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Donors’ Generosity and UMass Chan’s Faculty and Students Celebrated at Traditional Fall Events

Date Posted: Thursday, September 09, 2021

The UMass Chan Medical School community officially launched the 2021-2022 academic year with Convocation and Investiture events in September, on campus and in-person.

Convocation included the Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing Graduate Entry Pathway Pinning Ceremony, welcoming new nurses into the profession and laying the groundwork for additional academic success for their careers in nursing education, leadership, clinical care and research.

The Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Recognition Ceremony celebrated students who completed their qualifying exams to begin thesis research in the laboratory.

And two T.H. Chan School of Medicine White Coat Ceremonies showcased the Classes of 2024 and 2025. Traditionally, first-year medical students celebrate, but second-year students were also included because the pandemic had forced the cancellation of their event last year. The ceremony highlights the importance of both scientific excellence and compassionate care for the patient.

The Investiture Ceremony honored nine distinguished faculty members as named professors or chairs, along with the donors who created the endowments. The ceremony showcased four new endowments and five successors to incumbencies that have taken place since 2019.

New Endowments

Imoigele P. Aisiku, MD’97, Chair in Health Equity and Diversity; Recipient: Milagros Rosal, MS, PhD This newest endowed chair supports the vice provost for health equity. Dr. Aisiku is the first alumnus to establish a chair; chief of the Division of Emergency Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brigham Health, he serves as that system’s vice chair of diversity, inclusion and health equity.

Dr. Rosal, professor of population & quantitative health sciences, is a thought leader in health equity research who mobilizes community partnerships to inform research into prevention and management of chronic health conditions resulting from health inequity.

Katz Family Chair in Psychiatry; Recipient: Kimberly Yonkers, MD The Katz Family Foundation established its endowment to support the psychiatry department’s medical education, patient care and research initiatives.

Dr. Yonkers, chair and professor of psychiatry, connects psychiatry and women’s health with research into the treatment of illnesses in pregnancy and the postpartum period and across the menstrual cycle.

Remondi Family Chair in Biomedical Research; Recipient: Anastasia Khvorova, PhD With this endowment, Dorothy and John Remondi have invested in a biomedical researcher whose work is advancing the fundamental understanding of human biological systems and offering new and innovative pathways to treat disease.

Dr. Khvorova is a pioneer in understanding the biochemistry of RNA therapeutics, and her lab is focused on delivering therapies with an innovative approach to reaching tissues previously not targeted by RNAi, potentially changing the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Richard V. Aghababian, MD’74, Chair in Emergency Medicine; Recipient: Gregory A. Volturo, MD A member of the first UMass Chan Medical School class, Dr. Aghababian was founding chair of Emergency Medicine. His wife, Ann, and family first established an endowed fund for the development of emergency medicine physician leaders. She endowed this second fund to support the chair in administering medical education, research and patient care needs.

Dr. Volturo brings decades of emergency medicine academic and clinical leadership to his roles as chair, educator and researcher. He has led five emergency rooms and the EMS and LifeFlight systems on which millions rely and provided steady leadership for faculty and staff serving on the pandemic’s frontlines.

Successors to Incumbencies

George F. Booth Chair in the Basic Sciences; Recipient: Brian Lewis, PhD Robert W. Booth established this endowment in his late father’s name to support a faculty member engaged in basic science research. George Witman, PhD, now retired, was the chair’s inaugural recipient.

Dr. Lewis’s research is focused on pancreatic cancer and has contributed significantly to the understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying the disease’s development and progression. He serves as associate dean for diversity and pre-matriculation programs in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and assistant vice provost for outreach and recruitment for UMass Chan Medical School.

Joy McCann Professor for Women in Medicine; Recipient: Jennifer A. Reidy, MD Established by the Joy McCann Foundation, the endowment rewards female faculty leaders in medical education, research, patient care and community service.

Dr. Reidy succeeds Heather Forkey, MD, and was named for her commitment to the advancement of women in medicine. Chief of the Division of Palliative Care, she led the development of an innovative curriculum for medical and nursing students to learn how to effectively provide end-of-life care and counseling to patients.

Neil and Margery Blacklow Chair in Infectious Diseases and Immunology; Recipient: Douglas Golenbock, MD Neil R. Blacklow, MD, chair emeritus and professor of medicine, and his wife, Margery L. Blacklow, established the chair to support the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology. Dr. Golenbock has held that position since 2001.

His research focuses on microbial products in innate immune activation, and his lab was one of the first to study toll-like receptors. Under Dr. Golenbock’s leadership, the division has grown to nearly 50 clinicians and researchers and has a grant portfolio approaching $20 million.

Pillar Chair in Biomedical Research; Recipient: Erik J. Sontheimer, PhD Established by the Pillar Group of Beirut, this endowment formerly held by Dr. Golenbock supports pioneering biomedical research that will ultimately impact human health and the practice of medicine.

Dr. Sontheimer is one of the best-known and regarded leaders in the field of CRISPR gene editing. His co-discovery of the first “off-switches” for CRISPR/Cas9 offers promise for better control over the technology to someday achieve clinical applications.

Richard M. Haidack Professor in Medicine; Recipient: David McManus, MD The professorship was established through a bequest from Richard Haidack, whose brother, Gerald, was one of the first faculty members recruited to UMass Chan Medical School.

Dr. McManus, chair and professor of medicine, assumed the professorship after the death of Robert Finberg, MD, distinguished professor of medicine, who held the chair from 2001 to 2020.

He conducts cardiac electrophysiology and digital medicine research, and his leadership of the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center and the Center for Advancing Point of Care Technologies resulted in a $123 million grant for the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics program to respond to the pandemic.