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University of Pittsburgh

October 25, 2012

Two profs elected to Institute of Medicine

Two medical school faculty members have been elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The elections of Jennifer R. Grandis, Distinguished Professor and vice chair for research, Department of Otolaryngology, and leader of the head and neck cancer program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute; and Michael Boninger, chair of Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), director of the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute and a physician scientist at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, were announced last week at the IOM annual meeting.

“The Institute of Medicine is greatly enriched by the addition of our newly elected colleagues, each of whom has significantly advanced health and medicine,” said IOM president Harvey V. Fineber. “Through their research, teaching, clinical work and other contributions, these distinguished individuals have inspired and served as role models to others. We look forward to drawing on their knowledge and skills to improve health through the work of the IOM.”

BoningerMichaelBoninger’s research focuses on technologies to improve the lives of individuals with spinal cord injury and other disabilities. His team’s wheelchair work, primarily conducted at Pitt’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories, where he is the medical director, has led to patents for devices used worldwide. In addition, his team discovered a link between how a person propels a manual wheelchair and their risk of injuries, such as rotator cuff tears. This discovery led to clinical practice guidelines that have become the standard of care.

He also has been working in the field of brain computer interfaces, where he is part of a team that is enabling people with spinal cord injury to control devices through thought.

Boninger, who earned his engineering and medical degrees at Ohio State University before completing his residency at the University of Michigan, joined the Pitt faculty in 1993 as an instructor in what was then the Division of PM&R — now a department that he chairs.

GrandisGrandis’s research focuses on understanding factors that contribute to the development and spread of squamous cell cancer of the head and neck (SCCHN), and developing targeted therapies to treat the disease. Her laboratory is researching whether the signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) could be a potential therapeutic target since previous studies have shown its activation enhances SCCHN growth and contributes to therapy resistance. Her research team also is exploring combined molecular targeting approaches for SCCHN, since inhibition of a single pathway alone is unlikely to be beneficial for cancer treatment.

Her group helped to discover the key genetic alterations in head and neck cancer and now is developing strategies to identify the targetable genetic defects in individual tumors so that each patient can receive the therapeutic regimen most likely to succeed.

Grandis was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2002 and the Association of American Physicians in 2010. She received the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award in 2009 and the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring in 2011.

Grandis was appointed to the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Disorders in 2012 for a five-year term and she received the 2012 Alton Ochsner Award Relating Smoking and Disease.

She was appointed Distinguished Professor of Otolaryngology this year. In 1993, Grandis joined the faculty of the School of Medicine, where she did her fellowship, residency and internship training after receiving her medical degree from Pitt. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and art history from Swarthmore College.

Current IOM members select new ones from the health sciences, medicine and public health. The IOM was established in 1970 as the health branch of the National Academy of Sciences.

Filed under: Feature, Volume 45 Issue 5

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