Abdus Wahed gets funding to develop SMART patient-centered clinical trial methods

With more than $1 million from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Abdus Wahed, professor of biostatistics and his team will launch a three-year project to develop methodological and statistical guidance for a new way of testing treatment sequences through adaptive and sequential clinical trials that improve center patient needs and interests. 

Called “Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trials,” or SMART, these trials allow for more than one treatment to be given to a patient, or for the treatment to change partway through the trial. They also allow for the trial to change while still underway, so that if one treatment is performing better, more patients are assigned to receive it. 

“The goal is to optimize each patient’s outcome with the best therapy or sequence of therapies,” said Wahed. “We want clinical researchers to be able to adjust the treatment at each decision point in their clinical trial without sacrificing the validity of the trial. This way we’ll be able to treat more patients with more effective therapies, exposing less patients to ineffective treatments during the trial.”

SMART trials are generally more statistically complicated than traditional randomized clinical trials that assign half of the trial participants to one treatment and half to another. They also have more opportunities for data to be inadvertently not collected or reported. Wahed and his team intend to overcome these challenges by developing algorithms that account for missing data, ensuring the trial results are statistically sound. 

Co-investigators on this project include Yu Cheng and Zhao Ren of the Department of Statistics, Meredith Wallace of the School of Medicine and Jordan Karp of the University of Arizona.

3 Pitt-Greensburg faculty members receive National Endowment for the Humanities grant

Pilar Herr, associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, is the recipient of a Scholarly Editions and Scholarly Translations Planning Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. William Campbell, visiting assistant professor of history, and Elizabeth Contreras, instructor of Spanish, will serve as co-PIs with Herr. 

The project, “Chilean Parlamentos: Digital Edition and Translation of Indigenous Treaties (1724-1870),” involves translating six representative parlamentos with a projection of completing one of them, including the annotations, edited apparatus and introductory essays in both Spanish and English. During the one-year grant period, Pilar and her team also will set up a digital infrastructure and build an online presence for the translated materials. Additionally, this planning grant also will allow them to build a plan for the sustainability of the website beyond the completion of the project and apply for a second Scholarly Editions and Scholarly Translations Grant. 

“This is quite an accomplishment for Dr. Herr and her team,” said Courtney DeCarlucci, manager of foundation and corporate relations at Pitt-Greensburg. “NEH grants are highly competitive. Over the past five years, NEH received on average 82 applications per year in this program and were able to fund about 24% of them.” 

Herr’s project was one of 12 funded in Pennsylvania and 226 funded nationwide.

Susan Isola (Pitt Wire) 

Carrie Leana lauded for poverty-tackling efforts with societal impact award

Carrie Leana, the George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management at Pitt, has won the 2022 Organizational Behavior Division of the Academy of Management Award for Societal Impact.

She was chosen by a committee of organizational behavior scholars and practitioners for her scholarly work that is "scientifically credible, useful to society and produces knowledge that aims to make the world a better place," the academy said. 

Leana holds appointments in Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, where she is academic director of the Executive MBA-Healthcare program. She has secondary appointments in the School of Medicine, the School of Public and International Affairs, and the Learning Research and Development Center. She also is director of the Center for Healthcare Management and academic dean of the Marshall Webster Physician Leadership Program.

The award committee said: “Leana’s research on job loss, urban public schools, direct care workers and financial (vulnerability) demonstrates the potential for rigorous research to generate actionable insights that address societal challenges and thereby improve well-being outcomes. “Her work has been deeply theoretical but also tackling very important societal problems of poverty, inequality and making organizations more empathic toward those in need."

Pitt-Johnstown a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown was recognized for their efforts toward environmental stewardship and been recertified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Pitt-Johnstown earned the certification in 2019 and is the first college campus certified in Pennsylvania.

Audubon International bestows certification to organizations that demonstrate leadership and commitment in areas such as environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, water quality and conservation, resource management, and outreach and education. Recertification is required every three years to maintain the designation.

Nestled in the Laurel Highlands, the Johnstown campus also boasts two LEED certified buildings — the John P. Murtha Center and the Nursing and Health Sciences Building — as well as pollinator gardens and native plant species across campus.

Lesley Rains joins University of Pittsburgh Press as publicity manager

Lesley Rains, former manager and buyer for the City of Asylum Bookstore in Pittsburgh, has joined the University of Pittsburgh Press as its publicity manager.

“Lesley’s experience in front-line bookselling brings a real understanding of the importance of publicity to sell books in a competitive retail environment,” said Marketing Director John Fagan.

Rains will oversee all publicity efforts at the press including review coverage, author events and prize applications. She will also work with authors published in the award-winning Pitt Poetry Series, regional interest titles and renowned scholarly monographs.

