Budnik and Lee join ELAM leadership program

One-year program prepares senior women faculty to effect positive change

By Ellie Castano

UMass Medical School Communications

June 20, 2014
  Vivian Budnik, PhD, (left) and Mary Lee, MD, (right) have been selected as ELAM fellows for the class of 2014-15 and will engage in a year-long experience that features extensive networking and mentoring opportunities.
  Vivian Budnik, PhD, (left) and Mary Lee, MD, (right) have been selected as ELAM fellows for the class of 2014-15 and will engage in a year-long experience that features extensive networking and mentoring opportunities.

Two UMass Medical School faculty members have been named fellows of the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program for Women at the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. The nation’s only in-depth program focused on preparing senior women faculty at schools of medicine and dentistry to effect positive change, ELAM is a core program of Drexel’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership, and acceptance into the program is highly competitive.

Mary M. Lee, MD, chair and professor of pediatrics, professor of cell & developmental biology and physician-in-chief of the UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center, and Vivian Budnik, PhD, interim chair and professor of neurobiology, will join the ELAM class of 2014-15 and engage in a year-long experience that features extensive networking and mentoring opportunities.

“Our decision to nominate Drs. Budnik and Lee as our latest candidate ELAM fellows reflects the tremendous success that our past fellows have enjoyed in the program and the unique strengths that these two new candidates bring to the table,” said Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor in Medical Education and dean, provost and executive deputy chancellor. “We were delighted to learn that they will have the opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills through the rigorous ELAM curriculum. Our growing list of ELUMs at UMass Medical School exemplifies our commitment to fostering an environment where women leaders are supported to excel in both the clinical and basic sciences.”

Budnik, who joined UMMS in 2003, studies the molecular and genetic mechanisms that allow synaptic connections in the nervous system to change, mechanisms that are at the core of processes such as learning and memory. She has made milestone achievements in molecular neurobiology and RNA trafficking, and has been a significant contributor to the overall success of the Department of Neurobiology, having served as vice chair for many years prior to being appointed interim chair in 2013.

For her ELAM project, Budnik wants to help empower other scientists to become leaders and advocates and she wants to help foster a broader understanding of how basic science, such as neurobiology, contributes to advances in medicine. She will work to formalize a sustainable mentoring program in the Department of Neurobiology that empowers scientists—particularly minority students, postdoctoral trainees and junior faculty—to pursue not only careers in science but leaderships roles.

Budnik will also work to strengthen the bridges between basic and translational research by developing a training program that pairs basic scientists with clinicians or translational researchers for cross-departmental collaborations that benefit from a deep understanding of the underlying science that forms the foundation of therapeutic advances.

“This is an exciting time. This fellowship will allow me to increase my leadership skills so I can go into the next stage of my growth as a scientist and academic leader: fostering a scientific environment at the departmental level where excellence in science is not the only goal, but also the creation of the synergism, mentoring and support required for doing science in this era,” said Budnik.

Lee, a physician scientist who joined UMMS in 2004, has conducted pioneering research on Müllerian-inhibiting substance biology in gonadal disorders and sexual differentiation and research on the regulation of Leydig cell development. She has studied the effects of environmental endocrine disruptors on growth, puberty and metabolic health, and is engaged in clinical trials and collaborative studies on beta cell preservation and improving diabetes management. She was appointed chair of the Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief of the Children’s Medical Center in 2013.

Lee’s vision as a chair is to expand existing networks and leverage cross-departmental and regional collaborations—her own and those of her colleagues—to enhance the visibility and academic reputation of the Department of Pediatrics and the Children’s Medical Center. To this end, she will bring together expertise and innovation in practice and education to successfully transform the Children’s Medical Center in partnership with the broader clinical system to be a model children’s hospital of the future. With her ELAM project, she will work to create teams by recruiting new talent to complement the skills of the current workforce to achieve the goals of developing a coherent clinical and translational research effort aligned with UMMS and NIH goals; and integrating and fostering the highest quality clinical subspecialty services across departments.

“Any new position entails novel challenges and opportunities. ELAM will enhance and broaden my repertoire of leadership skills to be more successful as a new chair and also provides a unique opportunity to develop a network of peer mentors and colleagues across the country,” said Lee. “I am so appreciative of the support from Dean Flotte and the Office of Faculty Affairs for this opportunity to represent UMMS in this wonderful program.”

ELAM fellowships are awarded following an in-depth application process, a key component of which is a detailed description of how the applicant’s institution will tangibly support her participation from the highest level. Held both here and in residence at Drexel, the curriculum features small group workshops that build camaraderie and support among participants as it focuses on the skills, perspective and knowledge required to lead and manage effectively in today’s complex academic health center environment. The program year culminates in a one-and-a-half-day forum where the fellows, along with their deans and top experts, explore a new methodology or strategy for addressing a timely issue facing academic health center leadership.

Budnik and Lee are the latest in a growing core of women faculty leaders at UMMS to participate in ELAM. Others include:

  • Joanna Cain, MD, professor of obstetrics & gynecology and director of faculty talent management for the Office of Faculty Affairs;
  • Deborah M. DeMarco, MD, professor of medicine, associate dean for graduate medical education and senior associate dean for clinical affairs;
  • Ellen M. Gravallese, MD, the Myles J. McDonough Chair in Rheumatology, professor of medicine and cell biology and chief of the Division of Rheumatology;
  • Julia V. Johnson, MD, chair and professor of obstetrics & gynecology;
  • Jean King, PhD, vice chair and professor of psychiatry and associate provost for biomedical science research;
  • Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, professor of pediatrics and medicine, vice provost for clinical and translational research and associate provost for global health;
  • Michele P. Pugnaire, MD, professor of family medicine & community health and medicine and senior associate dean for educational affairs;
  • Gyongyi Szabo, MD, PhD, vice chair and professor of medicine, associate dean for clinical & translational research and director of the MD/PhD program; and
  • Luanne E. Thorndyke, MD, professor of medicine and vice provost for faculty affairs.