VCCBH Symposium Highlights Early Career Investigators, Innovative Multidisciplinary Research

June 29, 2022 by Jennifer Nachbur and Masayo Koide, Ph.D.

More than 100 in-person and dozens of virtual participants attended the second annual Vermont Center for Cardiovascular and Brain Health (VCCBH) Symposium, held at the University of Vermont’s Davis Center June 2 to 3, 2022. The VCCBH, one of three National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence-funded programs at UVM, is co-directed by Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., professor and vice chair for emerging researchers in the Department of Medicine, and Mark Nelson, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology.

(Clockwise, from top left): Debora Kamin-Mukaz, Ph.D.; Thomas Heppner, Ph.D., and Gerald Herrerra, Ph.D.; Maddie Hatch, Dr. Cushman, and Rusul Mustafa.

More than 100 in-person and dozens of virtual participants attended the second annual Vermont Center for Cardiovascular and Brain Health (VCCBH) Symposium, held at the University of Vermont’s Davis Center June 2 to 3, 2022. The VCCBH, one of three National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE)-funded programs at UVM, is co-directed by Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., professor and vice chair for emerging researchers in the Department of Medicine, and Mark Nelson, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology.

Established in 2020, the VCCBH aims to improve the understanding of – and optimize treatments for – cardiovascular and neurovascular diseases through research conducted by a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, physician-scientists, basic scientists, statisticians, and other researchers. With the first symposium held virtually in 2021, this was the first time this group of collaborators was able to gather in person since the launch of the VCCBH in 2020. Attendees included UVM faculty and staff, as well as researchers from across the U.S., and world.

During the welcoming ceremonies at the start of the symposium, UVM Larner College of Medicine Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., presented an in-person welcome, and congratulatory remarks from Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy were read to attendees.

Highlights of the two-day event included a “Science Keynote Address,” delivered by Joseph Loscalzo, M.D., chair of medicine and Hersey Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Titled “What is Disease? Defining Pathobiology and Therapeutics in the Era of Big Data,” his presentation focused on the process of developing new therapeutics using databases of protein-protein and structural interactions. The “Diversity and Inclusion Keynote Address” was presented by Michelle Albert, M.D., president-elect of the American Heart Association and professor of medicine and director of the CeNter for the StUdy of AdveRsiTy and CardiovascUlaR DiseasE (NURTURE Center) at the University of California at San Francisco. Titled “Breaking the Shackles: Addressing the Taxonomy of Medical Training to Achieve Health Equity,” her talk discussed the role of structural racism in health inequities, the need for BIPOC individuals to go into medicine, and methods that medical training programs can use to reduce the barriers to success for these individuals.

“Over two days, novel findings – ranging from the molecular level to human epidemiological analysis – brought lively discussions and raised future possible collaborations in the VCCBH research community,” said Masayo Koide, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology and one of the four project directors for the VCCBH.

Additional presentations during the two-day symposium included research talks by VCCBH project directors, pilot grant awardees, and other faculty members. There was an exciting Flash Talk session including rapid fire presentations by seven VCCBH Pipeline Investigators. “Connection Corner” allowed attendees to speak with experts on career development topics.

A panel of five volunteers judged the poster session, including Nels Olson, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, Neil Zakai, M.D., M.Sc., professor of medicine, Peter Durda, Ph.D., faculty scientist in pathology and laboratory medicine, Maria Bravo, Ph.D., faculty scientist in biochemistry, and Amreen Mughal, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology. Awardees included Maddie Hatch, a doctoral student in chemistry, Swapna Balakrishnan, PT, D.P.T, an interprofessional health sciences doctoral student, Margaret Phillips, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate in pharmacology, Matthew Caporizzo, Ph.D., assistant professor in molecular physiology and biophysics, and Katharine Cheung, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine.

“It is really reflective of our multidisciplinary community that the winners came from three UVM colleges,” said Cushman.

The third annual VCCBH symposium is scheduled for June 2023.

Link to the 2022 VCCBH Symposium agenda


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