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.


Department Highlights

Congratulations! Jo Conant, M.D. has received the ‘Gender Equity in Medicine and Science Rising Star’ award. This award recognizes a woman or gender minority* faculty or staff member at the Larner College of Medicine who is in the early stage of their career, and who demonstrates excellence in contributions to students, colleagues, and/or the institution in the areas of gender equity and inclusion through service, program development, teaching, research or beyond. The awardee also shows the promise for future contributions and leadership in their field as well as in achieving goals for the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion. (02/2022)

LCOM class of 2024 Foundations Awards, Winners and nominees from our Department: Dr. Rebecca Wilcox- nominated for the AMWA Gender Equity Award | nominated for the Foundations Teaching Award; Dr. Pam Gibson– awarded the Silver Stethoscope Award | nominated for the Foundations Teaching Award | nominated for the Dean Warshaw Integration Award; Dr. Jo Conant– nominated for the Silver Stethoscope Award | nominated for the Dean Warshaw Integration Award; Medical Student Matt Hodd-Wells awarded the Ephraim Woll Award for Excellence in General Pathology (01/2022)

Congratulations! Dr. Rebecca Wilcox, M.D. has been appointed Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at the Larner College of Medicine. Read her story. (01/2022)

Congratulations! Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D.– Dean’s Research Laureate Award (Professor) Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger was presented the Dean’s Research Laureate Award on 10/27/2021 at the LCOM State of Research Address and Awards. Please see the PDF slide that was presented at the program. (10/2021)

Heading to clinical trials..."UVM researchers celebrate ‘first-of-its-kind’ mesothelioma treatment headed to clinical trials" – My Champlain Valley News.  University of Vermont researchers have made a breakthrough in their study of possible treatments for malignant mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer linked to asbestos exposure. (10/2021)

Terri Messier, research analyst and lab manager for the Cunniff lab, has been highlighted in the "Meet the Staff" section of the the Larner College of Medicine Dean's Newsletter, October 20, 2021 | Volume III, Issue 20. (10/2021)

Congratulations! Albert van der Vliet, Ph.D. has been named a 2021 Fellow of the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine. SfRBM annually confers the special title of Fellow to members who have made outstanding contributions to the association as well as in the field of free radical chemistry, redox biology and antioxidants. (09/2021)

Well done! Christina Wojewoda, M.D., associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, has received, along with her colleague Daniel Rhoads, M.D., of the Cleveland Clinic, the 2021 College of American Pathologists (CAP) Laboratory Improvement Programs Service Award. The award honors an individual(s) serving within the ranks of the CAP Council on Scientific Affairs who has demonstrated exceptional service. The two pathologists serve as chair and vice chair, respectively, of the CAP microbiology committee. (08/2021)

Congratulations to Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Dr. Albert van der Vliet, Dr. David Seward and their team members for this outstanding acknowledgement (see pdf) from the The American Physiological Society; "your article has been selected for APSselect  (,  a collection from the APS that showcases some of the best recently published articles in physiological research." (7/2021)

2020-2021 Teaching Award This award is nominated for and voted by medical resdients for idividuals going above and beyond for resident education. Nominees this year: Dr. Agnes Balla, Dr. Kelly Butnor, Dr. Rebecca Wilcox and Dr. Bronwyn Bryant. The winner this year is Dr. Agnes Balla. (06/2021)

Dr. Joanna Conant has become a member of The Teaching Academy at Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. 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.Congrats to Jo on this achievement! (06/2021)

Congratulations to Dr. Arti Shukla on receiving the SAASCR 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award for her seminal contributions to the field of cancer research. Well done Arti!! (5/2021)

SAASCR award 2021

Congratulations!  To Pam Gibson, M.D. who has been awarded 2021 Gender Equity Champion Award which honors Larner College of Medicine community members (faculty, staff or students) who have demonstrated outstanding commitment and service to the advancement of women and those with underrepresented gender identities beyond the scope of their job, area of research, or training. Also, to Joanna Conant, M.D. on her nomination for 2021 The Rising Star Emerging Professional Award which honors a Larner College of Medicine woman or gender minority faculty or staff member who is in the early stage of their career, and who demonstrates excellence in contributions to students, colleagues, and/or the institution in the areas of gender equity and inclusion through service, program development, teaching, research or beyond. (02/2021)

LCOM Foundations Awards: Congratulations to Ron Bryant, M.D. on receiving the Foundations Teaching Award which recognizes the faculty member who provided the most outstanding teaching activities within the foundations curriculum. Also, congratulations to award nominees: Pam Gibson, M.D. for both the Above and Beyond Award and the AMWA Gender Equity Award; Andrew Goodwin, M.D. and Christina Wojewoda, M.D. for the Silver Stethoscope Award and Rebecca Wilcox, M.D. for the Dean Warshaw Integration Award. (01/2021)

LCOM Teaching Academy Recognition for P&LM faculty: Deborah Cook, M.D. and Anne Stowman, M.D. were inducted as Master Teachers and Rebecca Wilcox, M.D. was inducted as a Distinguished Educator. (01/2021)

