One of the original faculty members at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine – Judith Venuti, Ph.D. — has retired.

Venuti retires from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
A photo of a sunset taken by Judith Venuti
One of the original faculty members at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine – Judith Venuti, Ph.D. — has retired. She took this picture at Buzzards Bay, near Cape Cod, where she plans to spend at least half her time.

One of the original faculty members at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine – Judith Venuti, Ph.D. — has retired.

Venuti, recently named OUWB adjunct professor, is currently relocated to what she affectionately calls her “happy place” on Cape Cod for the current quarantine restrictions. She hopes to spend half of her time here in retirement.

Venuti said her time at OUWB was the culmination of a career filled with highlights that began as a marine biology instructor and a research fellow in a world-renowned lab in Massachusetts.

“When OUWB offered me an opportunity to focus on teaching and provided me a different perspective on scholarly work, I jumped at the chance,” she says. 

Venuti joined OUWB in 2011, and in 2012, she was appointed chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences, the former name of the Department of Foundational Medical Studies.

She oversaw the Embryology curriculum for the M1-M2 students and was co-director of the Reproductive Systems course. She also was chair of the Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Awards Committee and served as a member of the M1/M2 Curriculum Subcommittee.

Prior to joining OUWB, Venuti was an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy at Louisiana State University’s Health Sciences Center in New Orleans and an assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York. 

Venuti is a Fellow of the American Association of Anatomists (AAA) and serves as AAA Annual Meeting Program co-chair, and as a member of the AAA Board of Directors and AAA Educational Outreach Committee. In 2019, Venuti received the AAA A.J. Ladman Exemplary Service Award, the highest honor recognizing a member distinguished in the field of anatomical sciences.

Venuti has taught in the Anatomical Sciences for nearly 20 years and has received several ‘Excellence in Teaching’ awards. Her teaching experience has included: Clinical Anatomy, Human Prenatal Anatomy (Embryology), Developmental Biology, Cell and Molecular Biology and Allied Health Human Anatomy (as Course Director).

As Venuti looks ahead to retirement, she reflected on her career.

What were some of the highlights of your career overall and why?

High points of my career included being a student, teaching assistant and instructor in the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Embryology Course in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and a research fellow at the MBL. The MBL is world renown and attracts researchers and students in many disciplines including embryology, cell and molecular biology and neuroscience.

It provided an incredible opportunity to network with scientific leaders in these fields. During summers in Woods Hole, I danced with a Nobel Prize winner who identified cyclins and shared a laboratory one summer with another who discovered proteasomes. I still maintain many friends and colleagues from my time at the MBL.

Another highlight was while I was a postdoctoral fellow at the MD Anderson Cancer Center where I worked on gene regulation during development when the field had just begun.

I consider my time at OUWB as a highlight as well. It has been one of the best places I have ever worked. OUWB supports its basic science faculty very differently from most medical schools, and it has enabled me to flourish.

Why did you choose to work for OUWB and take on the role of the department chair?

The opportunity to work at OUWB came at the perfect time for me. I was in New Orleans at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine (LSU) and Hurricane Katrina basically decimated my research program and scattered my students and staff. While recovering from Katrina, I spent time as a program director in developmental biology at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., but it was difficult to gear back up. I returned to LSU, where I spent more time teaching than doing research.


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When OUWB offered me an opportunity to focus on teaching and provided me a different perspective on scholarly work, I jumped at the chance. Also, it was an opportunity to be involved in the development and delivery of a different type of medical curriculum and to provide input on the development of programs and policies on the ground floor as it were. I was one of the first 10 or so faculty hired, but I didn’t come to OUWB planning to become chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences (in 2018 the department was renamed Foundational Medical Studies), I sort of fell into the role after I had been here a few months.

What is your favorite part about teaching?

I find it very rewarding to have students understand a difficult concept because I was able to provide a clearer explanation or demonstration. I like making models and developing instructional tools that provide a different perspective and offer alternatives to lectures and texts.

For example, I have created a module for every embryology session I delivered in the M1/M2 years. I have also crocheted structures to create models of embryological processes and adult anatomy that are more flexible than the standard plastic models. Together with the medical illustrators and undergraduate students from OU’s Cinema Studies Program, I have created ~ 20 embryological animations that illustrate morphological changes over time for different organ systems because I could not find clear examples elsewhere. I am hoping to finish these “Embryology in 3 Minutes or Less” animations soon and post on OUWB’s YouTube channel.

What advice do you have for your colleagues and / or medical students? 

Never stop learning. Be as creative as you can be. Try to help others whenever possible.

Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something, but always be willing to investigate and try to find the answers to questions.

You have traveled to many unique destinations. How have your travels impacted you personally and / or professionally?

I have visited approximately 25 or so different countries and been to most of the states in the U.S. I think my travels have helped me appreciate diversity and different cultures as well as nurtured an appreciation and fed my life-long love of nature, especially marine biology. Many of my travels were so I could hike, scuba and or snorkel.

Your Guatemala trip is postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.  What were you going to do there? 

 As part of an Embark research project, I traveled to a free clinic in Guatemala Highlands with one of our Beaumont pediatricians, Dr. Jay Eastman and an OUWB Class of 2019 graduate, Dr. Amanda Lynne Marshall. I am now on the Board of Directors and secretary of the Board for the clinic, Casa Colibrí. Because of COVID-19, we have had to postpone the various programs the clinic offers including their annual “Jornada,” a women’s health initiative, an eye mission, and a program that promotes child health in the area.

Tell us how Cape Cod ties in with your retirement plans?

I decided to look for a retirement home near Woods Hole on Cape Cod for several reasons.  I grew up in Boston and still have friends and family in Massachusetts. I have friends from graduate school and my first faculty position at Columbia University nearby in other New England states. All six New England states can fit into the state of Michigan, and I like to take road trips.

I plan to continue to spend part of the year in Michigan - hopefully helping to teach anatomy to OUWB medical students. I had hoped to take part in the many lectures and educational opportunities that the MBL offers the Woods Hole community, unfortunately that hasn’t happened this year, maybe next year.  I also have a former student who has a laboratory here, and I hope to connect with her once the MBL reopens.


What activities are keeping you busy during quarantine on Cape Cod?

I hike every day and try to get in several miles each day or at least 10,000 steps on my pedometer. I am fortunate to be within walking distance of several beaches and beachcombing is my “happy place.” I collect sea glass and shells and use them both for crafts. A frequent walk is to Penzance Point, a peninsula that projects from Woods Hole and has magnificent homes and gorgeous wildlife. It’s a gated community, so only residents can drive there.