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Six School of Medicine faculty members, whose areas of expertise range from post-traumatic stress disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome, and pediatric development to cardiovascular disease, traumatic brain injuries, and cardiothoracic surgery, have been promoted to the rank of full professor.
“We are delighted to recognize the accomplishments of these exceptional senior faculty,” says Karen Antman, dean of MED and provost of the Medical Campus. “The vigorous promotions process requires national and international recognition of a faculty member’s contributions.”
Antman says faculty promotions are awarded for the quality of both laboratory research and classroom scholarship.
Denise Sloan, formerly an associate professor of psychiatry, has been promoted to full professor. Sloan is researching more efficient ways to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. “We do have effective treatments for PTSD,” she says, “but they are typically quite time-consuming, with at least 12 one-hour sessions, and they require intensive training for therapists.”
Sloan is intrigued by the resilience of some people in the face of a traumatic event, while others develop PTSD. She believes a better understanding of that difference will inform PTSD treatment approaches.
She points to “the limited number of women at this academic rank,” saying she finds mentoring students extremely rewarding. “I have had outstanding mentors throughout my career, and I view mentorship as my chance to give back to the next generation of clinical scientists. I am particularly committed to encouraging more women to pursue academic careers.”
Sloan is the associate director of education, Behavioral Science Division, National Center for PTSD, at the VA Boston Healthcare System. She is the associate editor of Behavior Therapy and is on the editorial boards of five other scientific journals, including, Behaviour Research and Therapy, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, and Psychosomatic Medicine. Her research has received funding from several organizations, among them the National Institute of Mental Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Rhoda Au (GSM’95), formerly a research professor of neurology, has been promoted to full professor. Au, an internationally recognized leader in neuropsychology research in cognition, has directed the collection, interpretation, and publication of neurocognitive performance of Framingham Heart Study subjects for two decades. By integrating digital technology into the evaluation process analyzing brain MRI images, she has developed novel cognitive biomarkers, new scoring methods, and standardization of cognitive measures correlated to vascular risk factors. Au, who is taking a leadership role in the study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, has been a consultant to China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, advising on a national plan for research on Alzheimer’s disease. She is currently exploring collaborations for the study of nutritional variables involved in brain function and cognition.
Marilyn Augustyn, previously an associate professor of pediatrics, who developed an online training document for Boston Medical Center’s Reach Out and Read program, has been promoted to full professor of pediatrics and division chief of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. Her curriculum, which has won international awards, is the core of a training program offered in multiple venues on DVD and as an online CME course.
Michael E. Charness, chief of staff at the VA Boston Healthcare System, has been promoted to full professor of neurology from associate professor. Charness is an expert on the neurotoxicity of alcohol and has defined some of the molecular changes that occur in fetal alcohol syndrome. He developed the first cell culture models to study alcohol’s effects on neural signaling and demonstrated molecular adaptations associated with chronic alcohol exposure. Charness codeveloped and codirects The Other Side of the Bed, an innovative interdisciplinary training program that allows medical students to work as health techs and nurses aides at the West Roxbury Campus of the VA Boston the summer after their first year. The program has been adopted by other VA-medical school affiliations around the country. Charness is scientific director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
Hiran Fernando, a nationally recognized leader in thoracic surgery, has been promoted to full professor of surgery and division chief of cardiothoracic surgery. Fernando, who was formerly an associate professor of surgery, is known for developing new surgical procedures and for leadership in clinical trials and protocol development. His research focuses on minimally invasive CT surgery, including esophagectomy, treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease, thermal ablation for lung cancer, and robotic surgery.
Olga Gursky, director of the department of physiology and biophysics Spectroscopy and Bio-Calorimetry Core Facilities, has been promoted from associate professor to full professor of physiology and biophysics. Gursky leads a research program on the structure-function relationships involved in lipid transport that underlie cardiovascular disease. A highly regarded teacher who developed and teaches a major component of the core graduate level course Foundations of Biophysics and Structural Biology, she has led the Special Topics/Student Seminar, both mandatory components of the Physiology and Biophysics Graduate Training Program. She is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Lipid Research and a peer reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the American Heart Association study sections.
In addition to those promoted above, two medical experts have joined the School of Medicine faculty as full professors.
Jeffrey Miller, who comes to BU from the Boston Biomedical Research Institute, is a full professor of neurology and of physiology and biophysics. He and his colleagues hope to develop new therapies for currently untreatable muscle diseases. By identifying the molecular changes that cause the loss of muscle function, and then testing methods to restore those pathways to normal, Miller’s lab focuses on finding novel treatment targets or ways to prevent neuromuscular disorders.
“BU provides an excellent combination of intellectual depth, collaborative environment, and support for research,” he says. “I hope that we will contribute to BU’s research excellence.”
Before joining MED, Miller was an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.
Hemant Roy is a full professor of gastroenterology as well as chief of the section of gastroenterology at Boston Medical Center. Before coming to BU, Roy was a clinical associate professor at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. He is noted for fostering collaboration between basic scientists and clinicians on the development of noninvasive screening tools for gastrointestinal cancer. Roy’s research focuses on cancer risk stratification and prevention using new approaches to cancer screening, such as optical sensing of tissue to detect colon, lung, and ovarian cancers. He recently completed a National Cancer Institute investigator-initiated Phase 2b grant on the ability to predict the outcome of chemoprevention therapy.