Here are this week’s Accolades, a roundup of some of the honors and accomplishments of College of Medicine and UAMS faculty, staff, residents, fellows and students I’ve heard about recently!
White Coats & Welcomes
It was an honor to welcome the Class of 2026 and watch as they donned the symbol of the highest ideals of the medical profession at the White Coat Ceremony last Friday evening. The ceremony was in person after two years of virtual ceremonies during the pandemic. And in a historic first, some of our new freshmen joined us from the stage at Fayetteville’s Butterfield Trail Village while others completed this rite of passage at Robinson Center in Little Rock.
Kudos to Dr. Sara Tariq, Associate Dean for Students, and the entire Academic Affairs team for their spectacular work on this very special event. Thanks as well to Dr. Linda Worley, Associate Dean, and our UAMS Northwest faculty; and to Dr. Becky Latch, Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Pediatrics, for her inspiring keynote address.
Each year during the ceremony, the Honors Council presents White Coat Awards to students from the upper classes who were chosen by their peers for exemplifying the qualities of integrity and professionalism during the previous year. Congratulations to sophomore Smit Patel, junior Chase Brazeal and senior Kaitlin Rose.
Pease join me in welcoming our new Freshman Class!
Third NEJM Article of the Year
Congratulations to Dr. Katherine Irby, Associate Professor in the Critical Care Medicine Section of the Department of Pediatrics, on her third publication in the New England Journal of Medicine in the past year (and fourth during her career). Her latest NEJM article, coauthored as a member of the multi-center Overcoming COVID-19 Investigators group, is “Maternal Vaccination and Risk of Hospitalization for Covid-19 among Infants.” She coauthored two additional articles with the group that were published this summer, a study in Clinical Infectious Diseases that found a decreased likelihood of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) in vaccinated children, and a study in Pediatrics regarding health impairments in children and adolescents after hospitalization for acute COVID-19 or MIS-C.
Pediatric Critical Care Papers
Dr. Peter Mourani, Professor of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine and President of the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute, has had several recent publications including an article in Nature Communications that showed a more robust adaptive immune response to SARS-Co-V-2 in upper airway gene expression in children compared with older adults. Dr. Mourani also coauthored papers in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, on sodium bicarbonate use during pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and an assessment of patient health-related quality of life and functional outcomes in pediatric acute respiratory distress syndrome. He also coauthored a study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases on the association between host respiratory transcriptome signature and poor outcome in children with influenza-Staphylococcus aureus pneumonia.
Symposium Highlights Undergraduate Research
A shout-out to the UAMS Graduate School, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Arkansas INBRE (IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence) for their great work hosting the ninth Arkansas Undergraduate Summer Research Symposium. Almost 100 college students from Arkansas and nine other states presented their research during the July 27 event, which was back and better than ever after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Special thanks to Biochemistry and Molecular Biology faculty members Dr. Grover P. Miller, who oversaw planning of the event, and Dr. Eric Enemark, who delivered the keynote talk and emphasized the importance of his own summer undergraduate research in understanding his calling in research. Read more about the symposium and some of the excellent research presented by students in the UAMS Newsroom.
Lung Cancer Prevention
Lung cancer takes the lives of more Arkansans than the next four common cancers combined. And while lung cancer screening is safe and effective, it is underutilized. The American Cancer Society hosted the National Lung Cancer Roundtable workshop in Washington, D.C., to explore opportunities to prevent cancer deaths. Dr. Matthew Steliga, Professor of Surgery, was among the invited leaders from multiple disciplines across the U.S. to participate in a working group focused on addressing barriers to lung cancer screening and accelerating the uptake of screening on a national level. The UAMS lung screening program has gained significant recognition regionally and nationally, particularly for efforts spearheaded by Patricia Franklin, APRN, and Claudia Barone, EdD, APRN, to integrate tobacco cessation into the clinical screening workflow.
