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Amid NIH funding decline, Collins calls on campus to ‘Take a leap of faith with me’

Faculty awarded medals of distinction and endowed chairs, professorship at Convocation and Investiture

By Lisa M. Larson

UMass Medical School Communications

September 18, 2014
  • David Clive, MD, recipient of the 2014 Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Teaching, shares a light moment with Chancellor Collins.
  • Allan Jacobson, PhD, recipient of the 2014 Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Scholarship, with Chancellor Collins
  • Karen Green, MD, recipient of the 2014 Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Clinical Excellence, with the Chancellor
  • Chancellor Collins congratulates Michele Pugnaire, MD, as the recipient of the 2014 Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service
  • Judith Ockene, PhD, the 2013 Chancellor’s medalist for Distinguished Service, with Tiffany Moore Simas, MD, MPH, MEd, the new Joy McCann Professor for Women in Medicine and Chancellor Collins
  • Mel Cutler presents Vivian Budnik, PhD, with the medallion for the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Chair.
  • Mary C. DeFeudis, John F. Keaney Jr., MD, and Chancellor Michael F. Collins
  • Dean Terence R. Flotte, Mary C. DeFeudis, John F. Keaney Jr., MD, and Chancellor Collins
  • Dean Terence Flotte, Vivian Budnik, PhD, John F. Keaney Jr., MD, Tiffany Moore Simas, MD, MPH, MEd, and Chancellor Collins
  • Judy Ockene, PhD, Tiffany Moore Simas, MD, MPH, MEd, and Chancellor Collins
  • Dean Terence Flotte; Mel Cutler; Vivian Budnik, PhD, and Chancellor Collins
  • The endowed professors and chairs of the University of Massachusetts Worcester, September 18, 2014

In the face of deep cuts to the federal funding that supports the UMass Worcester research enterprise, Chancellor Michael F. Collins called on the campus community to take a “leap of faith” by pressing forward and continuing to excel in the academic health sciences. In his annual Convocation address, Chancellor Collins pointed to the overwhelming success of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” social media campaign for ALS research as evidence of what can be accomplished when people work together.

“In the labs and clinics that exist throughout our medical school and its affiliates, we are studying the diseases and caring for the sickest of patients and we do so with constrained dollars,” said Collins on Thursday, Sept. 18, referring to the steady decline of the National Institutes of Health budget. “We have come to the point that we are looking everywhere we can to find resources so that we can advance our mission areas; and we do so at a pace that will allow us to change the course of history of disease in our lifetimes.

“At times, we don’t know from where the next dollar will come and as yet, we cannot fully realize how new modes of communication and technology could radically disrupt the science, care and modes of funding we have come to know.

“As we start this academic year, I ask that you take a leap of faith with me.”

Collins awarded Chancellor’s Medals to four faculty members: David Clive, MD, professor of medicine, who received the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Teaching; Allan Jacobson, PhD, the Gerald L. Haidak, MD, and Zelda S. Haidak Professor in Cell Biology, and chair and professor of microbiology & physiological systems, who received the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Scholarship; Karen Green, MD, professor of obstetrics & gynecology, who received the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Clinical Excellence; and Michele Pugnaire, MD, senior associate dean for educational affairs and professor of family medicine & community health and senior associate dean for educational affairs, who received the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service.

Following the awards presentation, three distinguished faculty members were invested as named professors.

  • Tiffany A. Moore Simas, MD, MPH, MEd, associate professor of obstetrics & gynecology and pediatrics, was invested as the Joy McCann Professor for Women in Medicine;
  • Vivian Budnik, PhD, interim chair and professor of neurobiology, was invested as the inaugural Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Chair; and,
  • John F. Keaney Jr., MD, professor of medicine, chief of the division of cardiovascular medicine and director of the Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence, was invested as the Mary C. DeFeudis Chair in Biomedical Research.

Read Chancellor Collins’ full speech here.
View a video of the entire Convocation and Investiture event here.
View a brief video recap of Convocation Week events here.

Chancellor’s Medals

In awarding Dr. Clive the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Teaching, Collins said Clive is an “innovative, erudite, renowned, enthusiastic, master teacher who is beloved as an educator and mentor and who is authentic, gifted, humble and patient.”

“Dr. Clive, throughout your years at UMass, you have used humor, empathy and understanding to teach our learners at both the undergraduate and graduate levels what has been referred to as ‘the driest aspects of renal physiology,’” Collins said. “When describing your distinguished career, it has been said: ‘Dr. Clive is the kind of physician that every patient wants to care for them and every [student] and resident wants to learn from.’”

