July 28, 2022 by
Jennifer Nachbur and Christina Davenport
(From left to right) Monica Delisa; Patty Prelock Ph.D.; Jeffrey Horbar, M.D.; Danielle Ehret, M.D., M.P.H.; Lewis First, M.D.; and Richard L. Page, M.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics and neonatologist Danielle Ehret, M.D., M.P.H., was invested as the inaugural Asfaw Yemiru Green and Gold Professor in Global Health in a formal ceremony held at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine on July 28, 2022.
This endowed professorship was established by the Vermont Oxford Network (VON) in honor of Asfaw Yemiru, who spent his lifetime serving those in need by educating, providing social support, opportunity and inspiration to over 120,000 children and families at the Asra Hawariat School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which he founded. VON is a nonprofit, collaborative association of over 1,200 neonatal intensive care units in 38 countries whose data-driven quality improvement work has led progress in the quality, safety, and value of care for newborns and their families for more than 35 years. This professorship will strengthen UVM’s partnership with VON by supporting global health research and service by a faculty member of the Larner College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics who is concurrently engaged in VON’s global health programs.
“The generosity of the Vermont Oxford Network has made this Green and Gold endowed professorship possible. This act will stand as an enduring legacy to Asfaw Yemiru and to the organization’s unceasing efforts to improve the lives of patients and their families throughout the world, in keeping with the missions of this university and the Larner College of Medicine,” said Larner Dean Richard L. Page, M.D.
Endowed positions, which are among the highest academic honors that UVM can bestow on a faculty member, recognize and celebrate academic achievement, further encourage scholarship, service, and clinical excellence, and help recruit and retain the most creative researchers, most effective teachers, best clinicians, and finest leaders.
Joining Dean Page for the event were UVM Provost and Senior Vice President Patty Prelock, Ph.D., UVM Foundation President and CEO Monica Delisa, Chair of Pediatrics Lewis First, M.D., and Jeffrey Horbar, M.D., Jerold F. Lucey Professor of Neonatal Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics and chief executive and scientific officer of VON. In addition, members of the Yemiru family, as well as friends and supporters of the Asra Hawariat School and VON colleagues in the Ethiopian Neonatal Network, joined the event virtually via a livestream.
Horbar and his wife, Irene, met Yemiru 50 years ago when they lived and worked as teachers at the Asra Hawariat School. Yemiru’s work inspired not only the global health programs at VON, but the founding of the Ethiopian Neonatal Network in partnership with the Ethiopian Pediatric Society as well. After Yemiru passed away on May 8, 2021, the VON Board of Directors endowed a fund in memory of his selfless devotion to the most vulnerable among us.
“Dr. Ehret’s work underscores that ‘our community’ extends far beyond Vermont’s borders, to encompass the improvement of research, teaching, and clinical care across the globe,” said Prelock. “Dr. Ehret truly embodies the best of UVM. She is making a different—for patients and for the students she is educating.”
Ehret, who joined the UVM faculty in 2015, was introduced to Yemiru by Horbar and became inspired by his life’s work. She serves as director of global health at VON and has conducted extensive research on global health issues relating to high-risk newborns in lower- and middle-income countries around the world, receiving consistent support from extramural funding institutions, including multiple awards from the Gates Foundation.
Ehret earned a B.S. degree in human biology, health and society from Cornell University in 2005 and an M.D. from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y., in 2009. She completed a pediatrics residency at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, followed by a fellowship and chief fellowship with the Harvard Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellowship Training Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. In 2015, she completed a Master in Public Health degree at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“It has taken a global village to prepare me to accept this incredible honor today,” said Ehret. “I accept this professorship in recognition of an amazing community that has supported me and Asfaw’s values, with a personal responsibility to lead a career that he would be proud of, and to be an incredible mentor, sponsor, and friend to mentees for generations to come.”