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April 27, 2015

Ebola health care workers among those to be honored at UMass Medical School Commencement

  • Medical School
Commencement will recognize the selfless and lifesaving efforts of faculty who helped to stem the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.

The 42nd annual Commencement Exercises of the UMass Medical School in Worcester will recognize the selfless and lifesaving efforts of faculty who helped to stem the Ebola outbreak in Liberia; the research and drug development advocacy work of Rett Syndrome Research Trust co-founder Monica Coenraads; and the academic and health care leadership of Institute of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau, MD.  

Dr. Dzau and Coenraads will receive honorary degrees from UMMS. Dzau will be the featured speaker at the May 31 commencement ceremony, which will take place on the campus green, with seating beginning at 11 a.m., the processional commencing at 11:45 a.m. and the ceremony starting promptly at noon.

“We are exceptionally proud to recognize the achievements of these distinguished individuals and colleagues at this year’s commencement,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “Their accomplishments are, without a doubt, making an impact here in Massachusetts and around the globe, and inspire us to serve compassionately and do better in our own lives.”

Dzau is one of the world’s preeminent leaders in academic health care. Prior to joining the IOM as its president in 2014, he served as chancellor of Duke Medicine; president of the Duke University Health System; and as a cardiologist, accomplished medical researcher and chair of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Since joining the IOM, Dzau has highlighted and championed the need to invest both in biomedical research at home and in strengthening and improving the health infrastructure globally, as the most effective tools to improve human health and protect against future epidemics.

  [Rett Syndrome Research Trust co-founder Monica Coenraads with her daughter Chelsea]
  Rett Syndrome Research Trust co-founder Monica Coenraads with her daughter Chelsea

Monica Coenraads’ involvement with Rett Syndrome began the day her then 2-year-old daughter was diagnosed with the rare genetic neurological disorder. One year later, in 1999, she co-founded the Rett Syndrome Research Foundation (RSRF), leading the drive to stimulate scientific interest and research in Rett Syndrome, culminating with the groundbreaking work in 2007 that demonstrated the first global reversal of symptoms in preclinical models of the disorder. In 2008, Coenraads launched the Rett Syndrome Research Trust (RSRT), where she continues to serve as executive director. Under Coenraads’ leadership at the RSRF and the RSRT, $41 million has been raised for research, some of which is supporting the work of Michael R. Green, MD, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Lambi and Sarah Adams Chair in Genetic Research and chair and professor of molecular, cell & cancer biology, aimed at reversing the underlying cause of the disorder. Coenraads, her husband and their three children live in Trumbull, Conn.

Commencement weekend will also pay tribute to the expertise and dedication shared by the UMMS faculty who worked alongside the people of Liberia, the Liberian Ministry of Health and the Liberian Post-Graduate Medical Council during that nation’s struggle with the worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history. Funded by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s #TackleEbola initiative, UMMS formed and is leading the Academic Consortium Combating Ebola in Liberia (ACCEL), which is providing hands-on safety training, protective supplies, lab capabilities and much needed support to Liberia’s health care system. Going forward, ACCEL will continue to provide teaching faculty and to support Liberia’s A. M. Dogliotti College of Medicine and the Liberian Post-Graduate Medical Council, with the goal of bolstering the number of physicians in Liberia. Currently, there are fewer than 50 practicing physicians in the nation.

Complete information about Commencement weekend events can be found on the UMass Worcester Commencement website and on social media using the hashtag #UMassMed2015.

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