Distinguished University Professorship recipients present work

Tuesday, January 28, 2020 - 8:00pm

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha discusses her role in uncovering the Flint water crisis and her advocacy for public health stemming from the environment at the Trotter Multicultural Center Tuesday evening.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha discusses her role in uncovering the Flint water crisis and her advocacy for public health stemming from the environment at the Trotter Multicultural Center Tuesday evening. Buy this photo
Michael Bagazinski/Daily

The University of Michigan honored three recipients of the Distinguished University Professorship on Tuesday at the Ross School of Business to an audience of about 100 students, faculty and staff.

The University established the Distinguished University Professorships in 1947 to recognize professors with a noteworthy commitment to academia. Those bestowed with the honor serve as models of success in research, teaching and community leadership to faculty and students.

In his opening remarks, University President Mark Schlissel spoke on the importance of talented faculty in academia.

“A university can only be as great as its faculty,” Schlissel said.

Each professor presented topics related to their research. John M. Carethers, the Richard Boland Distinguished University Professor of Internal Medicine and Human Genetics, spoke on DNA mismatch repair, a process that prevents DNA mutations by correcting any damage that could lead to colorectal cancer.

“You have a normal colon that can develop (one of these) polyps — you can either have a germline mutation or develop somatic inactivation,” Carethers said. “Either possibility can affect DNA mismatch repair.” 

Anna Suk-Fong Lok, the Dame Sheila Sherlock Distinguished University Professor of Hepatology and Internal Medicine, began her career as a professor at the University of Hong Kong before deciding to move to the United States. She presented her work on viral hepatitis, of which the B and C strains are a leading cause of liver cancer.

Lok described her experience as a professor in medicine in the early 1990s. 

“In 1992, the chair of medicine told me to slow down because there was no more room to move up,” Lok said.

Lok went on to further explain her research on Hepatitis B and C. 

“These viruses can lead to chronic infection and cirrhosis, which means scarring of the liver, and in turn liver cancer,” Lok said. “Hepatitis B is more common globally, whereas Hepatitis C is more common in this country. Together, these two viruses result in roughly 1.2 million deaths per year. This is the reason why, in 2015, the World Health Organization declared that we need to eliminate these viruses by 2030.”

Scott E. Page, the John Seely Brown Distinguished University Professor of Complexity, Social Science and Management, then spoke about his research in cognitive diversity, which incorporates a fusion of different approaches to problem solving, including models.

“One of the things we do with models is we just explore the world,” Page said. 

Page then spoke about diversity, noting how it is closely related to accuracy.

“So, then here’s the question: Is more diversity better?” Page said. “As I ramp up diversity, you can just see accuracy go up.”

Business graduate student Gautam Kandlikar is one of Page’s students and said he found the lecture series inspiring.

“They’re gathering data, they’re analyzing systems, they’re creating new knowledge that helps us advance society, and I think that’s really fascinating,” Kandlikar said. “That’s really inspiring.”

Reporter Kristina Lenn can be reached at kmlenn@umich.edu