Rains holds master’s degrees in both European history and European studies. As the manager of the City of Asylum Bookstore and active member of the local and national bookselling communities, she brings valuable knowledge of the trade and first-hand appreciation of the importance of strong publicity efforts. 

“We are delighted that Lesley has joined the press, and I am particularly pleased about her scholarly background, which will serve our academic publishing program well,” said Press Director Peter Kracht.

“I’m thrilled to join the University of Pittsburgh Press,” said Rains. “I have always admired their work, both as a reader and a bookseller. To be able to help share their books and authors with the world is a dream come true.” 

National Neurotrauma Society gives Rosalind Franklin Award to Corina Bondi

Amy Lane receives Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists’ Lifetime Achievement Award

Amy Lane, an instructor and director of the Adaptive Driving Program in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. 

Lane is an occupational therapist and clinical instructor in Pitt’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology. She has worked on special projects related to the older driver and defining the spectrum of driver rehabilitation programs.

Jennifer White recognized for innovative occupational therapy practice

Occupational Therapy Assistant Professor Jennifer White (SHRS ’18G) in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences was granted the 2022 Emerging and Innovative Practice Award by the American Occupational Therapy Association.

White is one of two recipients of this year’s award, which recognizes clinicians, educators and researchers who have developed new and innovative therapy practices to serve the needs of their clients. She was recognized for her efforts to improve occupational therapy outcomes for vulnerable populations in the region, as well as her educational work, making use of innovative teaching to address racial and gender bias in medicine.

The award was granted at the association’s annual conference in April.

Molly Stitt-Fischer

Stitt-Fischer named head of Environmental Health and Safety

Molly Stitt-Fischer has been named director of Environmental Health and Safety, replacing Assistant Vice Chancellor Jay Frerotte.

Stitt-Fischer has been with the Department of Environmental Health and Safety since December 2010, most recently served as Pitt’s Biosafety Officer, where she managed biological and research laboratory safety  inspection programs for the University.

Frerotte will continue to serve as assistant vice chancellor and will work closely with Stitt-Fischer until his planned retirement in January. He has been with the University since 2002.  

Stitt-Fischer’s work has included management of a laboratory safety team and has served as the University's lead authority on matters related to research safety. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, her interpretations and recommendations were critically helpful to supporting successful emergency operations at Pitt.

Prior to joining Pitt, Stitt-Fischer worked as a fellow and associate biosafety officer within the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. Before that, she was a postdoctoral researcher at Pitt’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the Graduate School of Public Health. 

She has numerous professional certifications and publications, and earned a B.S. in molecular biology from Allegheny College, an M.S. in toxicology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in philosophy, environmental and occupational health from Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health. 

Singh presents at International Union of Pure and Applied Physics

Chandralekha Singh, distinguished professor of physics and director of the Discipline-Based Science Education Research Center (dB-SERC), was invited to present at the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics Centennial Symposium at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, in two different sessions that focused on physics education for the 21st century and diversity, equity and inclusion in physics.

The mission of International Union, which celebrated its 100th birthday at this summer’s symposium in Trieste, is to assist in the worldwide development of physics and foster international cooperation in physics.

Machery elected president of Society of Philosophy and Psychology

Edouard Machery, distinguished professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and director of the Center for Philosophy of Science, has been elected president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology for 2023-24

Machery also is a member of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, a joint project with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

Allie named executive director of Institute for Learning

Angela Allie has been named executive director of the Institute for Learning at Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center. 

The institute partners with school districts across the U.S. and internationally to develop programs and knowledge about school improvement, particularly for traditionally underserved students. Allie also will be a research associate at LRDC.

She than 20 years’ experience in systemic school change, culturally relevant teaching, and professional learning for racial equity in K-12 settings to the position.

Most recently, Allie was the executive director of Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Equity Office, where she worked to ensure educational equity across all schools as part of the district’s equity plan.

Prior to Pittsburgh Public Schools, Allie was principal of Propel Andrew Street High School in Munhall. During her tenure (2011-2016), Propel Andrew Street High School was ranked as one of the Best High Schools in America in 2014 for math and reading proficiency and college preparation by U.S. News and World Report. 

MaCalus V. Hogan

School of Medicine professor Hogan picked to succeed Freddie Fu at Pitt and UPMC

MaCalus V. Hogan — a professor of orthopaedic surgery in the School of Medicine, with secondary appointments in the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering and the Katz Graduate School of Business — has been selected to succeed Freddie Fu as chair of Pitt’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and chair of orthopaedic surgery at UPMC.

Fu, who led the departments from 1998 to his death in September 2021, was an internationally renowned orthopaedic scientist and surgeon who helped revolutionize anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction and was extoled specifically for his scientific research and clinical expertise in treating ACL injuries, common in athletes of all ages and skill levels.

