LCOM & Department News

2021 Celebration of Research Excellence Highlights Accomplishments at Larner

October 29, 2021 by Jennifer Nachbur

The University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine held a successful Dean's Excellence in Research Celebration October 25-27, shining a light on the hard work and achievements of students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

The University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine held a successful Dean's Excellence in Research Celebration, shining a light on the hard work and achievements of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The three-day series of virtual events – which were delivered via Zoom – launched on October 25 with a Graduate Student Trainee Showcase. The celebration continued on October 26 with the Distinguished Alumni Award Presentation & Lecture by Junjie Chen, Ph.D.’93, followed by the Research Laureate Lecture by Anne Dixon, M.A., B.M., B.Ch., and 2021 State of Research at the College & Research Excellence Awards presented by Gordon Jensen, M.D., Ph.D., senior associate dean for research, on October 27.

Larner College of Medicine Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., and Senior Associate Dean for Research Gordon Jensen, M.D., Ph.D., provided welcome remarks at the start of each of the celebration events.

For his Distinguished Alumni Award Lecture, Chen, who is a professor at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, spoke about “Random Thoughts Between Experiments.” His talk featured fond memories from his research training at UVM and highlighted his experiences investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying genomic instability and tumorigenesis and studying DNA damage response and cancer biology.

Dixon delivered a presentation on “Obesity and Asthma: How Fat affects Flow” from her hometown in England, recounting her research journey after joining UVM in 2000. She described the findings that led her to focus on why obese individuals had worse asthma control and a four-fold risk of hospitalizations and whether or not weight loss improved asthma in these patients. Following the talk, Jensen commented that Dixon’s story provided a “great example of going from molecular biology to quality of life outcomes” research.

Prior to the State of Research at the Larner College of Medicine address, Dean Page and UVM Vice President for Research Kirk Dombrowski, Ph.D., delivered remarks. Dombrowski commented that more than half of UVM’s milestone $204 million in research funding in fiscal year 21 came from grants awarded to Larner faculty. He added that the College had more than 370 awards.

Jensen provided an overview of the research in FY2021. Among the highlights were the construction of the Firestone Building; the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence programs (Vermont Center on Behavior and Health; Translational Global Infectious Diseases Research; Vermont Center on Cardiovascular and Brain Health); and renewals of many major grants, including the Northern New England Clinical and Translation Research award, and a T32 National Institute on Drug Abuse grant, which has been continuously funded for more than 30 years and led by Donaldson Professor of Psychiatry and Vermont Center on Behavior and Health Director Stephen Higgins, Ph.D.

During the awards portion of the celebration, a number of annual awards were presented.

In the Graduate Student Trainee Showcase category, Bryn Loftness, a Ph.D. student in the Complex Systems and Data Science program whose mentors are Ryan McGinnis, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and Ellen McGinnis, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, won in the Junior Graduate Category. Allison Morrissey, a graduate student in the Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences program whose mentor is Andrea Lee, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, was runner-up. In the Senior Graduate Category, J.J. Bivona, a CMB graduate student whose mentor is Matthew Poynter, Ph.D., professor of medicine, was the winner. Jeffrey Brabec, a Neuroscience Graduate Program student whose mentor is Matthew Mahoney, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurological sciences, was runner-up.

In the Graduate Student category for the Trainee Awards for Outstanding Research Publication, Leslie Sepaniac, Ph.D., a mentee of Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biophysics Jason Stumpff, Ph.D., was named the winner for her paper, titled "Micronuclei in Kif18a mutant mice form stable micronuclear envelopes and do not promote tumorigenesis." Rhys Niedecker ’24, a mentee of Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurological Sciences Gregory L. Holmes, M.D., received the award in the Medical Student category for his paper, titled "Effects of early life seizures on coordination of hippocampal-prefrontal networks: Influence of sex and dynamic brain states." The Postdoctoral Fellow category award went to Michelle Kloc, Ph.D., for a paper, titled "Recurrent Febrile Seizures alter intra-hippocampal temporal coordination but do not cause spatial learning impairments." Kloc's mentor is Assistant Professor of Neurological Sciences Jeremy Barry, Ph.D. Stephen Ranney, M.D., received the award in the Resident category for a paper, titled "Delay in ICU transfer is protective against ICU readmission in trauma patients: a naturally controlled experiment." Ranney's mentor is Professor of Surgery Ajai Malhotra, M.D.

The following UVM Health Network Medical Group Awards were presented:

  • Junior Researcher of the Year: Tim Plante, M.D., M.H.S., Assistant Professor of Medicine
  • Senior Researcher of the Year: Roger Soll, M.D., H. Wallace Professor of Neonatology
  • Research Grants: Diego Adrianzen-Herrera, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine; and Sherrie Khadanga, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine
  • Innovation Grant: Michael Hehir, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurological Sciences

Included in the 2021 Larner College of Medicine Staff Awards was the Scientific Research Staff award, which went to Susan Richardson, Ph.D., research analyst in pediatrics, and the Clinical Research Coordinator award, which went to two people – Alex Friend, clinical research coordinator in anesthesiology; and Patricia Lutton, clinical research coordinator in microbiology and molecular genetics.

