One of Oakland University’s first William Beaumont School of Medicine professors has been named the school’s first professor emeritus.
The Oakland University Board of Trustees approved the appointment of Judith Venuti, Ph.D., on December 13, 2021.
Venuti says it is “truly an honor” that is made all the more special because teaching at OUWB was the culmination of an illustrious career in research and academia.
“My job at OUWB was the best job I’ve ever had,” she says.
“I did a lot of different things, but (OUWB) was a job where I felt like I was making a real difference, really contributing to what was happening at school, and having my voice heard. “
“I fell in love with embryology and genetics”
Venuti has been teaching anatomical sciences for nearly 20 years and has received several teaching excellence awards. Her teaching experience has included: clinical anatomy, human prenatal anatomy (embryology), developmental biology, cellular and molecular biology, and paramedical human anatomy (as course director).
Venuti is a Fellow of the American Association of Anatomists (AAA) and has served as Co-Chair of the AAA Annual Meeting Program, member of the AAA Board of Directors, Executive Committee, and several other task forces and committees , including the AAA Educational Outreach. Committee. In 2019, Venuti received the AAA AJ Ladman Exemplary Service Award, the highest honor given to a distinguished member in the field of anatomical sciences.
Much of Venuti’s career path can be attributed to a course she took while pursuing an undergraduate degree at Northeastern University in Boston.
“I absolutely fell in love with genetics and developmental biology and the idea that we start as a single cell that grows into a group of specialized cells that gives rise to an organism,” she says. “I was just fascinated by this idea.”
Venuti earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Northeastern before a doctorate. in Anatomical Sciences from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
His first faculty appointment was as Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York.
She then became an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.
In 2005, Venuti said Hurricane Katrina “put the kibosh on everything for me.” The research she and her research team were doing was lost; the team essentially dismantled by the disturbance.
“It was hard to pick up and clean up after the hurricane…I lost so much,” she says.
After spending a few years as a program director at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., Venuti says she was contacted by Robert Noiva, Ph.D. of OUWB, associate dean for graduate studies and l community integration. Venuti and Noiva had known each other since they were postdocs together at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“He asked me if I had a student or postdoc who might be interested in teaching embryology at a new medical school and I said, ‘What about me? “”
She joined the OUWB in 2011, and in 2012 she was appointed Chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences, the former name of the Department of Basic Medical Studies. She helped build the department from around 10 initial faculty to nearly 40 currently in place.
She supervised the embryology course for M1-M2 students and was co-responsible for the Reproductive Systems and Musculoskeletal Systems courses. She also served as Chair of the Program Committee and the Faculty Awards Committee and was a member of the M1/M2 Program Sub-Committee, Committee of Committees, and Promotion and Tenure Committees (as well as others).
In June 2020, Venuti officially retired from full-time teaching. She has been appointed Adjunct Professor and continues to teach part-time in the Anatomy Lab and is currently the Acting Course Director for the OUWB Musculoskeletal Systems course.
She divides her time between Michigan and her home in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, which is located in the far southwest corner of Cape Cod. Once the COVID-19 pandemic passes, Venuti says she hopes to participate in programs at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, a private nonprofit research and education center affiliated with the University of Chicago. During her research career, Venuti conducted research as an MBL Fellow and taught at their world-renowned Embryology Summer School.
A high bar for high results
Although Venuti is retired, Doug Gould, chair of the Department of Basic Medical Studies, says OUWB continues to embody the many best practices it introduced.
Venuti served as chairman of the same department that Gould now oversees.
“She set the parameters and the tone of the values (OUWB),” says Gould. “Judy has set the bar high and a high level of expectation that takes people away from being teachers and (thus) becoming master educators.”
“You have to set the bar high to get a high result,” he adds.
Gould says one of the ways Venuti did this was during annual reviews.
“She was very good at communicating expectations,” he says. “She was like ‘No, it’s not good, you’re wasting your time, you have to do X, Y, Z.’ It’s really useful for someone trying to create something.
Gould named Venuti professor emeritus.
Janine DeWitte, assistant dean for faculty affairs and professional development, said the title “generally serves as a form of respect and recognition for a distinguished career.”
“The title is bestowed as an honor based on outstanding contributions that have had a positive impact on OUWB and significant contributions to an individual’s area of expertise,” says DeWitte.
The title is reserved for very few people as it requires 10 years of continuous employment with OUWB and a recommendation for a department chair. Even then, DeWitte says, the nomination does not guarantee the title will be awarded because it is intended for “only those with a significant record of service and achievement.”
Venuti is among the very first to meet all requirements.
She says it means a lot to her, especially since she retired during the pandemic and never received the traditional retirement farewell.
“(Being named professor emeritus) is a great way to be recognized for the work that I’ve done, and that the work is appreciated,” says Venuti.
The most satisfying part of her work at OUWB, however, is that she has helped set standards that continually produce high quality physicians.
“I have many doctors who are Beaumont doctors, including my eye doctor who says, ‘The (OUWB) students are great. I find that in general they are better prepared to come and work with us than some other medical students,” says Venuti. “It is very satisfying to hear that our students are appreciated by the community.”
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