Hogan was recruited to Pitt and UPMC by Fu in 2013.. Hogan also has been serving as the chief of foot and ankle surgery at UPMC, vice chair of education and residency program director in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UPMC. He was the founder and director of the Foot and Ankle Injury Research (F.A.I.R.) group at Pitt, within the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

He serves as a foot and ankle consultant for the athletic departments at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, and Robert Morris University. He is the assistant team physician for Point Park University, including the Conservatory of Performing Arts, and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and also serves as the foot and ankle consultant for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the UPMC Sports Medicine Institute.

“The appointment of an individual to replace the ‘irreplaceable’ Dr. Freddie Fu is a decision that required great consideration. After a lengthy and very deliberate selection process, Dr. Hogan was clearly the preferred choice to not only build upon Dr. Fu’s legacy, but also lead the department into new territories for the future,” Anantha Shekhar, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences, said in a news release. “His commitment to building a diverse environment at Pitt/UPMC and growing the academic excellence in musculoskeletal research made him the ideal next chair.”

Originally from Muscle Shoals, Ala., Hogan completed his undergraduate studies at Xavier University of Louisiana with a B.S. in biochemistry and minor in biology. He received his medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and completed his orthopaedic surgery residency at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, Va., which included a National Institutes of Health Clinician Scientist fellowship year with a focus in musculoskeletal tissue repair and regeneration. He completed his foot and ankle fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, where he served as a consultant for the New York Ballet Company, American Ballet Theatre, and several collegiate and professional sports teams. In 2018, Dr. Hogan also earned an executive master of business administration in health care at the Katz Graduate School of Business.

Michelle Stewart named new head of Homewood CEC

Pitt’s Community Engagement Center in Homewood has a new leader — Michelle Stewart, who was born and raised in the neighborhood.

“My experiences in this community allow me to take an authentic approach to the work in this position,” Stewart said. “When I'm reaching out to people in the community and building relationships, I can authentically speak to what the community’s needs are and what residents have experienced or gone through”

Stewart succeeds Darren Ellerbee in the Homewood job. Ellerbe is now the inaugural director of Pitt’s new University Academic Outreach Center in January.

Stewart most recently worked as an administrator in education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in community ministry from Geneva College and her master’s degree in education from Carlow University. She also earned her PA Instructional Certification and K-12 PA Administrative Certification through the Principal Preparation Program at Robert Morris University.

Bee Schindler

Health Sciences names Schindler as inaugural assistant director of DEI

Bee Schindler has been appointed the inaugural assistant director of the Health Sciences Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office, effective Aug. 1.

Schindler most recently served as the diversity and inclusion training manager and social justice fellowship program coordinator within the same office. In the new role, Schindler will manage and evaluate several programs in the DEI Office’s strategic plan, including the overall diversity recruiting and development strategy.

They also will continue to support the director of Social Justice, Racial Equity and Faculty Engagement in the Health Sciences in development of the Health Sciences Social Justice Fellowship Program.  

Before their appointment to assistant director, Schindler did their doctoral work on “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training in Higher Education: How Enrichment Imbued with Reciprocity Could Sustain the Complex Work.”

Schindler earned an Ed.D. in urban education at Pitt; an masters of social work in advanced generalist practice and programming at Columbia University; and a bachelor’s degree in print journalism at the University of Southern California.

Mark Shlomchik stepping down as immunology chair

Mark Shlomchik, who has served as chair of the Department of Immunology since his arrival at Pitt School of Medicine in 2013, will step down from the position, effective Aug. 1.

Shlomchik, UPMC endowed and distinguished professor, will remain on the faculty, where he will focus on his basic and translational research programs. He also will devote time to pursuing the delivery of personalized T cell therapy for cancer through entrepreneurial efforts such as BlueSphere Bio, a startup he cofounded with his brother, Warren Shlomchik. 

During Mark Shlomchik’s tenure as chair, the Department of Immunology has grown significantly and seen many notable successes. The department now includes 22 primary and 62 secondary faculty, with the recruitment of 10 junior and two senior faculty. Department research funding has tripled under his leadership; and his efforts helped unite the diverse community of immunology researchers at Pitt. He also oversaw the creation of new core facilities for mouse genome engineering, flow cytometry, and gnotobiotic mice and spearheaded the development of the graduate program in microbiology and immunology.

Dario Vignali will serve as interim chair of the department until a permanent successor is identified.

Facher adds new commercial translation role at med school

Evan Facher, vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and director of the Innovation Institute, added another title on July 1 — inaugural associate dean for commercial translation in the School of Medicine.

This new appointment formalizes the role Facher has played in the School of Medicine over the past several years in promoting the commercial and societal potential of faculty and student innovations and in working with regional businesses to enhance the life sciences innovation ecosystem in the Pittsburgh region, according to an announcement by Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences, and Rob Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research.