Big Data Insights into Antibiotic Resistance
Congratulations to Dr. Se-Ran Jun, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics, postdoctoral fellow Dr. Zulema Udaondo and colleagues on their new article in Microbial Genomics. Dr. Udaondo is first author and Dr. Jun is senior author on the study, which provides novel insights into how resistance to daptomycin – an antibiotic used to treat serious bacterial infections – disseminates, revealing a new therapeutic target. Through big data analysis, the team was the first to identify the putative implication of composite transposons (transposable DNA sequences) in the molecular mechanism of dissemination of daptomycin resistance.
Conference Talk Lauded
Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine faculty members Dr. Rebecca Cantu, Dr. Brittany Slagle and Dr. Sara Sanders presented an excellent talk on the utility of procalcitonin level tests for the detection of serious bacterial infection during the Pediatric Hospital Medicine (PHM) National Conference in July. Their presentation was one of the most attended during the conference and was so well received that the colleagues were invited to recap their talk on a national PHM podcast. Well done!
UAMS Northwest Team Research
UAMS Northwest third-year Internal Medicine resident Dr. Alex Belote is first author on a paper showing that subcutaneous monoclonal antibiotic treatment was equally efficient in preventing COVID hospitalizations as the more resource-intensive and time-consuming intravenous administration, in an analysis of patients in Northwest Arkansas. In addition to its clinical significance, the paper highlights the strong collaboration and partnership with Washington Regional Medical Center, which is home to senior author Dr. James Newton. UAMS Northwest medical students Megan Clark, Spencer Parnell and Caroline Geels are among the coauthors. All three students are beginning their second year at UAMS Northwest, and Spencer is participating in the accelerated three-year MD track. Great job!
The Path to Pathology
At UAMS, Dr. Matthew Quick, Professor of Pathology, is greatly respected and appreciated by medical students for his award-winning initiatives to expand pathology education and the exploration of pathology as a career path. Programs such as the pathology interest group, a summer pathology preceptorship and the integration of autopsy pathology into first-year gross anatomy have led to a dramatic increase in UAMS graduates choosing pathology. Dr. Quick recently shared his expertise with members of the Royal College of Pathologists in Australia, co-presenting a talk on “Helping Medical Students and Junior Doctors Discover Their Path.”
Congratulations to second-year Internal Medicine resident Dr. Vignesh Chidambaram on receiving the first place Early Career Research Award at the American Society for Preventive Cardiology Congress on CVD Prevention. Dr. Chidambaram works in the laboratory of Dr. J.L. Mehta, Stebbins Chair in Cardiology and Distinguished Professor of Internal Medicine, Physiology and Cell Biology and Pharmacology and Toxicology. Dr. Chidambaram’s research, which indicates that elevated HDL levels may decrease susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection, was highlighted in an article in Cardiology Today.
I would like to share a note I received from Dr. Mollie Meek, Professor of Radiology, about the collegiality and teamwork of Associate Professor Dr. Shannon Dare and others on the Anesthesiology team on a recent day in Interventional Radiology when two medically complicated patients in a row needed procedures that could not be delayed.
“On a regular day, working in IR can be a challenge due to the physical space and equipment,” Dr. Meek wrote. “We are very appreciative of the continued dedication from all of the anesthesia team members in caring for our challenging patients. Dr. Dare and her team took excellent care of the patients, and we were able to complete the procedures safely. Dr. Dare exemplifies UAMS’s core values and we are lucky to have her as part of our faculty.”
Congratulations to all of the fantastic College of Medicine physicians who were named on the 2022 Top Docs list by Little Rock Soirée this month. Nearly 140 of our faculty practicing at UAMS Medical Center, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System are on Soiree’s list (and presented alphabetically on the UAMS website.) We are equally proud of our faculty who were named to the 2022 Castle Connolly Top Doctors in Arkansas list, which will be published in the Arkansas Times in October. These UAMS physicians also are currently listed on the UAMS website. Kudos to all of you for providing world-class care while teaching and training the next generation of physicians and scientists for Arkansas and beyond.