University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Physician Careers

UVM Medical Group Selects Annual Research and Education Award Winners

Mark Fung, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pathology (left), and William Paganelli, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anesthesiology
Mark Fung, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pathology (left), and William Paganelli, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anesthesiology (right). (Photos: Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

The University of Vermont Medical Group (UVMMG) at Fletcher Allen recognized the work of several faculty members at a reception held in December 2013 at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. David Adams, M.D., associate dean for graduate medical education and interim chair of anesthesiology, presented research and education awards to eleven UVMMG physician members in honor of their exceptional teaching and research efforts.

The UVMMG consists of approximately 500 physicians from all fields of medicine devoted to advancing patient care through clinical and laboratory research, and educating the next generation of providers. The group’s annual research and education awards include: Investigator-Initiated Research Awards (each team receives a two-year, $50,000 grant); Junior Researcher of the Year (recipient receives a $1,500 cash prize and a $6,000 research grant); Senior Researcher of the Year (recipient receives a $1,500 cash prize and a $6,000 research grant); CME Educator of the Year (recipient receives a $1,500 cash prize and a $6,000 education grant); GME Teacher of the Year (recipient receives a $1,500 cash prize and a $6,000 education grant).

Two research teams received 2013 Fletcher Allen-funded Investigator-Initiated Awards. Mark Fung, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology, and William Paganelli, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology, will serve as co-principle investigators on a grant, titled “Understanding intra-operative blood use: A retrospective procedure-specific analysis of MPOG data.” The study’s goal is to support hospitals and providers with data to guide their planning of intraoperative transfusion support and to propose a prospective decision analysis tool that identifies patients or risk factors and techniques associated with increased need for transfusion support in the operative setting. Jill Warrington, M.D., assistant professor of pathology, and Elise Everett, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, M.D., will co-lead a project, titled “Reducing inappropriate cervical cancer screening: Identifying effective tools to promote adherence to guidelines,” which has an overall goal to improve appropriate use of cervical cancer screening and patient outcomes by identifying the most effective mechanisms of promoting adherence with new screening guidelines as they are issued.

Neil Zakai, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and pathology, was named the 2013 Junior Researcher of the Year. This award recognizes exemplary performance in representing the UVMMG in the advancement of medical research. Nominees must be less than 10 years out from graduation from residency or fellowship training. Zakai, who joined the UVM/Fletcher Allen faculty in 2007, has an impressive list of research accomplishments, including the creation and validation of a risk-assessment model for venous thrombosis risk in medical inpatients; demonstration – for the first time – of racial differences in associations of hemostasis biomarkers with stroke and coronary heart disease; discovery of no clear-cut association of race with venous thrombosis, with a determination that prior associations may relate to a complex interaction of race and geography; nearly three dozen peer-reviewed publications, including 11 as first or senior author; and multiple invitations to lecture.

Senior Researcher of the Year award nominees must be 10 years or more out from graduation from residency or fellowship training. The 2013 awardee is Ralph Budd, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Vermont Center for Immunology and Infectious Diseases. Among Budd’s many ground-breaking research discoveries are the identification of “memory” T cells in the immune system; the identification of a previously unknown subset of lymphocytes known as natural killer T cells; the dissection of the function of a subset of lymphocytes known as gd T cells in Lyme arthritis; contributions to a paradigm shift by showing that caspase-8, a protease in the death signal cascade, is essential for the growth of T lymphocytes; the identification of the potential molecular switch in this signal pathway as the protein c-FLIP. Budd has been continuously funded for 24 years with grants totaling more than $50 million and has authored more than 80 publications and 14 invited reviews and serves as editor of the Textbook of Rheumatology. His numerous honors include being named as a Pew Scholar, RJR Nabisco Scholar and UVM University Scholar.

The Continuing Medical Education (CME) Educator of the Year award recognizes a continuing commitment to the continuing education mission by an individual who provides meaningful learning opportunities for our local and regional physicians and allied health care providers. The 2013 CME Educator award was presented to William Pendlebury, M.D., professor of neurological sciences and pathology. A UVM/Fletcher Allen faculty member since 1984, Pendlebury’s research focuses on basic and clinical aspects of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to teaching undergraduates, medical students, residents, and colleagues, he has been the course director for five gerontology symposia and the annual Geriatrics Conference since 2011. He speaks frequently at CME activities, consistently receiving excellent ratings on presentation, content and applicability to practice.

Mark Plante, M.D., associate professor of surgery and division chief of urology, was honored with the Graduate Medical Education (GME) Educator of the Year award. The award recognizes demonstrated excellence in teaching and mentoring teaching residents and/or fellows, going above and beyond to stimulate intellectual curiosity and professionalism in those he or she supervises, and serving as a source of inspiration – both as a person and a physician. Plante was nominated by his urology residents, who cited his ability to “wear multiple hats in a very busy urologic service and have the time, energy and patient to teach and inspire a resident” on a daily basis. Plante, who joined UVM/Fletcher Allen in 1996, recently resurrected the urology residency program after a 15+-year hiatus.

The UVMMG reception also included the presentation of two UHC Trust Teaching & Education Grants. Two $25,000 grants were presented at the 2013 event. These awards support faculty-initiated research in development of effective teaching tools, modules, curriculum or workshops that can be disseminated within the practice group. One award went to Ted James, M.D., associate professor of surgery and director of the Clinical Simulation Laboratory, and Elise Everett, M.D., for their project, titled “An Institutional, Interdisciplinary, Post-Graduate Hand-Off Communications Curriculum Using Simulation.” This project proposes to develop a standardized, institutional, interdisciplinary post-graduate hand-off curriculum that results in resident competency in hand-off communication longitudinally. The second award was presented to Mark Levine, M.D., professor of medicine, and Virginia Hood, M.D., professor of medicine, for their project, titled “Development of a High-Value Cost-Conscious Care Experience for Residents and Fellows.” Among the project’s objectives is an aim to use collaboration of multidisciplinary teams of residents and fellow across departments to help create a clinical learning environment that engages them in mentored quality improvement and patient safety learning experience and projects.