The Larner College of Medicine Faculty Awards were as follows:

  • Research Mentorship: Jason Bates, Ph.D., D. Sc., Professor of Medicine
  • Dean’s Clinical Trials Research Award: Richard Solomon, M.D., Professor of Medicine
  • Rising Star New Investigator: Michael Previs, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
  • Mid-Career Investigator: Jason Stumpff, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
  • Research Laureate: Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

View more information about the 2021 Dean’s Celebration of Excellence in Research events.


Past Department Highlights

Mark_FungCongratulations to Dr. Mark Fung, M.D., PhD., Professor Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, on receiving the 2023 College of American Pathologists (CAP) Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Fung is a nationally recognized expert in transfusion medicine. (10/2023) 

Congratulations to Jessica Crothers, M.D., Assistant Professor Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, on achieving the Notice of Special Interest Team Science award from NIAID for: "Effects of the gut microbiota on oral vaccine response in adults and children." (10/2023)

Nicole BouffardCongratulations to Nicole Bouffard on being awarded the "Scientific Research Staff Award" for 2023. This was presented to Nicole at the September 21, 2023, LCOM Research Excellence Award Ceremony. This is a great honor for Nicole and the Department of Pathology and recognizes her contributions and importance to the department and MIC. (10/2023)

Congratulations to Brian Cunniff, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, on being awarded a $1.6 million R01 grant by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to study the role of mitochondrial trafficking in regulating cell migration, a key feature of metastatic tumors. (9/2023)

Congratulations to Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., Professor Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, on becoming a University of Vermont Cancer Center Program Co-Leader, Cancer Cell. (9/2023)

Congratulations to the following pathology members on receiving research support funds in April 2023. Recipients were: John Kennedy, M.D., $6520 for morphologic and immunohistochemical re-evaluation of renal cell carcinomas exhibiting papillary architecture, with emphasis on tumors demonstrating "type 2" morphology. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., $15,000 for a joint initiative between RBP, UVM Cancer Center, and faculty in the Department of Chemistry. Megan Tarte $745 for Stem Cells, Cell Therapies, and Bioengineering in Lung Biology and Disease ConferenceAlbert van der Vliet, Ph.D., $14,400 for Redox processes in macrophage activation in IPF. (9/2023)

Congratulations to the following faculty members on their promotions: Vikas Anathy, Ph.D., to Professor with tenure, Bronwyn Bryant, M.D., to Associate Professor, John DeWitt, M.D., Ph.D., to Associate Professor, Sarah Nowak Ph.D., to Associate Professor, and Christi Wojewoda, M.D., to Professor. (6/2023)

Bei Zhang, M.D., M.S., Ph.D., MLS(ASCP), associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, did an educational scholarship session titled "Activate Students Learning Outside Classroom." at the 8th International meeting of the Association of Biochemistry Educators. Dr. Zhang also conducted two additional workshops with other ABE members titled "Linking Clinical Presentations to Their Biochemistry: A novel ABE Clinical-Biochemistry Curricular Treat Mapping Educational Tool.", and "Getting to Clerkship and Beyond: Crafting Biochemistry Learning Objectives that Connect and Integrate Basic Science Concepts with Clinical Application." (5/2023)

Congratulations to Dr. Maureen Harmon, M.D., associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, and Dr. Amer Abu Alfa, M.D., assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine for being recognized by medical students for their professionalism. Dr. Harmon was recognized for social responsibility and Dr. Abu Alfa was recognized for compassion. (5/2023)

Congratulations to Mary Cushman, Ph.D., M.Sc., professor of medicine and pathology and laboratory medicine, on being named a University Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology Division, and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. (5/2023)

View the story Mammograms of a study by Sarah Nowak, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, and researchers at the UVM Cancer Center showing data that fewer women being screened for breast cancer. (4/2023)

vandervliet-habibovic420x280A new study by Albert van der Vliet, Ph.D., professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, and a team of University of Vermont (UVM) researchers is honing in on why people with asthma often have worse symptoms if they are obese. This new research demonstrates that the gene DUOX1 likely contributes to the connection between obesity and asthma.  The research was published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology and was highlighted as an APSselect article for March 2023. Albert van der Vliet, Ph.D., was the senior author on the paper, along with department of pathology and laboratory medicine coauthors Aida Habibovic, lab research technician;Litiele Cruz, Ph.D., visiting scholar; Vikas Anathy, Ph.D., associate professor; University Distinguished Professor Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D.; and additional team members and authors from UVM. Read the full LCOM News story LCOM News (4/2023)