Mark Fung, M.D., Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, has been elected as a new Trustee of the American Board of Pathology. His 3-year term will begin January 2021. Read about it here. (12/2020)

Sarah A. Nowak, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Larner College of Medicine was named the inaugural Blodwen S. Huber Early Career Green and Gold Professor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. (12/2020)

David J. Seward, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Larner College of Medicine was named the inaugural Elmer R. Huber Early Career Green and Gold Professor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. (12/2020)

Terri Messier, Research Analyst and Lab Manager of the Cunniff lab was recently awarded a Dean's Excellence in Research Award from the Larner College of Medicine. Terri has served the UVM community for over 25 years both as a scientist and steward of professionalism. Congratulations Terri!! (11/2020)

Congratulations to Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D. on her selection as a new Fellow of the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine (SfRBM) in recognition of her outstanding contributions in the field of redox biology and to SfRBM. (09/2020)

Congratulations to Dr. Joanna Conant, M.D. on her acceptance into the Teaching Academy's Medical Education Fellowship Program. Only 8-10 faculty from across the Larner College of Medicine are selected for participation in the program. Well done, Jo! (08/2020)

Associate Professor, Dr. Laura Greene, MD, has been appointed Interim Assistant Dean for Admissions for the Larner College of Medicine. (08/2020)

Congratulations to Bei Zhang, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, the newest graduate of the Medical Education Fellowship Program. The cohort style program is for Larner College of Medicine educators who seek additional preparation for teaching across the medical education continuum. (07/2020)

UVM Health Network’s Genomic Medicine Program is highlighted in the recent issue of Vermont Medicine Magazine, read it here. (05/2020)

Department efforts in COVID-19 research & testing are ongoing at UVM LCOM and the UVM Medical Center. The Rutland Herald/Times Argus ran the following story on these efforts. Teamwork & Testing (04/2020)


LCOM Gender Equity Awards Department Chair, Dr. Debra Leonard received the Polaris Award for Outstanding Mentorship. Additionally, Dr. Pam Gibson was nominated for the Gender Equity Champion Award; Dr. Rebecca Wilcox was nominated for the Gender Equity Outstanding Achievement in Medicine and Science Award and Dr. Christi Wojewoda was nominated for the Rising Star Emerging Professional Award. (03/2020)

Excellence in Education The department was well represented at the Class of 2022 Foundation Awards. Rebecca Wilcox, M.D. received the AWMA Gender Equity Award, the Above & Beyond Award, the Foundations Course Director Award and the Foundations Teaching Award. Well done, Dr. Wilcox. Additional department nominees were Dr. Pam Gibson and Dr. Christi Wojewoda for the AWMA Gender Equity Award and Dr. Pam Gibson and Dr. Rebecca Wilcox for the Dean Warshaw Integration Award. Congratulations to our outstanding faculty for nominations and awards! (1/2020)

Dr. Bei Zhang, Associate Professor on the Education Scholar Pathway has been inducted into the Teaching Academy at the Larner College of Medicine at the Master Teacher level. Congratulations, Dr. Zhang! (1/2020)

Dr. Debra Leonard, M.D., Ph. D., our department chairand the Genomic Medicine Team announce the start of the Genomic Population Health Initiative. A pilot project offering Genomic DNA Testing is now underway within the University of Vermont Health Network. Read more here... (2019)

Dr. William Pendlebury, M.D., professor emeritus of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, has been selected to receive the 2019 Vermont Medical Society’s (VMS) Founders’ Award. The award recognizes Pendlebury’s leadership role and advocacy in “the fight for the diagnosis and treatment of dementia in Vermont for the past 35 years.” He will receive the award November 2 at the VMS 206th Annual Meeting in Stowe, Vt.(2019)

Yvone Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., Jos van der Velden, Ph.D. (both Pathology & Laboratory Medicine faculty) and senior author, Charles Irvin, Ph.D. (Medicine), published "The Effect of Flavored E-cigarettes on Murine Allergic Airways Disease" in Nature Scientific Reports. The study has been cited in stories by several news outlets: U.S. News & World Report/HealthDay; American Journal of Managed Care; Medical News Bulletin; and  Medical Daily. (2019)

Dr. Mark Fung, M.D, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for Population Health, was recently named to the board of directors for the Project Santa Fe Foundation, which “focuses on demonstrating the power of longitudinal clinical laboratory data to proactively augment population health in a value-based healthcare environment.” (2019)

Dr. Bronwyn Bryant, M.D. was named a 2019 Frymoyer Scholar for her project, “Validating Entrustable Professional Activity-Based Assessment to Determine On-Call Competency in Pathology Residents”. (2019)

Dr. Rebecca Wilcox, M.DDr. Rebecca Wilcox, M.D. was selected, by the Larner College of Medicine Class of 2019, to be the commencement keynote speaker. Read more... [Photo credit: Andy Duback 2019] (2019)