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Charlie Ehlert, University of Utah
Brenda Bass

SALT LAKE CITY — Six University of Utah researchers have joined the ranks of Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chairs, according to a joint announcement from the U. and the Huntsman Foundation.

The academic researchers, educators and clinicians join the inaugural six presidential chairs named in July 2018. The appointments are for five years and can be renewed once up to five years.

The 12 chairs were funded by a $22.5 million gift from the Huntsman family. They honor the late Jon M. Huntsman Sr., who was an industrialist, philanthropist and founder of the Huntsman Cancer Institute. He passed away in February 2018.

Recipients receive funding to advance knowledge and improve care in their respective fields. They are also gifted wooden chairs and medallions distinguishing them as Huntsman Presidential Chairs.

The faculty members have demonstrated excellence in research, clinical care and career progression, according to a press release. They hail from diverse academic disciplines, including biochemistry, neurosurgery, nursing and biomedical informatics, chemistry, ophthalmology and neurobiology and anatomy.

U. President Ruth Watkins said the honors are made possible by the "tremendous generosity" of the Huntsman family.

“The Huntsman family’s goal is to advance health research, education and compassionate care and this gift from the Huntsman Foundation makes it possible for faculty across our campus to pursue new research, make groundbreaking discoveries, facilitate world-class patient care and share their knowledge with new generations of health care providers. We are incredibly grateful for this support, which will allow these recognized scholars to engage in work at the highest levels of their fields,” Watkins said in a press release.

Additionally, the next chairman or chairwoman of the Department of Internal Medicine, the largest department in the School of Medicine, will also be appointed as a Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair. The designation is expected to enable the university to attract top national talent for the key leadership position in U. School of Medicine and University Health system.

“We are extremely proud of the work these outstanding individuals have already conducted in their areas of research and expertise,” said Dr. Michael L. Good, dean of the School of Medicine, senior vice president for health sciences and CEO of University of Utah Health.

“Through the generosity and leadership of the Huntsman Foundation, the impact that these presidential chairs will continue to have on research and clinical care will be felt for generations to come,” Good said.

The newly announced appointments began July 1, with the possibility of renewal.

Peter R. Huntsman, CEO of the Huntsman Foundation, said the chairs will benefit the entire School of Medicine "as we invest in some of the brightest and most talented doctors in their respective fields, for years to come.”

“The Huntsman family is not only proud of our collaboration with the University Health Sciences when it pertains to cancer research, clinical care and outreach, but to the broader school of medicine,” said Huntsman.

The 2019 Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chairs are:

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  • Brenda Bass, distinguished professor of biochemistry and adjunct professor in the Department of Human Genetics.
  • Dr. Howard Colman, professor of neurosurgery.
  • Mollie R. Cummins, professor and associate dean for research and the doctoral program, College of Nursing, and adjunct associate professor, Biomedical Informatics Presidential Scholar.
  • Ryan E. Looper, professor and Henry Eyring Fellow in organic and bio-organic chemistry.
  • Dr. Steffen Schmitz-Valckenberg, adjunct professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences.
  • Jason Shepherd, associate professor in neurobiology and anatomy.

To read their full biographies, visit attheu.utah.edu/facultystaff/huntsman-chairs.