individual differences into account.

In a study conducted from 2022 to 2023, Dr. Ross and his colleagues employed advanced machine learning techniques to analyze data from patients with suicidal tendencies seeking care in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) emergency departments and urgent care facilities. The study shed light on the previously poorly understood effectiveness of psychiatric hospitalization. By examining retrospective data spanning from 2010 to 2015, subjects were categorized into subgroups based on their primary psychiatric diagnosis and their level of suicidality, ranging from suicidal ideation to recent suicide attempts.

The study‘s results demonstrate that psychiatric hospitalization can significantly reduce the risk of a suicide attempt immediately following a prior attempt but may not have the same effect on patients with recent suicide attempts or those with suicidal ideation alone. In fact, hospitalization was found to reduce the risk of subsequent suicidal attempts in 28.1 percent of patients while increasing the risk in 24.0 percent of patients. This highlights the limitations of a one-size-fits-all approach to psychiatric hospitalization. 

Ross and his team have shifted the focus toward personalized approaches to suicidal patients. They propose the implementation of an individualized treatment rule (ITR) based on the study’s findings. Such an ITR could lead to a 16.0 percent reduction in suicide attempts and a 13.0 percent reduction in hospitalizations when compared to current practices. 

Ross emphasized, “Psychiatric hospitalization is most beneficial for patients who have recently attempted suicide before seeking emergency care. However, for patients with suicidal thoughts but no recent attempt, the effectiveness of psychiatric hospitalization cannot be assumed.”

Headshot of Alex Herrera

Diego Adrianzen Herrera, M.D., and colleagues’ new study published in Blood Advances investigated the impact of preexisting autoimmune diseases on the outcomes of patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a group of blood disorders. These diseases are present in 10–30 percent of individuals with MDS, and previous studies have produced conflicting results about how they affect MDS patients.

Read more about this important study

Headshot of Deepak Gupta

Current approaches for diagnosing cognitive dysfunction/impairment in Parkinson’s disease (PD) utilize a limited way of classifying the patients into categories of mild cognitive impairment (abbreviated as PD-MCI) or dementia (abbreviated as PD-D). In sharp contrast, cognitive impairment in PD can vary for different patients in terms of severity on a continuous scale. Furthermore, cognitive impairment in PD is heterogenous in nature, given that there is selective impairment of specific cognitive functions and only a subset of patients develop it early in the disease. In addition, PD-MCI and PD-D approaches of classifying cognitive dysfunction make a rather superficial use of neuropsychological/cognitive testing data for diagnostic conclusions, and thus fail to capture the richness of these data. The categorical PD-MCI and PD-D classifications also have limited ability to accurately reflect progression, as patients can remain labeled only in one of these two categories for several years despite progressive worsening of their cognitive function. Thus, several key aspects of cognitive dysfunction in PD are not fully addressed by the currently available classification schemes.

The PD-CFI project, funded by a $1.2 million Investigator Initiated Research Award from the Department of Defense over three years from September 2023 to August 2026, aims to address the above issues by developing and testing a new approach to study cognitive dysfunction in PD. This collaborative and interdisciplinary project is being led by Principal Investigator Deepak K. Gupta, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of neurological sciences at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine, in collaboration with co-investigators Satya S. Sahoo, Ph.D., at Case Western Reserve University, and Amie Hiller, M.D., M.C.R., at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Oregon Health & Sciences University. Other project personnel include two neuropsychologists, Brenna Cholerton, Ph.D., at Stanford University, and Abigail Ryan, Ph.D., at the University of Vermont Medical Center; a biostatistician researcher, Curtis Tatsuoka, Ph.D., at the University of Pittsburgh; a scientific advisor, Cyrus Zabetian, M.D., at the University of Washington; and a patient advisor, Rebecca Miller, Ph.D., at Yale University. The project team will apply a novel statistical modeling technique, called partial ordered set (POSET), for developing the PD-CFI classification scheme using the Pacific Udall Center data, and then validate the PD-CFI classification scheme using an artificial intelligence methodology in a multicenter clinical research study.

The Office of Medical Education (OME) is proud to announce the expansion of its team with the addition of seven highly esteemed and accomplished professionals to its roster of course directors. This exciting development marks a significant stride in further enhancing the excellence and quality of medical education at the Larner College of Medicine.

