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Convocation week Sept. 12-16 celebrates students, faculty at start of academic year

The UMass Chan Medical School community is preparing to officially kick off the academic year with Convocation events taking place Sept. 12 to 16. The annual celebrations build on the back-to-school energy of recent student orientations as well as the topping off with the ceremonial final beam of the new education and research building under construction on campus.

Events will take place in the Albert Sherman Center Auditorium and do not require registration unless otherwise noted.

Festivities kick off at 3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, with the 10th annual LGBT Convocation Welcome Celebration, sponsored by the Diversity and Inclusion Office. The virtual event features David G. Zelaya, PhD, assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University and a research fellow at Harvard University. Dr. Zelaya's research focuses on examining health disparities among Black, indigenous and people of color; and sexual and gender minority communities and links to HIV risk; mental health; and substance use. He is interested in providing culturally competent behavioral health services to historically underserved communities.

Also on Sept. 12, the Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing students in the Graduate Entry Pathway (GEP) program will be ceremonially presented with their nursing pins and welcomed into the nursing community by campus leaders. The program begins at 6 p.m.

The GEP program, for individuals with baccalaureate degrees in fields other than nursing, leads first to registered nurse licensure and then to advanced nursing specialties. The pinning ceremony symbolizes completion of the courses required for taking the licensure exam.

At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13, second-year Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students from the Tan Graduate School of Nursing who are entering their clinical years will be presented with their white coats during the Transition into Clinical Practice ceremony. The white coat is a symbol of humanism, collaboration and scientific excellence in health care. The school’s inaugural Nursing White Coat ceremony was held on June 2, during the scholarship and awards ceremony.

Members of UMass Chan’s scientific community will gather at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, as the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences recognizes the accomplishments of their future colleagues. This ceremony salutes students who have successfully completed their qualifying exam, which 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.

On Thursday, Sept. 15, starting at 4 p.m., Chancellor Michael F. Collins will present his Convocation address to the UMass Chan community in a ceremony celebrating faculty. Chancellor’s Medals for Distinguished Teaching, Distinguished Scholarship, Distinguished Service and Distinguished Clinical Excellence will be presented.

The following faculty members will be honored and invested as named professors, and the donors who endowed the positions will be honored, immediately following Convocation:

Celia A. Schiffer, PhD, chair and professor of biochemistry & molecular biotechnology, is the new holder of the Arthur F. and Helen P. Koskinas Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology. Dr. Schiffer’s lab is a locus of activity focused on studying the molecular basis for drug resistance in viruses. Through this research she has developed a new paradigm for avoiding drug resistance in structure-based drug design that likely translates to other diseases.

Alan C. Mullen, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and academic chief of gastroenterology, is invested as the Mary C. DeFeudis Chair in Biomedical Research. Dr. Mullen is a nationally recognized physician-scientist and thought leader in the field of liver disease. His research is helping to elucidate therapeutic targets to inhibit the development of liver cancer.

Jeanne B. Lawrence, PhD, professor of neurology and pediatrics, is named to the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research. Dr. Lawrence is an internationally recognized leader in the field of epigenetics, chromosome regulation and noncoding RNAs. Her work has profoundly advanced research into the developmental pathology of Down syndrome, opening new pathways for translational research.

Roberto Caricchio, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Rheumatology in the Department of Medicine, is named to the Myles J. McDonough Chair in Rheumatology. Dr. Caricchio is a highly esteemed academic rheumatologist, newly recruited to UMass Chan, who is nationally recognized as an expert on lupus. Also, while a core member of the COVID-19 Response Team at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, he spearheaded the development of a new strategic therapeutic approach to treating patients with COVID-19-induced cytokine storm.

Michelle A. Kelliher, PhD, professor of molecular, cell & cancer biology and co-leader of the Cancer Genetics Program, is the inaugural holder of the Our Danny Cancer Fund Chair in Biomedical Research I. Dr. Kelliher’s scholarly pursuits align with and advance her long-standing interest in leukemogenesis. As a graduate student, she developed a mouse model of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) that is widely used today and as a postdoctoral fellow she was first to demonstrate that TAL1 is an oncogene and causes leukemia in mice. Her research focuses on oncogene-mediated leukemic transformation and drug resistance and relapse in pediatric T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). Her research is also focused on how cell death contributes to inflammatory disease and autoimmunity.

Eric Baehrecke, PhD, professor of molecular, cell & cancer biology, is the inaugural holder of Our Danny Cancer Fund Chair in Biomedical Research II. Dr. Baehrecke’s research focuses on autophagy, the intricate and orderly process by which cells degrade and recycle their components. His collaborative research has shown how autophagy works in animal cells and how the genes encoding regulators of this cellular process are altered in cancer and other diseases.

The celebration week wraps up with the T.H. Chan School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony at 2 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16, at the Hanover Theatre. The event emphasizes the importance of both scientific excellence and compassionate care for the patient. The cloaking of incoming students with the white coat by two people—an individual significant in the student’s personal or professional development and the student’s learning community mentor—is a hands-on experience that underscores the bonding process and growth in the new system the students are about to enter.

Janice Lalikos, MD, 2021 recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Clinical Excellence, will present the keynote address. White Coat Ceremony tickets can be obtained through the Office of Student Life.

The LGBT Convocation Welcome Celebration will be held on Zoom; all other events will be streamed on the UMass Chan YouTube channel.

Related UMass Chan news stories:
Inaugural Donna M. and Robert J. Manning Chairs celebrated at special investiture ceremony
Eric Baehrecke, Jeanne Lawrence and Alan Mullen appointed to endowed chairs
Robert Caricchio, Michell Kelliher and Celia Schiffer appointed to endowed chairs