Faculty Notes | Summer 2021

Amber Barnato, MD, MPH, MS, the Susan J. and Richard M. Levy 1960 Distinguished Professor in Health Care Delivery, was named the new director of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (TDI). 

Barnato, who is acclaimed for her research on medical decision making for patients with serious illnesses, will lead a diverse group of scholars, researchers, clinicians, students, and administrators as they strive to advance TDI’s mission of working in partnership with individuals and organizations locally, nationally, and internationally to improve population health, reduce disparities, and create high-performing, sustainable health systems. 

Mary F. Brunette, MD, a professor of psychiatry, of community and family medicine, and of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice at Geisel School of Medicine was named Mental Health Professional of the Year by the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness 

Her research focuses on better understanding the causes of addiction in vulnerable, complex populations, and to develop effective treatment interventions for addiction in these groups by using a translational science approach that includes basic science, patient-oriented treatment, and population-based studies. 

Ta-Yuan (T.Y.) Chang, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and cell biology, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the country’s premier scientific societies. Election to the National Academy of Sciences recognizes distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.  

Chang joined the faculty at Dartmouth’s medical school in 1976 and has long been engaged in basic and translational research—using biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, nanotechnology, medicinal chemistry, and mouse models as investigative tools—to better understand cholesterol homeostasis, a fundamental process that plays an important role in health and in diseases. In 1993 he and his team, including his wife and fellow researcher for more than 40 years, Catherine Chung-Yao Chang, discovered ACAT1, a gene-encoding enzyme that controls how cholesterol is stored in cells and whose molecular identity had eluded researchers for more than 35 years. 

Sonia Nagy Chimienti, MD, an infectious disease specialist was named Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education (SADME). She brings a wealth of experience in student affairs, medical education leadership, education policy development and oversight, and interprofessional program development to Geisel. 

Chimienti will lead the Undergraduate Medical Education (UME) program at Geisel in addition to managing the UME Affairs Office, the SADME is also responsible for oversight of other UME offices and programs, including Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Affairs, Student Services, dual degree programs, the anatomical gift program, and biomedical libraries. She will also coordinate activities with other medical education leadership at Geisel and Dartmouth-Hitchcock, as well as lead the school’s efforts to maintain compliance with the Liaison Committee for Medical Education accreditation standards. 

Aaron McKenna, PhD, an assistant professor of molecular and systems biology, was selected as a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts. He is one of 22 young scientists nationwide awarded this honor. 

The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences provides funding to young investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health. McKenna was selected from among 198 nominations submitted by leading U.S. academic and research institutions to receive four-year grants to invest in exploratory research.  

A $300,000 award from Pew will allow McKenna to accelerate his efforts to map the genetic evolution of cancer cells as they proliferate and spread, particularly in breast cancer. 

Laura J. Tafe, MD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and assistant director of the Center for Clinical Genomics and Advanced Technologies at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), has been elected the president-elect of the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP). Her term begins in fall of 2022. 

She has been instrumental in overseeing the development of new molecular diagnostic assays for solid tumors, including DHMC’s current 170 gene next generation sequencing panel and future whole-exome sequencing to identify critical genes in tumors that can help direct treatment. Tafe has contributed to more than 80 publications in the field of clinical genomics and is the co-editor of a new textbook, Genomic Medicine: A Practical Guide. She has also served in other leadership roles and on multiple committees for AMP and the College of American Pathologists. 

Sandra L. Wong, MD, MS, FSSO, was named president-elect. Of the Society of Surgical Oncology. Wong, the William N. and Bessie Allyn Professor of Surgery, and professor of health policy and clinical practice at Geisel, is chair of the Department of Surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. She is a nationally recognized authority in the management of soft tissue sarcoma, melanoma, Merkel Cell carcinoma, and gastrointestinal cancers. 

Her research broadly focuses on the quality of care; she is currently working on the development and implementation of electronic patient reported outcomes to improve symptom management and on the study of rural disparities in surgical oncology care. With expertise in the development and implementation of clinical practice guidelines, she advises on health policy and technology evaluation and has published well over 210 peer-reviewed studies. Wong is the Health Services Research and Global Oncology Section Editor for the Annals of Surgical Oncology. 

Second-year medical students recognize outstanding Geisel faculty:  

Larry Myers, PhD, who directs and teaches the Foundations course, received of the Distinguished Educator Award for his effort support and guide students in areas often unrelated to coursework, including but not limited to, being a mentor, role model, counselor, and resource. 

Nancy McNulty MED ’95, a radiologist who directs the Longitudinal Curriculum on Imaging, received the Distinguished Lecturer Award for her ability to clearly and concisely explain concepts and for thoughtfully presenting complex information in an understandable manner in a large group setting, and encourage enthusiasm in medical study. 

Steve Bensen MED ’90 and Larry Myers, PhD, share the Distinguished Course Director(s) Award. Their co-directed course on GI & Metabolism was repeatedly applauded for being well-structured, organized, and well-taught. The award is given to faculty for their exceptional ability to design, organize, and lead a course—inspiring the learning environment with their dedication and commitment to a holistic student experience along with outstanding teamwork and responsiveness to student needs. 

Graham Atkins, MD, received the Distinguished Small Group Leader Award. Lauded as an amazing educator whose passion for teaching students in the Respiratory course was evident in every small group, he is known for his follow up emails to medical students further clarifying information covered in class as well as being a model of strong moral character to students. 

Geisel faculty appointed to endowed professorships: 

Marnie E. Halpern, PhD, chair and professor of molecular systems biology, to the Andrew Thomson, Jr., MD 1946 Professorship for a four-year term. 

William A. Nelson, PhD, MDiv, professor of community and family medicine, of medical education, and of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice at Geisel School of Medicine, to the Elizabeth DeCamp McInerny Professorship for a four-year term. 

William C. Torrey, MD, interim chair and professor of psychiatry, and of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice at Geisel School of Medicine, to the Raymond Sobel Professorship of Psychiatry for a two-year term. 

Corey A. Siegel, MD, MS, professor of medicine, and of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice at Geisel School of Medicine to the Constine and Joyce Hampers Professorship for a four-year term. 

Henry N. Higgs, PhD, professor of biochemistry and cell biology at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, has been named the John La Porte Given Professor in Cytology.