LCOM & Department News

Wassel & Williams' Summer Academy Offers Career Exploration for Pre-Med Track High School Students

July 22, 2016 by Carolyn Shapiro

For the high school student who loves biology or chemistry and has a penchant for helping people, the pre-med path is not the only option available. Exposing future undergraduates to a variety of specialties, roles, and vocations in medicine is the primary goal of the new summer Health & Medicine Academy at the University of Vermont, a three-college-credit course taught by UVM College of Medicine faculty members that will take place in July.

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Sciences faculty members Christina Wassel, Ph.D., associate professor, and Tamara Williams, Ph.D., Assistant Professor. (Photo: Brent Harrewyn)

For the high school student who loves biology or chemistry and has a penchant for helping people, the pre-med path is not the only option available. Exposing future undergraduates to a variety of specialties, roles, and vocations in medicine is the primary goal of the new summer Health & Medicine Academy at the University of Vermont, a three-college-credit course taught by UVM College of Medicine faculty members that will take place in July.

The pre-college summer program was designed for high school students who have completed at least the 10th grade and have an interest in exploring a health-related science or the medical field. Co-instructors Christina Wassel, Ph.D., associate professor, and Tamara Williams, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, say that Health & Medicine Academy students will tour laboratories, meet researchers, learn about genomic medicine, hear about jobs in public health and the pharmaceutical industry, and practice putting an I.V. in a patient simulator in the UVM Clinical Simulation Laboratory.

“The curriculum is designed to broaden high school students’ perspectives through interactions with our dynamic biomedical research, medicine, and health-related community at the College of Medicine and the UVM Medical Center,” says Williams, who specializes in genomic education.

Students living in rural areas or at schools with only basic science classes likely have had little exposure to a wet lab – where research involves liquid-based chemicals, drugs or biological material – or to the daily activities of a speech pathologist or ultrasound technician, says Wassel, who specializes in cardiovascular epidemiology.

The Health & Medicine Academy is structured into two segments: one focused on research; the other on health and medical fields. In the Clinical Simulation Lab, students will see a virtual surgery and meet a Standardized Patient, a member of the community who portrays a patient in a medical setting. That’s also where they’ll work with Harvey® cardiopulmonary patient simulators.

Students will have the opportunity to interact with a clinical ethicist, who will look at case studies and provide the humanist perspective, discussing issues such as privacy with patient data. Timothy Hunter, director of the Advanced Genome Technologies Core Facility at the UVM Cancer Center, will facilitate hands-on demonstrations with the students.

The professors promise the course will allow the students to enjoy the perks of summer, and give them a taste of life on the UVM campus.

“We’re hoping it will increase high school students’ interest in UVM,” Wassel says.

Following the two-week on-campus session, students will be required to complete a two-week online component that includes a report, reflecting on their experience, and a project that might involve literature research or an interview with someone in their community.

The Health & Medicine Academy at UVM grew out of a course formerly offered through UVM’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences, which focused more on anatomy and physiology, Williams says. The new course broadens the scope and expands the number of students from about 40 to 70 students from both within and outside of Vermont.

Students can either commute or live and dine in a UVM dorm for an additional cost. Through the statewide Dual Enrollment program, some Vermont students can qualify for reimbursement for part of the tuition. The professors are looking at other ways to provide financial assistance, as well.

They expect that the students’ fresh perspectives, curiosity and new-found knowledge about the diversity of health and medical fields will energize them.

“It would be really nice to see the students who weren’t aware they had all of these options, grow and remain open to new possibilities, too,” Williams says.

Department Highlights

Please join Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger in congratulating Allison Manuel and Evan Elko

Dr. Allison Manuel is a post-doctoral fellow in our group.  Her abstract to be presented at the American Thoracic Society conference was chosen to receive an Abstract Scholarship . The scholarship includes a full In-Training Registration to the 2019 ATS International Conference in Dallas, Texas.  

Evan Elko is a PhD student. He just received notice that his F31 NIH application entitled: “Role of peroxiredoxin-4 in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis”  will be funded.

Congratulations to Evan and Allison.


Department alumni, Dr. Bobbi Pritt, M.D. featured in Vermont Medicine Magazine. To read her story click on the photo below.




Dr's Leonard and HuberA Remarkable Gift from Dr. Sally Huber, Ph.D.

