Our ‘True North’: Larner Celebrates Professionalism with Awards, Special Events

April 29, 2021 by Jennifer Nachbur

In recognition of the second anniversary of the formal introduction and celebration of the Larner College of Medicine's Statement on Professionalism, the College hosted its first Professionalism Week from Monday, May 3 through Friday, May 7, 2021.

The Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont marked the second anniversary of the public roll-out of the College’s Statement on Professionalism with its first-ever Professionalism Week May 3 through May 7, 2021.

“We could never have anticipated the many ways our commitment to professionalism would be tested over the past year, but I think we should all take time to recognize just how much that ‘true north’ has guided us through the challenging times of the pandemic,” said Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., in a message to the Larner community on March 30.

As part of the week-long celebration, four members of the Larner community – a faculty member, staff member, graduate student, and medical student – were recognized on May 4 during the Professionalism Week Kick-off and Awards Celebration, held via Zoom.

As this was the College’s first public professionalism awards ceremony, the event also honored the 2020 Dean’s Awards for Professionalism recipients: Faculty awardee Jennifer Gilwee, M.D., associate professor and chief of general internal medicine and geriatrics; staff awardee Eric Gagnon, director of facilities administration and projects; and student awardee Isaac de la Bruere, medical student in the Class of 2022. (Read more about our 2020 awardees here and on the Larner College of Medicine Facebook page.)

“Our community is filled with shining examples of professionalism exhibited every day by faculty, staff, medical students, and graduate students,” said Dean Rick Page, M.D., in his remarks. “This is our time to recognize members of each of these four groups.”

After being announced by Dean Page, 2021 Dean’s Awards for Professionalism recipients were each highlighted by one of their nominators, who shared a few words about the awardees at the May 4 kick-off and awards event. Dean Page virtually presented each of the awardees with a plaque.

The 2021 Dean’s Awards for Professionalism recipients are:

  • Dean's Faculty Award for ProfessionalismKristen Pierce, M.D.'03, Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease

    Cindy Noyes, M.D., associate professor of medicine and director of infection prevention in the Division of Infectious Disease, described how Pierce has worked tirelessly during the current pandemic, providing expert care as an infectious disease physician, and working with others in the UVM Vaccine Testing Center to become a clinical trial site for a COVID vaccine candidate. She said Pierce has also given hundreds of hours of her time and expertise outside of work hours to participate in numerous town halls and community outreach sessions, to offer accurate information regarding the safety and efficacy of available COVID vaccines. Pierce holds a B.A. from the University of Colorado, is an alum from the Larner College of Medicine Class of 2003 and has been a member of the UVM faculty since 2006.

  • Dean's Staff Award for ProfessionalismMary Claire Walsh, P.A., Researcher/Analyst, UVM Vaccine Testing Center; Physician Assistant, UVM Medical Center

    Beth Kirkpatrick, M.D., chair of microbiology and molecular genetics and director of the Vaccine Testing Center, commented on how Walsh, in addition to her work with the Vaccine Testing Center and clinical work, has served as the lead point of contact for the AstraZeneca vaccine trial, working with multiple groups and individuals at Larner and the UVM Medical Center to build an entirely new clinic site and hire and train its staff. Kirkpatrick said that Walsh’s colleagues attest that her patience, crisis-management skills, and calm presence helped make this work a reality. As the main contact with study volunteers, Kirkpatrick said Walsh demonstrated poise and patience during very difficult situations, including the cyberattack against the UVM Medical Center, and throughout the highly dynamic process of COVID-19 vaccine development. Walsh holds a B.A. from Kenyon College, and is a 2014 graduate of the University of New England Physician Assistant Program. She has been a staff member since 2015.

  • Dean's Graduate Student Award for ProfessionalismAxel Masquelin, Graduate Research Assistant and Pre-Doctoral Fellow

    Christopher Berger, Ph.D., professor of molecular physiology and biophysics and associate dean for undergraduate and graduate student education & postdoctoral training, delivered comments about Axel Masquelin, a third-year Ph.D. student in the bioengineering program at UVM, who works in the laboratory of Professor of Medicine Jason Bates, Ph.D., D.Sc., and has already contributed to a patent, and published two peer-reviewed papers, one as first author and another as a contributing co-author. Berger said that Masquelin was recently appointed a T32 Fellow on the Vermont Lung Center’s National Institutes of Health training grant and was an invited speaker at the 2020 American Thoracic Society international meeting. Masquelin mentors biomedical engineering and local high school students and was also integral to the formation of the Graduate Student Council of the Larner College of Medicine. He earned a B.S. in engineering from Purdue University in 2017.

  • Dean's Medical Student Award for ProfessionalismAkua Frimpong, Medical Class of 2023
    Lee Rosen, Ph.D., interim associate dean for students, delivered comments about third-year medical student Akua Frimpong. The recipient of a B.S. degree in biology from Loyola University Maryland in 2013, Frimpong was the co-founder of the Minority Association of Premedical Students (MAPS) organization, a pipeline program housed under the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), while an undergraduate. Rosen shared that she was also an SNMA Pre-medical Regional Representative and a 2013 Connecticut Teach for America corps member. He added that Frimpong is described by others as a thoughtful, highly interactive member of the Larner community. In 2020 she co-led a discussion series on race for her class, which included organizing faculty to facilitate, and learn, along with students. She is Schweitzer fellow, with a project focused on bringing information about careers in health care and science to high school students of color or underrepresented groups.

Professionalism Week continues Thursday, May 6, with a Professionalism Grand Rounds at 7:30 a.m. on “Promoting Professionalism with Vanderbilt’s ‘Cup of Coffee’ Model,” presented by William O. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., of the Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Later Thursday morning, Cooper and Lynn E. Webb, Ph.D., also from Vanderbilt’s Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy, will lead a three-hour in-depth workshop via Zoom about implementing Vanderbilt’s “Cup of Coffee” model. Link to more info about the Professionalism Week events.