OME is delighted to welcome these distinguished physicians, scientists, and educators to our community. Each of these individuals brings a wealth of expertise and a proven track record of excellence in their respective fields. Their diverse backgrounds and experiences will undoubtedly enrich the educational landscape, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative approaches to the college’s programs. 

Jessica Crothers, M.D.’12, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, has been appointed Attacks and Defenses course director at the Larner College of Medicine. Dr. Crothers, a 2012 graduate of the Larner College of Medicine, completed her residency in anatomic and clinical pathology at the University of Vermont Medical Center in 2016 and a clinical fellowship in medical microbiology at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in 2019. Her new role will involve overseeing the Foundations-level Attacks and Defenses course, which integrates studies in hematology, immunology, microbiology, toxicology, pathology, pharmacology, and neoplasia. Students in this course are introduced to advanced history-taking skills, clinical problem-solving skills, and the application of evidenced-based medicine.

Sakshi Jasra, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Hematology and Oncology Division, has been appointed Professionalism, Communication, and Reflection (PCR) course director at the Larner College of Medicine. Dr. Jasra is a graduate of St. George’s School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University at Buffalo in 2016 and a fellowship in hematology/oncology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She has a particular interest in narrative medicine and curriculum development. In her new role as PCR course director, Jasra will manage the Foundations-level Professionalism, Communication, and Reflection course, which focuses on fostering self-awareness, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and the capacity to care for self and colleagues among students via discussion groups with a faculty preceptor. Meetings with Careers in Medicine advisors and aspects of the Careers in Medicine curriculum are also incorporated into this course.

Tracy Hagerty, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, has been appointed assistant course director of the Professionalism, Communication, and Reflection (PCR) course at the Larner College of Medicine. Dr. Hagerty is a graduate of St. Louis University School of Medicine and completed residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. She also completed two fellowships at Barnes Jewish Hospital, in cardiovascular disease and clinical cardiac electrophysiology. Her new role will involve assisting the course director in managing the Foundations-level Professionalism, Communication, and Reflection course.

Abigail Hielscher, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurological sciences, has been appointed assistant course director of the Foundations of Clinical Science course at the Larner College of Medicine. Dr. Hielscher earned a Ph.D. in cell biology/anatomy from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Her new role will involve assisting the Foundations of Clinical Science course director in managing this Foundations-level course. In Foundations of Clinical Science, students learn fundamental concepts of anatomy, biochemistry, cellular metabolism, and molecular genetics to understand cell biology, pharmacology, embryology, and human physiology. Students learn to apply basic scientific principles and develop frameworks for clinical decision making and the practice of evidence-based medicine during course activities that include team-based learning, small- and large-group discussions, interactive modules, lectures, and clinical skills practice with standardized patients.

Kelley Collier, M.D.’18, assistant professor of family medicine, has been appointed Family Medicine Clerkship director. Dr. Collier, a 2018 graduate of the Larner College of Medicine, completed an internship in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado in 2019 and a residency in Family Medicine at the University of Colorado in 2021. In her new role, she will manage and support students as they go through the Family Medicine Clerkship program. This clerkship involves students examining the role of the family physician, both in leading the patient-centered medical home and within the complex health care system as a whole. The program begins with small-group, hands-on instruction utilizing the Simulation Center and Standardized Patients and other diverse teaching tools to learn skills and procedures for the office setting. Students then spend five weeks in a continuity clinical practice site, mostly based in rural New England.

Nina Gluchowski, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, has been appointed Pediatrics Clerkship associate director at the Larner College of Medicine. Dr. Gluchowski received her medical degree from Boston University. She completed a residency in pediatrics and served as chief resident in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital. She also completed a fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2017. Her new role will involve assisting in the management of the Pediatrics Clerkship, where students work with primary care physicians, hospitalists, sub-specialists, and allied health professionals to get broad exposure to the field of pediatrics, the role of the pediatrician in caring for patients, and the influence of family, community, and society on the health of children of all ages.

Merima Ruhotina, M.D.’12, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences, has been appointed associate director for the Obstetrics and Gynecology Clerkship. Dr. Ruhotina is a 2012 graduate of the Larner College of Medicine. She completed residency at Brown University/Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, followed by a fellowship in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery at Yale New Haven Health/Bridgeport Hospital. Her new role will involve assisting in the management of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Clerkship. In this program, students experience and explore the unique field of obstetrics and gynecology, from primary care to a surgical subspecialty. They learn in three settings—the clinic, the operating room, and labor and delivery—and participate in longitudinal relationships with patients across their lifespan.