At the end of last week's Research Day, Dr. Leonard gave a surprise announcement: a very generous bequethment of $5 million by research faculty emerita, Dr. Sally Huber! The funds will go toward two endowed professorships for junior investigators in our department. The endowments will be named for her parents, Elmer R. Huber and Blodwen S. Huber, and will support junior research faculty for five years.(9/2018)

This amazing support will allow junior faculty time and funds to gain independence while pursuing the milestone achievement of being awarded their first R01 grant.

Heintz Awarded 2018 Distinguised Graduate Alumni Award

Dr. Nick Heintz, Ph.D. received the 2018 UVM Medical Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate Alumni Award​, which is presented to Larner College of Medicine (LCOM) alumni who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in basic, clinical or applied research; education; industry; public service/humanitarianism; and/or outstanding commitment to the LCOM community.

He accepted his award at the college's Celebrating Research Excellence event at the end of October. (September 2018)

Kida Received Certificate of Commendation

Dr. Kida receives award from the State of more here. (August 2018)

Leonard and Committee Publish Through National Academies Press

Dr. Debra Leonard, along with a committee under the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, ​published "Returning Individual Research Results to Participants: Guidance for a New Research Paradigm" through The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2018 (Committee Member). (August 2018)

Excellence in Education

The Larner College of Medicine’s second year medical students nominate and elect faculty who they want to recognize for their outstanding teaching and support over their first years of the Foundations education. (February 2018)

Pathology nominees (winners in bold):

AMWA Gender Equity Award  - Pamela Gibson; Sharon Mount; Rebecca Wilcox

Dean Warhsaw Integration Award - Rebecca Wilcox

Silver Stethoscope Award - Scott Andreson; Maureen Harmon; John Lunde

Above and Beyond Award - Ronald Bryant; Rebecca Wilcox

Foundations Course Director Award -Rebecca Wilcox

Outstanding Foundations Course Award

  • Cardiovascular, Respiratory & Renal Systems: (Ron Bryant; Kelly Butnor; and Pam Gibson are the primary pathologists in each section of the course, respectively)
  • Nutrition, Metabolism & the Gastrointestinal System: Course Director is Rebecca Wilcox

Foundations Teaching Award - Ronald Bryant; Pamela Gibson; Rebecca Wilcox; Christina Wojewoda

Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger Receives Patent

Yvonne Janssen-Heinger was awarded a patent on the ​concept that strategies to inhibit GSTP has utility for the treatment of patients with pulmonary fibrosis. Congratulations, Yvonne! (January 2018)

Drs. Bronwyn Bryant and Phillip Munson inducted into the Teaching Academy

Last week Bronwyn and Phillip were inducted into University of Vermont's Teaching Academy. The Teaching Academy sustains and supports an interdisciplinary community of educators who value the scholarship of teaching and learning while facilitating educator development; improve the efficiency and quality of medical education through collaboration and scholarship; and promote an academic environment that increases the value and impact of educators locally, regionally, and nationally. (January 2018)

Dr. Leonard Video Recording Available 

Dr. Leonard gives a series of talks on Genomic Medicine in Vermont for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI)​. A video recording of the talk is available here >> (October 2017)

Department Members Took Part in the March For Science

Banner carriers: Dr. Debra Leonard, Sara Kwolek & Dr. Sharon Mount. Also, in view are Doug Taatjes,Ph.D., and Dr. Rebecca Wilcox. (April 2017)

Janssen-Heininger Featured Woman in Science

Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., was chosen as the featured ​Woman in Science by the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine! She got pretty colorful with some of her answers, so definitely worth a read. (March 2017) Read the story >>

Genomic Medicine Laboratory Grand Opening (January 2017)
Larner College of Medicine Foundations Awards

Pamela Gibson, M.D. won the AMWA Gender Equity Award, which honors a male or female faculty member who promotes a gender-fair environment for the education and training of physicians and gender diversity in the field. Pam is Co-advisor of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. (January 2017)

Rebecca Wilcox, M.D. won the Foundations Course Director Award, and her Nutrition, Metabolism, and Gastrointestinal System (NMGI) course won Outstanding Foundations Course Award. Rebecca was also nominated for the Foundations Teaching Award. (January 2017)

Mark Fung, M.D., Ph.D. and Andy Goodwin, M.D. were also nominated for the Silver Stethoscope awards, which recognizes the faculty member who had few lecture hours, but made a substantial contribution to students’ education. (January 2017)