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Three School of Medicine Faculty Awarded the Honor of Benning Presidential Endowed Chair

Three outstanding faculty researchers have been named to hold prestigious H.A. and Edna Benning Presidential Endowed chairs in the University of Utah School of Medicine. The three new Benning Chairs are Rachel Hess, M.D., Louisa Stark, Ph.D., and Martin Tristani-Firouzi, M.D.


Rachel Hess, M.D.

Hess is chief of the Division of Health System Innovation and Research and co-principal investigator of the Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS). Her research focuses on increasing efficiency of health care delivery while ensuring it meets the physical, mental, and well-being needs of patients. Her work has advanced the science of identifying and measuring factors within the health care setting that impact care in order to understand and address both contributors and detractors of quality of life. Lauded for her ability to bring people together and lead them to excellence, she is principal or co-investigator on 15 active grants and has authored more than 100 peer reviewed papers.

Louisa Stark
Louisa Stark, Ph.D.

Stark has been director of the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) since 2001, growing the once-modest enterprise to a world-renowned organization with a multi-million-dollar budget. The GSLC websites, Learn.Genetics and Teach.Genetics, are among the world's most widely used online science education resources, garnering more than 60 million page views each year from 189 countries. Stark and her team employ unique and rigorous methodologies, including randomized controlled trials, to develop effective educational modules for middle and high school students and the public. Currently, Stark is principal investigator on a large $8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop educational resources for the public as part of the national All of Us precision medicine research program.

Martin Firouzi
Martin Tristani-Firouzi, M.D.

As a professor of pediatrics and practicing physician, Tristani-Firouzi aims to understand the genomic determinants of cardiovascular disease in order to improve treatments and patient outcomes. By assembling multi-disciplinary research teams with expertise in cutting-edge bioinformatics, genomics, and population health, his research groups are making headway on tough problems, including congenital heart disease and sudden cardiac death in the young. His research has been cited nearly 10,000 times since 2010, demonstrating its great impact. In addition to carrying out internationally renowned investigations, Tristani-Firouzi is a dedicated mentor to trainees from the Latinx community both in his own lab and in institutional training programs.

Hess, Stark, and Tristani-Firouzi join 12 current Benning chair holders: Christopher Hill, DPhil; Michael Deninger, M.D., Ph.D.; Hilary Coon, Ph.D.; Tom Greene, Ph.D.; Andrew Weyrich, Ph.D.; Matthew Samore, M.D.; Michael Kay, M.D., Ph.D.; Gabrielle Kardon, Ph.D.; Andres Villu Mariq, M.D., Ph.D.; Nels Elde, Ph.D.; Mark Yandell, Ph.D.; and Mario Capecchi, Ph.D.

The Benning chairs were established in August 2005 with a $22.5 million bequest from the late Arthur E. Benning, former president and chairman of the board of Amalgamated Sugar. The chairs are named in memory of his parents.