In his new role, Facher will continue this work with a stronger connection to the health sciences. He also will provide direct accountability to the commercialization needs of the health sciences, especially entrepreneurial activities to advance Pitt’s biomedical research into companies and therapies that benefit people in the region and around the world.

Facher has a long history of leadership in the biotech industry. Before coming to Pitt in 2014, he was president/CEO of SironRX Therapeutics, a private, clinical-stage company developing novel drug therapies. Prior to that, he worked in Bayer’s medical device division as general manager of its Pittsburgh interventional business.

He holds a Ph.D. in human genetics from Pitt and an MBA with a concentration in entrepreneurship from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

Octavia Peck Palmer president-elect of clinical chemistry association

Octavia Peck Palmer, Pitt associate professor of pathology, critical care medicine, and clinical and translational sciences in the School of Medicine, has been elected to serve on the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) board of directors as president-elect. Following this, she will serve successive terms as the association’s president from August 2023 through July 2024, and as past president from August 2024 through July 2025. 

“I am elated that AACC’s membership has elected me to serve as president-elect of the association,” said Peck Palmer. “I look forward to working with AACC’s leadership, staff and members to continue to equip laboratory medicine professionals to successfully adapt to the complex challenges and greater demands in health care today. I strive to build upon the organization’s rich history of raising public awareness of laboratory medicine; providing multifaceted educational resources; advocating for health equity; leading global outreach efforts that empower resource-limited clinical laboratories; and driving advancements in the field that improve patient care.” 

Peck Palmer also serves as division director of clinical chemistry and as medical director of UPMC Presbyterian and Shadyside hospitals and automated testing laboratories. She is also the assistant medical director of UPMC Children’s Hospital's automated testing laboratory. 


Student Affairs announces new roles for Oriola, Vincent-Bryan

Pitt's Division of Student Affairs recently announced two new roles for staffers.

Emiola J. Oriola was named inaugural director of the office of belonging and inclusion. Prior to his appointment, he was the founding program manager for the Office of Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement, also in the Division of Student Affairs, where he helped students, campus and community members across various backgrounds share perspectives and build bridges.

Oriola received his bachelor’s degree from Pitt in psychology, a master's degree in Theology from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and his doctorate in Education from Pitt. His research focuses on experiential learning, global perspectives and building learning skills in students through intentional exposure, communal dialogue and creative expression. He describes himself as a lover of people who strives to build unity in diversity proactively and intentionally.

DaVaughn Vincent-Bryan was named director of involvement and student unions in the Division of Student Affairs. He joined Pitt’s residence life team in 2016 as assistant director for programming, and  most recently served as associate director for residential experience. He created several signature programs including Pitt’s Got Talent, Late Night Breakfast and Panther Pride Week.

Vincent-Bryan, the first in his family to pursue higher education, earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and public communication from the University of Vermont, his master’s in organization leadership from Southern New Hampshire University and is pursuing a doctorate in Education in Pitt’s School of Education with a research focus on fostering cohesion through shared mission development. 


“kienes somos nosotrxs” by Mili Rodriguez

Winners of Art of Diversity Showcase announced

Pitt's Art of Diversity Showcase returned this year with nearly 50 submissions including photography, videography and written and visual works.

Presented by the University’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and the Center for Creativity, the third-annual exhibition ran concurrently with the 2022 Diversity Forum. It featured artwork from members of the Pitt and regional communities intended to expand diversity consciousness, displayed an awareness and understanding of intersectionality, and celebrated minoritized cultures and perspectives, PittWire reported. 

Five first-place winners received $500 awards and four honorable mentions won $250. 

Winners include: 

Writing: “Black Joy” by Alex Tha Great, Instagram @followthagreat

Visual art (2D, 3D, photography): “kienes somos nosotrxs” by Mili Rodriguez, Instagram @confiscatedrubberband (pictured above)

Performance (video, music, slam): “Time” by Black Girl Untold, Instagram @blackgirl.untold

Interdisciplinary (works that cross genres): “Paper Cut” by Lu (Clara) Wang, Instagram @la_schtroumpf

People’s Choice: Marissa Muchnok and Sophie Tayade for their film, “What Will People Say”

Honorable mentions include: 

Writing: “Prayer to a Black Goddess” by Luana Moreira Reis, Instagram @luanamoreirareis

Visual art (2D, 3D, photography): “Our Favorite Color” by Korey Edmonson, Instagram @koreytheartist

Performance (video, music, slam): “Golden Legacies” by Iman Clark, Instagram @iman__c

Interdisciplinary (works that cross genres): “What Are You?” by Eva, Instagram @evameilin