By Benjamin Waldrum
Jennifer Laudadio, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Pathology in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine, was invested July 22 in the Aubrey J. Hough Jr., M.D., Distinguished Chair in Pathology.
“I would like to extend my congratulations to Dr. Laudadio for all of your accomplishments that are being recognized here today,” said UAMS Chancellor and UAMS Health CEO Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA. “They are extremely well-deserved, and we are so grateful and thankful to have you as part of the UAMS community.”
Laudadio joined UAMS in 2013 as an associate professor and medical director of molecular pathology. She became vice chair for clinical operations and medical director for the Laboratory/Pathology Service Line in 2015 before being elevated to director in 2020. She was Pathology Residency Program director from 2014 to 2019 and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) director from 2015 to 2020. Following her promotion to professor in July 2020, Laudadio was named interim chair of the Department of Pathology in August before being named permanent chair in November.
“When I was a residency program director, I always said my job was to create an environment in which each resident could be successful,” Laudadio said. “It is my goal now, that as the holder of the Hough distinguished chair, I will foster an environment that facilitates the success of each faculty member and trainee, and allows our Department of Pathology to excel in delivery of the highest quality of clinical care, the advancement of scientific knowledge and the education of the next generation of leaders.”
An endowed chair is among the highest academic honors a university can bestow on a faculty member. A distinguished chair is established with gifts of at least $1.5 million, which are invested and the interest proceeds used to support the educational, research and clinical activities of the chair holder. Those named to a chair are among the most highly regarded scientists, physicians and professors in their fields.
The chair was established in 2004 through a $1.5 million gift from the Marie Denise DeBartolo York Foundation and honors Hough, a professor emeritus in the Department of Pathology. Denise DeBartolo York is chairman of the DeBartolo Corporation, a professional sports/entertainment and investment business, and oversees the corporation’s portfolio, including the five-time world champion San Francisco 49ers. John York doubles as president of the DeBartolo Corporation and handles the day-to-day operations of the San Francisco 49ers. The foundation’s gift also established the John and Denise DeBartolo York Chief Residency in Pathology.
Hough spoke about meeting John York as he was pursuing a hematopathology fellowship at Vanderbilt University and encouraging him to become an expert on the femoral head – the “ball” joint of the femur that fits into the “socket” joint of the pelvis. Many years later, when UAMS was raising money for the Hough chair, he said that John York “launched into a soliloquy” on the femoral head and agreed to fund the entire amount of the chair.
“Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, ‘Our echoes roll from soul to soul, and never have an ending,’” Hough said. “Well, that’s what this chair does. It rolled from Vanderbilt, to here, to me, to other people, and now it rolls to Dr. Laudadio, who is richly deserving.”
A Little Rock native, Hough received his medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. He completed an internship in 1971 and a residency in 1972, both in the Vanderbilt University Hospital Department of Pathology. He is a graduate of Hendrix College and North Little Rock High School.
Hough joined the College of Medicine faculty in 1980 as professor and vice chair of the Department of Pathology. As its chair from 1981 to 2002, he substantially grew the department and transformed it into a nationally known program. He has served in a variety of leadership positions in the college and across the institution. In 2004, he was promoted to distinguished professor, and in 2015, he was named a university professor, the only person at UAMS to have received the University of Arkansas System honor.
As an educator, Hough has been similarly distinguished. The Student National Medical Association honored him with the Special Faculty Recognition Award in 1989 and again in 1994. He received the Golden Apple Award in 1997 from UAMS students.
He received the College of Medicine’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 1995 and the Distinguished Faculty Service Award in 2018.
“Dr. York appreciated how Dr. Hough had treated him when he was just starting his career in hematopathology,” Laudadio said. “And to those of us who know Dr. Hough —that should be no surprise. He is a passionate educator and mentor, and our residents still benefit from his knowledge. He is always willing to serve.”
Christopher T. Westfall, M.D., transitional dean for the UAMS College of Medicine, thanked John and Denise DeBartolo York for making the chair possible and recognized Hough for his long service and many contributions to UAMS. Westfall appointed Laudadio as interim pathology chair and then permanent chair in 2020.
“Dr. Laudadio does a great job not only with regard to the overall needs of our college but also in advocating for her department,” Westfall said. “She has truly helped her team meet the demands of what we would all agree has been a year like no other. I know that she will propel her department to even greater heights in the clinical arena, education and research. This chair is an honor that she richly deserves.”
Laura Webb Lamps, M.D., the Godfrey D. Stobbe professor and director of gastrointestinal pathology at the University of Michigan, said it was “a double honor” to recognize both Laudadio and Hough, her former colleagues at UAMS. Hough recruited Lamps to UAMS in 1998, where she was a faculty member until 2017.
“Most of you here today know Jennifer well from her exceptional work at UAMS,” said Lamps. “In fact, it is difficult to find a part of the pathology department she has not influenced for the better. She has overseen the validation of so many laboratory tests that are critical to patient care in the state of Arkansas. I think we would be hard-pressed to find another person who has made such significant contributions to UAMS in a relatively short period of time.”
In addition to being named chair holder, Laudadio received a commemorative medallion and an inscribed wooden chair. She thanked many people, including Patterson, Westfall, Hough, UAMS Medical Center CEO Stephen Mette, M.D., John and Denise DeBartolo York, numerous past and present colleagues, and members of her family.
“I am profoundly grateful for all of the colleagues, friends, students, trainees and technologists I have worked with through the years,” Laudadio said. “Their commitment inspires me to be better tomorrow than I am today. I am truly fortunate to have worked with them, and I would not be the pathologist and leader that I am today were it not for all of them, and for you. It is my hope that I can bring a fraction of the inspiration they have given me back to all of you.”
Laudadio received a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry from Wake Forest University. A graduate of the Medical College of Georgia, Laudadio completed her residency in anatomic and clinical pathology at the Medical University of South Carolina, where she served as chief resident, and her fellowship in molecular genetic pathology at Oregon Health & Science University.
Service to UAMS and the national pathology community has been a vital component of Laudadio’s career. She has served on numerous department and college committees, including the Graduate Medical Education Committee and the Clinical Learning and Environment Review Subcommittee, which she chaired for three years. She has served on various national committees for the College of American Pathologists, the Association for Molecular Pathology, the Association of Pathology Chairs and the American Board of Pathology. She is a Molecular Pathology Section editor on the Editorial Board for Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
Laudadio received the College of Medicine Residency Educator Award in 2016 and the inaugural Clinical Excellence Award for Quality and Safety in 2020. Her national honors include the Pathology Advancement Award from the College of American Pathologists in 2018.