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Haidet, Huang honored as University Distinguished Professors

Two Penn State College of Medicine professors, Drs. Paul Haidet and Xuemei Huang, have been named university distinguished professors by Penn State in recognition of their academic and research achievements.

Dr. Paul Haidet is a professor of medicine, humanities and public health sciences and an influential scholar in medical education and health care communication. Haidet was one of the authors of a $1 million grant that the American Medical Association presented to Penn State College of Medicine in 2014 to foster change in medical education. That grant and the curriculum changes that came as a result of it have enhanced the College of Medicine’s reputation as a leader in health systems science education, drawing recognition in academic publications and the mainstream media, including the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Haidet’s innovations include applying the concept of jazz improvisation to enhance doctor-patient communications. His work in this area touched off a movement in medicine around the importance of improvisation as a core skill for physicians. He has also been recognized as an extraordinary teacher and clinician with the College of Medicine’s Distinguished Educator Award and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. In addition, he was the inaugural recipient of the Excellence in Education Research Award.

Haidet has published more than 100 scholarly publications that led to more than 4,000 citations. His work was cited in the 2010 landmark Carnegie Foundation publication “Educating Physicians: A Call for Reform of Medical School and Residency.” Known as the “2010 Flexner Report,” a homage to the 1910 report that guided the structure of medical education throughout the 20th century, the current report cites Haidet’s work numerous times, more than any other author.

Haidet earned his MD from Penn State College of Medicine and his Master of Public Health from Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Xuemei Huang is a professor of neurology, pharmacology, radiology and kinesiology and renowned for her research in movement disorders, particularly Parkinson’s disease. She leads a team of clinicians, engineers, kinesiologists and computer scientists that studies biomarker identification for Parkinson’s disease by examining patient MRIs, serum metabolite levels, genomic data, muscle tension data and changes in gait. Her goal is to develop tools for earlier diagnosis and improved outcomes for those with Parkinson’s disease.

In her 10 years at the College of Medicine, Huang has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles. One of her studies that was widely cited in 2017 is changing the way physicians and investigators look at the relationship between statins and Parkinson’s disease. For years, based on pre-clinical studies, it was believed that statins may protect against Parkinson’s disease. Research by Huang and her colleagues revealed that statins could actually facilitate Parkinson’s disease and should not be used to protect against it. For her accomplishments as an investigator, she was invited to present the Spring Dean’s Lecture in 2015.

Her work has attracted funding from the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and Michael J. Fox Foundation, and she is currently spearheading an investigator-initiated clinical trial with a pharmaceutical company to evaluate a potential breakthrough therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

In addition to her research, Huang is a clinician who cares for patients with some of the most challenging neurological conditions. An educator, mentor and leader, she serves as the Department of Neurology’s vice chair for research, division chief of movement disorders and also associate dean for physician-scientist development. Huang earned her MD at Beijing Medical University and her PhD at Purdue University.

See the full list of Penn State’s 2019 distinguished professors.

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