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Convocation ceremonies to celebrate campus accomplishments at UMass Medical School

Four distinguished faculty to be invested as named professors; donors to be recognized

By Lisa Larson

UMass Medical School Communications

September 09, 2019

The UMass Medical School community will come together this week to celebrate student and faculty accomplishments and officially launch the new academic year. The signature event, Convocation, will be held in the Albert Sherman Center auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 4 p.m., when Chancellor Michael F. Collins will deliver his annual address and present the 2019 Chancellor’s Medals for excellence in teaching, scholarship, service and clinical excellence.

The Investiture ceremony, immediately following Convocation, will invest four distinguished faculty members as named professors and honor the donors who endowed them. The following named professors will be invested:

Justin Maykel
Beth McCormick
Rhein, Lawrence_225.jpg
Lawrence Rhein
Celia Schiffer

Justin A. Maykel, MD, associate professor of surgery, will be the inaugural holder of the newly endowed Joseph M. Streeter and Mary Streeter DeFeudis Chair in Surgery. Dr. Maykel is a leading expert in gastrointestinal surgery, research and clinical care; the appointment honors the exceptional, compassionate and patient-centered care he and his colleagues provide. Minimally invasive surgical techniques that Maykel has pioneered are now common, and his research has improved outcomes for countless patients. This chair supports research that advances the understanding of gastrointestinal disease and offers innovative pathways to treatment.

Beth A. McCormick, PhD, vice chair and professor of microbiology & physiological systems, will be appointed to hold the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Chair. Dr. McCormick is the founding director of the UMass Medical School Center for Microbiome Research, which investigates how the microbes in our bodies influence our health and environment. Her research focuses on epithelial barrier function in the intestine, and mucosal inflammation during infection and inflammatory bowel diseases. McCormick completed her postdoctoral training at Massachusetts General Hospital and in 2015 was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

As the newly named chair of the Department of Pediatrics, Lawrence M. Rhein, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics, will be appointed to hold the Stoddard Chair of Pediatrics. In 2016, Dr. Rhein joined the UMMS community as the chief of the Division of Neonatology, following 20 years at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he developed expertise in neonatology and, particularly, perinatal medicine and pediatric pulmonology. In endowing this chair, the Stoddard Charitable Trust endeavored to support the wide-ranging work of the Department of Pediatrics as it improves the health of children throughout Central Massachusetts and beyond.

Celia A. Schiffer, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology, will be appointed to hold the Gladys Smith Martin Chair in Oncology, which was previously held by Dr. Maykel. Employing multidisciplinary tools and approaches, and as director of the Institute for Drug Resistance at UMMS, Dr. Schiffer has made many important discoveries and advances in her field. She has developed a strategy to lessen the probability that drug resistance ever occurs and this finding can be applied to therapies designed to treat a wide variety of diseases, thus ensuring medications retain their effectiveness. Her many honors include being co-recipient of the 2018 Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in Diversity.

Starting off the week’s events will be the Graduate School of Nursing Pinning Ceremony, to be held on Monday, Sept. 9, at 6 p.m. in the ASC Auditorium. In the presence of family, guests and faculty, students in the Graduate Entry Pathway (GEP) program will be ceremonially presented with their nursing pins and welcomed into the nursing community. The GEP program, for individuals with a baccalaureate degree in a field other than nursing, leads first to registered nurse licensure and then to advanced nursing specialties. The pinning ceremony symbolizes the completion of the courses and the clinician experiences required for taking the licensure exam.

Next up is the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Recognition Ceremony, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 3 p.m. in the ASC auditorium. Members of the UMass Medical School scientific community, including students and faculty, gather to recognize the accomplishments of their future colleagues. The Qualifying Exam marks an important milestone in the educational and professional development of basic science and clinical research graduate students, the transition from classroom-based learning to candidacy for a doctoral degree. This ceremony recognizes those who have successfully completed the exam and are proceeding with thesis research in the laboratory of their faculty advisor.

The final event of the week is the School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony on Friday, Sept. 13, at 2 p.m. under a tent on the campus green. The White Coat Ceremony was initiated by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993 at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where Dr. Gold had been a teacher and pediatric neurologist for more than 40 years. A White Coat Ceremony or similar rite of passage now takes place at nearly all U.S. medical schools, as well as at osteopathic schools of medicine and schools in several other countries.

The event emphasizes the importance of both scientific excellence and compassionate care for the patient. The cloaking with the white coats is a hands-on experience that underscores the bonding process. The white coat is placed on each student’s shoulders by individuals who represent the value system of the school and the new profession the students are about to enter. The keynote address will be presented by Theo Meyer, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and recipient of the 2018 Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Clinical Excellence.

The events will be streamed live on and the medical school’s FaceBook page.