Sofia D. Merajver (M.D. 1987, Fellowship 1993), Ph.D., became the inaugural GreaterGood Breast Cancer Research Professor in January. The professorship was created with a gift from GreaterGood, a fundraising entity for Greater Good Charities, a not-for-profit organization. The organization’s founders, Timothy Kunin and Greg Hesterberg, met as U-M students. They both have had family members impacted by breast cancer. “To create this professorship at the University of Michigan — to support research of this quality at a school we both attended and in a city where we have staff — is a highlight for us after a difficult year focusing on COVID-19,” says Kunin. “We are honored to be able to do it.”
As a physician-scientist at the U-M Rogel Cancer Center, Merajver says, “Conquering aggressive tumors and helping patients survive and live well is my life’s work.” In her pursuit to unravel the molecular basis of inflammatory breast cancer, the most lethal type of breast cancer, she and her team discovered the role of two genes — RhoC GTPase and WISP3 — in the pathogenesis of the disease. “People used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I told them that I wanted to know things that are unknown and share them with the world. That is how our team will use these resources,” says Merajver. “I am very grateful to the GreaterGood team for this honor.” Merajver is also professor of internal medicine at the Medical School, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program, and co-director of the Breast Health and Genetics Fellowship.
Gregory W. Dalack, M.D., became the inaugural Daniel E. Offutt III Professor of Psychiatry in January. Created with a gift from the Daniel E. Offutt III Charitable Trust, the professorship honors Offutt’s life and legacy. A stockbroker and philanthropist, Offutt was known for his optimistic attitude and lively pursuit of many interests, including sailing, tennis, traveling, farming, art, and more. He was fond of saying, “I’ve never known a successful pessimist.”
As chair of the Department of Psychiatry, Dalack has worked to sustain and grow the reach of the faculty’s outstanding programmatic and research activities and sharpen the department’s focus on education and training, increasing mentoring opportunities for early-career faculty and students. He has been instrumental in collaborating with units across Michigan Medicine, integrating care for conditions like eating disorders and autism. At the pandemic’s onset, he dramatically boosted the use of telehealth, something he has long advocated for. His research includes treating chronic and persistent mental illnesses, particularly schizophrenia. His studies have examined nicotine addiction, smoking cessation interventions, and health behaviors in these populations. Dalack says he is honored and grateful for the professorship and hopes his work will honor Offutt’s legacy.