Robert K. Williams, M.D. (left), and Chris Abajian, M.D.'69 (Photo: Katie Figura)
Robert K. Williams, M.D., professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, was invested as the inaugural Chris Abajian, M.D.’69 and Margaret Abajian Green & Gold Professor in Pediatric Anesthesiology in a ceremony held in the College of Medicine’s Hoehl Gallery on June 24, 2019.
The new endowed professorship honors Abajian, a UVM Class of 1965 undergraduate and Class of 1969 medical alumnus and his wife Margaret for their years of service to the Department of Anesthesiology, the UVM Larner College of Medicine, and the UVM Medical Center, in addition to the family’s multi-generation affiliation with UVM. It also honors Abajian’s leadership in the field of pediatric anesthesiology. His seminal research paper, “Spinal Anesthesia for Surgery in the High-Risk Infant,” published in the March 1984 issue of Anesthesia and Analgesia, changed the anesthetic care of premature infants forever. As a result of that article, he is one of the best known pediatric anesthesiologists of his generation.
Margaret worked alongside Chris for over forty-five years to enhance the wellbeing and camaraderie of the Department of Anesthesiology. She welcomed innumerable resident physicians, faculty members, and departmental visitors to her dinner table and hosted the Department’s renowned annual summer picnic. Margaret was also the executive director of Huggable Scrubs, a company co-founded with Chris that produced cartoon-emblazoned medical scrubs, which helped pediatric patients around the world feel more at ease in healthcare settings.
Family and friends of Chris and Margaret, as well as faculty and staff in the Department of Anesthesiology, made generous gifts to permanently endow the Abajian Green & Gold Professorship.
Williams earned his medical degree from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. He completed pediatric and anesthesiology residencies at The University of Vermont Medical Center, and a pediatric critical care fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital before returning to Vermont to join the medical faculty in 1992. Williams splits his time between the clinical care of pediatric and adult patients undergoing anesthesia in the operating room, and conducting clinical research in the field of pediatric anesthesia. His primary research interest is the safety of anesthesia in children, particularly the controversy concerning the neurotoxicity of anesthetic agents in young patients. His work comparing neurodevelopmental outcomes for children receiving spinal anesthesia compared to children receiving general anesthesia has been highly influential and is widely recognized.
Williams also has a busy teaching schedule. At the bedside and in the classroom, he has proven himself a dedicated and capable teacher and mentor who is fully committed to teaching medical students and resident physicians how to provide safe and effective anesthesia care. Moreover, to his peers around the world, many of whom he has welcomed as visitors to UVM, he is seen as an outstanding practitioner and consultant.
UVM and the UVM Foundation hold formal investiture ceremonies to recognize the importance of endowed positions, convey that they are one of the highest honors the university can bestow on its faculty members, and thank the generous donors who make them possible. The June 24 investiture ceremony also allowed the Larner College of Medicine community an opportunity to celebrate Chris and Margaret Abajian.
Fundraising for the Larner College of Medicine has been one component of Move Mountains: The Campaign for The University of Vermont, a comprehensive fundraising campaign for the University of Vermont and the University of Vermont Medical Center. Thanks to gifts from more than 75,000 alumni, parents, community members, and friends, the campaign has raised over $575 million to date—including over $63 million for endowed faculty positions. More information about the impact of donors and the work of the UVM Foundation can be found at www.uvmfoundation.org.
(This article was adapted from a press release written by Ben Yousey-Hinds of the UVM Foundation.)