UMass Medical School faculty appointed to endowed chairs

Newly funded posts supported by Maroun Semaan, UMass ALS Cellucci Fund; existing chairs filled with deserving faculty

UMass Medical School Communications

April 12, 2017
  Mark D. Johnson, MD, PhD,will be the inaugural holder of the Maroun Semaan Chair in Neurosurgery.
 

Mark D. Johnson, MD, PhD, will be the inaugural holder of the Maroun Semaan Chair in Neurosurgery.

 

  Marian Walhout, PhD, has been appointed the inaugural recipient of the Maroun Semaan Chair in Biomedical Research.
 

Marian Walhout, PhD, has been appointed the inaugural recipient of the Maroun Semaan Chair in Biomedical Research.

 

  Fen-Biao Gao, PhD, will be the inaugural holder of the Governor Paul Cellucci Chair in Neuroscience Research.
 

Fen-Biao Gao, PhD, will be the inaugural holder of the Governor Paul Cellucci Chair in Neuroscience Research.

 

  Brian Silver, MD, will be the first to hold the Endowed Chair in Neuroscience Research.
 

Brian Silver, MD, will be the first to hold the Endowed Chair in Neuroscience Research.

 

  Neil Aronin, MD, will now hold the Higgins Family Professor of Neuroscience.
 

Neil Aronin, MD, will now hold the Higgins Family Professor of Neuroscience.

 

  Justin Maykel, MD, has been appointed to the Gladys Smith Martin Chair in Oncology.
 

Justin Maykel, MD, has been appointed to the Gladys Smith Martin Chair in Oncology.

 

UMass Medical School will invest three faculty members into newly endowed chairs and three more to existing endowed chairs, according to a vote by the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees at its April 12 meeting.

“We are fortunate to have the support of so many philanthropic leaders who believe in our mission and limitless potential to improve the health and well-being of the commonwealth, the nation and the global community,” Chancellor Michael F. Collins said. “Today’s actions bring to nearly 50 the number of endowed chairs at UMass Medical School.”

Two of the newly endowed chairs are thanks to the generosity of Maroun Semaan, the co-founder and longtime director and president of Petrofac Group. Through his foundation, Semaan has made a gift, bearing his name, to establish the chairs for deserving members of the UMMS faculty. The Maroun Semaan Foundation supports philanthropic activities in the fields of education, health care and social welfare.

“Mr. Semaan has shared with me that it is ‘a special privilege to support the leading research’ at our medical school and that the ‘need to develop cures, new treatments and a deeper understanding of what contributes to human health is critically important. Over time, this work will prove to be a great equalizer for humanity as people around the globe, regardless of status, will reap the benefits of new therapies and biomedical advancements,’” Chancellor Collins said. “Through our shared work and civic commitments, I have personally grown to greatly respect Mr. Semaan’s vision and dedication to global philanthropy.”

Mark D. Johnson, MD, PhD, the founding chair of the department of neurosurgery, will be the inaugural holder of The Maroun Semaan Chair in Neurosurgery, in recognition of his achievements as a physician-investigator working to develop innovative approaches to treating neurological diseases and disorders through outstanding education, research and care. Dr. Johnson, who was recently recruited from Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston, is a nationally known expert on adult hydrocephalusandbrain tumors. He has also identified a novel glioblastoma subclass as well as a novel pathway that can be a target for treatment.

Marian Walhout, PhD, professor of molecular medicine and co-director of the Program in Systems Biology, has been appointed the inaugural recipient of The Maroun Semaan Chair in Biomedical Research. Dr. Walhout is a pioneer among those working to understand how genes are expressed on a system level, and how these complex biological networks adapt to various conditions. Her research, which combines large-scale data sets and uses computational modeling to unravel regulatory networks involved in metabolic and genetic development, has advanced the fundamental understanding of these systems and offers potentially new and innovative pathways to treat human disease.

The third newly endowed chair was created using support from the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund, which has for years been successfully raising funds to support the boldest research ideas in interdisciplinary labs at UMMS. The fund is named in honor of the late Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci. Now, the university’s board has approved using a portion of the endowment to create The Governor Paul Cellucci Chair in Neuroscience Research, and appointed its inaugural holder, Fen-Biao Gao, PhD, professor of neurology.

Dr. Gao’s early career at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease and University of California, San Francisco, focused on the molecular pathobiology of frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Since joining UMMS in 2010, Gao’s lab has elucidated new connections between FTD and ALS, including one single gene that is directly linked to both conditions. Gao’s efforts to advance understanding of these common molecular mechanisms that lead to neuronal degeneration and death, and his collaborations with Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, professor and chair of neurology, and others, complement and strengthen the neurology department’s world-class translational research into ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Brian Silver, MD, vice chair and professor of neurology, will be the first to hold the Endowed Chair in Neuroscience Research, which university trustees approved in 2014. Dr. Silver, who joined UMMS last year from Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, excels as an expert physician, educator and researcher whose academic career has focused on the prevention of stroke, one of the most prevalent ailments in the United States. He has developed innovative and effective approaches to stroke therapy.

Two members of the UMMS faculty have been appointed to previously endowed chairs, in recognition of their exceptional contributions to academic medicine and the UMMS community.

Neil Aronin, MD, professor of medicine, co-director of the Neurotherapeutics Institute, and chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at UMass Memorial Medical Center, will now hold the Higgins Family Professor of Neuroscience. A member of the UMMS faculty since 1981, Dr. Aronin established and has maintained a groundbreaking research program focused on Huntington’s disease. Recent explorations of how gene therapy might be used to slow the progression of Huntington’s disease may lead to promising clinical trials in the near future. Established in 2000, the Higgins family endowed chair aims to support neuroscience research at UMMS.

Justin Maykel, MD, associate professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Colorectal surgery at UMass Memorial Medical Center, has been appointed to The Gladys Smith Martin Chair in Oncology, in recognition of his innovative surgical treatment of colon cancer, diverticulosis and other diseases of the colon. Dr. Maykel has been at the forefront of minimally invasive techniques that have revolutionized care for many patients. He has earned a reputation as a trusted clinician, researcher, teacher, mentor and community member, performing significant community service focused on the prevention, early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer.

“Please join me in extending the most sincere appreciation to the benefactors who are expressing their confidence in and support for UMass Medical School with these generous philanthropic investments, and in recognizing the exceptional academic and clinical accomplishments of the aforementioned distinguished faculty members, who will be officially invested in the fall of 2017 at the annual Convocation and Investiture ceremonies,” Collins said.

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