March 31, 2021 by
Huber Early Career Green and Gold Professors in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Sarah Nowak, Ph.D., (left) and David Seward, M.D., Ph.D.
In a virtual ceremony held March 30, 2021, two rising stars in the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine, Sarah Nowak, Ph.D., and David Seward, M.D., Ph.D., were invested as the inaugural holders of a Huber Early Career Green and Gold Professorship of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Watch a Recording of the Event
UVM Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Emerita Sally Huber, Ph.D., established two separate Green and Gold professorships, one in honor of each of her parents, that will provide crucial funding to promising assistant professors who are likely to develop into successful, independent basic scientists or physician-scientists.
Huber joined the UVM faculty in 1981 and enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the Larner College of Medicine before becoming professor emerita in 2016. She is an internationally recognized educator and researcher with primary research interests in the development of viral myocarditis, how viruses interact with humans, and the critical role played by adaptive immunity. She has made major contributions to research in the fields of cardiac immunology and diabetes, expertise she has been called upon to contribute through service on committees of both the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association. Huber also served as a primary mentor to countless graduate students, displaying a deep commitment to future generations of biomedical researchers.
“In her 40 years of service to this institution, Dr. Huber has been a tireless advocate for the importance of research and education across UVM,” said Larner College of Medicine Dean Rick Page. Huber says an emphasis on academic excellence was instilled early on during her upbringing in Missouri, as her parents, Elmer and Blodwen, demonstrated the virtues of hard work, resilience, and a love of learning.
Elmer Huber was employed by the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company for 49 years, starting as a lineman and telephone installer and eventually rising to head the North St. Louis County district of Southwestern Bell. Blodwen Huber was born on a farm in Pennsylvania before moving to Missouri, where she later met Elmer. She worked as a clerk at McDonald-Douglas Aircraft Company until her retirement. Completing a college degree was a dream deferred for the Hubers, but, through the Great Depression and 62 years of marriage, they instilled a deep respect for higher education in their two daughters, Sally and Roberta.
Sally Huber went on to earn degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Duke University and complete a fellowship at Stanford University. She credits several fellowships from the American Heart Association for helping propel her early career and research at UVM and hopes to provide the same sort of jumpstart for new generations of early investigators.
“My over-arching goal in establishing these professorships is to continue my parents’ spirit for the love of learning and the love of helping others to make a success of their lives,” said Huber. “I know how welcome support can be at the beginning stages of one’s research career. My hope is to alleviate some stress associated with finding grant support for themselves or their research project during this crucial time of their career development.”
Dean Page expressed supreme confidence in the first appointees to the Huber Green and Gold professorships. “I know that the faculty members we recognize today are poised to live up to this expectation, and to very ably carry on in the spirit of the entire Huber family,” he said.
Nowak, the inaugural holder of the Blodwen S. Huber Early Career Green and Gold Professor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, joined the Larner College of Medicine as an assistant professor in 2019. She earned her undergraduate degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and went on to earn a Ph.D. in biomathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before moving to Vermont, she was a senior information scientist at the RAND Corporation, where she spent a decade applying mathematical simulation approaches to evaluate health insurance reforms, including assessing the impact of the Affordable Care Act on individual and family spending. She was one of the founding co-directors for RAND’s Center for Scalable Computing Analysis (SCAN), where she guided the center in its mission to examine the use of un-curated data, including social media data, in social and economic research. At UVM, Nowak has received continued funding from the National Institutes of Health for her ongoing study of how the information individuals gather through their social networks impacts their decision making, as well as health outcomes at the population level. She is interested in transitioning this work to support the push toward value-based care and implementing policies that lead to the reduction in the use of low-value services.
Seward, the inaugural Elmer R. Huber Early Career Green and Gold Professor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, has been an assistant professor of pathology at the Larner College of Medicine since 2016. He earned a degree in biology and chemistry from Williams College and a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular genetics from the University of Colorado. After earning his medical degree from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, he completed a residency in anatomic pathology and a fellowship in molecular and genetic pathology at the University of Michigan Hospital, Ann Arbor. At UVM, research conducted in Seward’s lab may have an impact on the future treatment of lung cancer, particularly when surgical resection is not a viable option. His research aims to establish biomarkers of the disease that predict sensitivity to available therapies, including immunotherapy. His clinical work focuses on the interpretation of next generation sequencing data obtained in the evaluation of solid tumors, which helps guide therapy, prognosis, and enrollment in clinical trials.
The scholarship of Nowak and Seward will undoubtedly continue to bring distinction to the University of Vermont and the Larner College of Medicine, befitting Huber’s distinguished legacy.
“When a long-time member of the faculty chooses to make such important philanthropic investments, it speaks volumes about the quality and character of a college,” said Provost Patty Prelock. “By creating these professorships, Dr. Huber not only highlights the enduring need for exceptional scholars and teachers in the field of pathology and laboratory medicine, but also expresses her confidence that the University of Vermont will always remain a fitting home for them. For that, we thank you, Dr. Huber.”