Congratulations to Bronwyn Bryant, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, for having your proposal, Consequential Validity of Entrustable Professional Activities in Pathology Residency Training selected to receive a Frymoyer Scholars Program project of $48,000 to be funded July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2025. (4/2023)

Congratulations to Martin Chang, M.D., Ph.D., on accepting the new role as Vice Chair for Faculty Affairs. (4/2023)

Congratulations to Joanna Conant, M.D., on becoming the new Pathology Student Fellowship Director starting July 1, 2023. (4/2023)

Congratulations to The Cunniff Lab, on receiving funding to support research focused on malignant mesothelioma. The funding was from The Butler Family Foundation Fund for Cancer Research at the University of Vermont Cancer Center. The Butler Fund was established by the Butler family in memory of two loved ones lost to mesothelioma. (03/2023)

Congratulations to the following recipients that received pathology research support funding. Nathaniel Shannon in Brian Cunniff's, Ph.D., lab was awarded $1800 towards the cost of travel to the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine (SfRBM). Litiele Cruz, Ph.D., and faculty mentor Albert van der Vliet, PhD., were awarded $2622 for her project "Characterization of Laminin Oxidative Modifications by Peroxidasin in Pulmonary Fibrosis"Nels Olson, PhD., MPH., $14,582 for the purchase of an Agilent BioTek 405 TS Touch Microplate Washer, Model 405 TSRS. Ashley Volaric M.D.Joanna Conant M.D., and David Seward, M.D, Ph.D., were awarded $13,680 for their project, "The Effect of Epstein Barr Virus Latency on Cellular DNA Methylation Profile of Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma". (3/2023)

A number of faculty and students from the pathology and laboratory medicine department presented research at the American Heart Associations Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle, and Cardiometabolic Health (EPI/Lifestyle) Scientific Sessions 2023 in Boston February 28 - March 3. Students presenting were Maggie King, a master in science pathology degree student who was mentored by faculty scientist J. Peter Durda, Ph.D. pathology and laboratory medicine.  Maggie presented on "Complete Blood Count Analysis in the Risk Underlying Rural Areas Longitudinal (RURAL) Cohort Study with a Point of Care Instrument." Her study is supported by NHLBI. And second-year medical student and 2022 Cardiovascular Research Institute Summer Research Fellow Megan Zhou, mentored by pathology and laboratory medicine associate professor Nels Olson, Ph.D. Megan presented on  "Coagulation Factor IX and Incident Diabetes Risk: The Reasons for Geographic and Race Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study." Also, pathology and laboratory faculty members that were coauthors of presentations given, assistant professor Margaret Doyle, Ph.D., and University Distinguished Professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, Russell Tracy, Ph.D. (3/2023)

Congratulations to Dr. Bei Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., MLS(ASCP), associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, for being selected for a Distinguished Scholar Award by the Association of Biochemistry Educators for her submission entitled "Activate Students' Learning Outside Classroom". Dr. Zhang will be presenting this submission at the 2023 Association of Biochemistry Education Conference. (3/2023)

Congratulations to our 2023 Gender Equity Award Nominees. Gender Equity Champion Award nominee, Debra Leonard, M.D., Ph.D., Chair and Professor Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Our departmental nominees for The Polaris Award for Outstanding Mentorship- an award for informal or formal mentorship for women or gender diverse college community members, Rebecca Wilcox, M.D., Pam Gibson, M.D., Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., and Christi Wojewoda, M.D. (2/2023)  

Congratulations to Dr. Scott Anderson, M.D., on being selected to receive the Association of Pathology Chairs 2023 Margaret Grimes Distinguished Achievement Award in Graduate Medical Education. This award was made in recognition of Dr. Anderson's outstanding contributions to graduate medical education and his stature as a nationally recognized leader in pathology education. (2/2023)

Congratulations to Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., Dr. Kelly Butnor, M.D., Dr. David "Bebo" Seward, M.D., Ph.D., and Dr. Sharon Mount, M.D., on their news story in The Charlotte News, on their "giant steps in cancer research." Read the full article here:   Humble Superstar (1/2023)

Congratulations to Dr. Elizabeth Bundock, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Medical Examiner of Vermont and clinical assistant professor of pathology, for her appointment by the American Board of Pathology, to the Test Development and Advisory Committee for Forensic Pathology 2023. (1/2023)

Dr. Beri Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., MLS(ASCP), associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, presented a panel, at the Snow Season Education Retreat, titled "The Pearls and Pitfalls of Publishing in Medical Education", with three clinicians Dr. Hale, Dr. Halle, and Dr. Rideout. (1/2023)

Congratulations to Dr. Bronwyn Bryant, M.D., assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine on her Awards for  Teaching and Educational Excellence, Learner Assessment, conferred at the Teaching Academy Induction and Award Ceremony on January 11, 2023. (1/2023)