Dr. Jacobson, recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Scholarship, is a “pioneer” for his research on the molecular pathways of translation initiation and mRNA decay, as he was among the first to establish mechanistic links between these two processes, Collins said.

“As one who is ‘entirely motivated by his quest to know the truth,’ you have ‘played a central role in discovering the proteins that mediate nonsense-mediated mRNA decay and you have been at the forefront of efforts to elucidate the mechanism of this pathway,’” the chancellor said. “Your science has been described as ‘fearless;’ your approach as ‘creative;’ your scholarship as filled with ‘wisdom;’ and your intuition as ‘unusual’ as you are ‘an early adopter of all things clever in the lab.’

Collins said he awarded Dr. Green the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Clinical Excellence as she is a “devoted, highly praised, nationally recognized pioneer with a remarkable reputation for clinical and educational service to patients and learners alike; the medical profession; and our institution.”

“You have cared for thousands of mothers and their infants throughout your distinguished career. You were the first perinatologist to be recruited to our medical school and you were instrumental to the building of high risk obstetrics in our community,” Collins said. “Known as a bridge-builder, your professional instincts and influence have been felt throughout our region.”

Dr. Pugnaire, awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service, isa “devoted, loyal, committed, engaged leader whose career-long service to our institution is unique in its breadth, reach and long-lasting impact,” Collins said.

“You are a ‘tireless advocate for medical education,’” he said. “You have a singular focus and respect for our learners. You have led our institution’s development and implementation of our nationally recognized LiNC curriculum and, whether it be through ‘pedagogical practice [or] curricular content,’ you have been the conductor of a committed symphony of educators, as each year they engage, teach, mentor and guide our students in fulfillment of the commitments or obligations of their medical oath, as they educate those who come behind us in our profession. You have been described as a ‘champion for maintaining our educational content and process at the highest standard.’”

Investiture

Following the awards presentation, three distinguished faculty members were inducted as named professors.

Dr. Simas was invested as the Joy McCann Professor for Women in Medicine. Established at UMass Medical School in 2005 by an endowment from the Joy McCann Foundation, this professorship identifies female faculty leadership in medical education, research, patient care and community service.

“Yours is an outstanding example to emulate; your research in reproductive health issues, including studying health problems such as weight gain, preeclampsia and post-partum depression helps improve the lives of women and their children,” Collins said. “Your willingness to work with new techniques, such as storytelling to increase rates of prenatal care; and to work at the very forefront of basic science research, such as your collaboration with colleagues studying the molecular basis for gestational diabetes, demonstrate your commitment to academic medicine and life-long learning.”

Dr. Budnik was invested as the inaugural Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Chair. Collins said Budnik is a, “researcher of the highest renown, a collaborator held in the highest regard and a mentor who has earned the highest respect.”

“The new Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Chair celebrates the scientific legacy of its founders, Hudson Hoagland and Gregory Pincus, as well as the legacy of hundreds of influential and forward-thinking leaders in this region, who endowed and supported the WFBR and who encouraged imagination, vision and above all, that fire of discovery,” he said.

“Dr. Budnik, your achievements in the field of RNA transport have graced the cover of the journal Cell; your discoveries have done what all scientists hope, but only a few can claim—they have influenced the direction of an entire research field,” Collins said. “Your recent discoveries are born from both patient scientific method and brash challenges to scientific orthodoxy, as well as underpinned by a reservoir of knowledge and careful experimental design.”

Budnik was invested by Mel Cutler, longtime WFBR trustee and benefactor, who in 2012 established the Melvin S. and Sandra L. Cutler Chair in Biomedical Research, currently held by Catarina I. Kiefe, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Quantitative Health Sciences.

Dr. Keaneywas invested as the Mary C. DeFeudis Chair in Biomedical Research. A “prodigious scholar, compassionate caregiver and esteemed colleague,” Keaney is “a product of the state’s renowned academic medicine community, and, now, a clinical and academic leader at the state’s public medical school,” Collins said.

“A physician-scientist in the truest sense of the term, you exhibit the greatest ideals of both professions. You are intellectually curious but scientifically rigorous; clinically objective but emotionally invested; a life-long learner and a born teacher; a mentor and a mentee; a doer and a leader. These characteristics allow you to move seamlessly between the lab bench and exam room, where discoveries and diagnoses in one can lead to breakthroughs in the other.”

Dr. Keaney was invested by DeFeudis, longtime benefactor of UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care.

“A world-class medical school is sustained by world-class supporters,” Collins told DeFeudis. “Well, Mary, we think the world of you and feel privileged to have a world-class friend right here in Worcester.”