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Inaugural Donna M. and Robert J. Manning Chairs celebrated at special investiture ceremony

By Susan E.W. Spencer

UMass Chan Medical School Communications

junio 23, 2022

UMass Chan Medical School celebrated in a special investiture ceremony on June 22 the $5 million gift of UMass Lowell alumni Donna and Robert Manning, which established Donna M. and Robert J. Manning Chairs in neurosciences, orthopedics, obstetrics and gynecology, nursing, and biomedical sciences.

Speaking of the accomplished scholars being honored, UMass President Marty Meehan said: “We are so lucky to have them at the Medical School, the accomplishments of innovation leaders who have dedicated themselves to educating others.”

President Meehan said the Mannings’ generous gift inspires others to contribute “transformational tangible support across all five of our campuses, but particularly here at the Medical School. They send a strong message that the University of Massachusetts is not just worthy of this support, but that this support is essential.”

“Working together, our renowned faculty are committed to transforming the future of science, nursing and medicine. The support, investment and engagement of our benefactors, exemplified by Donna and Robert Manning, empower and enable our faculty to do that and more,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins.

  • Joan Vitello-Cicciu, PhD, is congratulated by Chancellor Michael F. Collins
  • Mary Ellen Lane, PhD, is joined by Robert and Donna Manning.
  • Robert and Donna Manning and Chancellor Michael F. Collins recognize Michael Stauff, MD, (center).
  • Tiffany A. Moore Simas, MD, MPH, MEd, speaks during the ceremony.
  • Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, thanks Robert and Donna Manning.
  • Robert Manning addresses the audience at the Albert Sherman Center auditorium.

Joan M. Vitello-Cicciu, PhD, professor of nursing and dean of the Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing, was invested as the inaugural Donna M. and Robert J. Manning Chair in Nursing.

“As the nursing profession rapidly evolves to meet the needs of a transformed health care landscape, you are embracing new ways of training advanced practice nurse clinicians, leaders, educators and scientists to meet those needs,” Chancellor Collins said.

Dean Vitello-Cicciu described her professional life as a nurse first, a leader second and a learner always. She committed to use the endowed funds to co-create a center or institute for interprofessional leadership.

“I envision that this center will engage in targeted education and research promoting transformational health care leaders,” Vitello-Cicciu said. “Such leaders working in teams will identify evidenced-based practice resulting in optimal contributions to patient care.”

Collins highlighted the stellar career, “from the lab bench to the lecture hall to leadership suite” of Mary Ellen Lane, PhD, professor of neurobiology and dean of the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, who was invested as the inaugural Donna M. and Robert J. Manning Chair in Biomedical Sciences.

Upon joining UMass Chan in the Department of Neurobiology in 2011, Collins said, Dean Lane “earned a national reputation for curriculum development, implementation and innovation in the education and development of the next generation of biomedical scientists.”

The endowment is “a recognition of the excellence of the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and the importance of our mission to develop science leaders,” said Lane. “As UMass Chan continues to grow, diversify and transform the faculty in existing and new research areas, and a new generation of leaders brings a new leadership vision, we are poised to fully capitalize on the breadth of training opportunities created by this new vision.”

Collins expressed gratitude for service to the country and to UMass Chan to Michael P. Stauff, MD, associate professor of orthopedics & physical rehabilitation and vice chair for clinical practice in the Department of Orthopedics & Physical Rehabilitation, as he was invested as the inaugural Donna M. and Robert J. Manning Chair in Orthopedics.

Dr. Stauff, who joined the faculty in 2013, served as an active-duty orthopedic surgeon with the rank of major at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

“You were entrusted with the lives and limbs of those who, like you, chose to selflessly serve our country,” said Collins. “Your willingness to serve continued as you embarked upon a career in academic medicine at UMass Chan, serving as co-director of the multidisciplinary Center for Spine Health and as associate director of our internationally renowned residency training program in orthopedics and physical rehabilitation.”

Stauff said the endowed funds will help support the staff that is needed to grow and maintain a multi-institutional database that future medical students, residents and researchers can mine in order to answer important clinical questions about best options for cervical and lumbar spine surgery, based on perioperative factors and imaging characteristics.

For her role as a maternal and child health champion and advocate for advancing women in leadership in medicine, Tiffany A. Moore Simas, MD, MPH, chair and professor of obstetrics & gynecology and professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and population & quantitative health sciences, was invested as the inaugural Donna M. and Robert J. Manning Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Moore Simas is also a proud UMass Boston alumna and first-generation college graduate.

Collins highlighted examples of Moore Simas’ “extending the medical profession’s hand and expanding access to families in need,” including as founder and medical director of Lifeline4Moms and developing the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program for Moms, now a national model for increasing the capacity of frontline providers to address perinatal mental health and substance use disorders.

“This endowment will be used to advance women’s holistic health and women’s leadership in academic medicine, and as such, will advance the health and well-being of our local, national and global community,” said Moore Simas. “Some say women’s health, and maternal health specifically, is a marker of the health of our communities. We have some work to do.”

Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, professor of neurology and director of the Neurotherapeutics Institute, was lauded by Collins as a “beacon of hope to ALS patients and families around the world,” as he was invested as the inaugural Donna M. and Robert J. Manning Chair in Neurosciences.

Dr. Brown was a lead member of the team that in 1993 identified the first genetic link to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In 2008, he joined UMass Chan to “leverage the power of the world-class RNA biology and gene therapy expertise that exists here,” said Collins. At UMass Chan, Brown initiated three first-in-human proof-of-concept trials of gene modulation therapy, whose promise “buoys all those who wish to better understand and cure not only the inherited form of ALS, but the sporadic, or nonfamilial cases that comprise 90 percent of ALS diagnoses.”

Brown’s nomination for the honor reflected “the accomplishments of more colleagues in the clinic and the laboratory than I can possibly recite today,” Brown said. “To me, only one point is really salient: UMass is an outstanding place for developing groundbreaking therapies for many types of disease, particularly of genetic origin.”

Robert Manning said he and his wife made their gift because of their first-hand experience with UMass Chan’s academic medical system.

“As a leader of an organization, I know that the most powerful thing that determines success is the culture of that institution, and I have to say that Michael Collins, my friend, and (Dean) Terry Flotte, and all of the teams have created a culture here that is extraordinarily unique.”

Manning continued, “We fundamentally believe that the only thing that matters in life is what you do to help others. Not the trophies, the titles, the money, all the other material things. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is how you impacted others and you all do that every single day here.”

The five endowed chairs were approved by the UMass Board of Trustees, which Robert Manning chairs, in April. Their establishment brings the number of endowed chairs at UMass Chan to 62, 20 of which are held by women.

Related UMass Chan news stories:
Eric Baehrecke, Jeanne Lawrence and Alan Mullen appointed to endowed chairs
Donna and Robert Manning donate $5 million to UMass Chan to establish endowed chairs