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October 29, 2015

People of the Times

In recognition of her dedication to social activism in southwestern Pennsylvania, a Pitt faculty member has been named a winner of the 2015 Iris Marion Young Award for Political Engagement. The award is named for the philosopher and activist for gender equity who served as a faculty member in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in the 1990s.

Robin Clarke, a lecturer in the Department of English, has been active in numerous social-engagement movements in Pittsburgh, including ongoing efforts to preserve affordable rental housing in East Liberty and the fight to save UPMC Braddock in 2010. She is the author of the nonfiction book “Lines the Quarry,” which examines aspects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine disaster. In addition to teaching in the composition program, Clark is a member of the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers, which works to organize unions for academic workers in Pittsburgh.

The other winners of this year’s awards were Marko Gudic, a senior majoring in economics as well as politics and philosophy, and Abigail Yochum, a joint degree student in the School of Law and School of Social Work.


During the School of Medicine’s annual curriculum colloquium, which was held  Oct. 21, faculty members were honored for outstanding contributions to medical education.

The teaching awards presented and this year’s winners were:

• The Distinguished Service Award in Medical Education, which is the highest honor in medical education given by the School of Medicine: Hollis Day, medicine.

• The Kenneth E. Schuit Dean’s Master Educator Award, which recognizes basic science and clinical faculty for education-related contributions to the School of Medicine curriculum: Donald DeFranco, pharmacology, and Michael Elnicki, medicine.

• The Sheldon Adler Award for Innovation in Medical Education, which recognizes individual achievement in innovation in medical education: Charissa Pacella, emergency medicine, and Paul Phrampus, emergency medicine.

• The Donald S. Fraley Award for Medical Student Mentoring, which recognizes individuals for their service as mentors to medical students: Antoine Douaihy, psychiatry, and Stephanie Gonzalez, emergency medicine.

•The Clerkship Preceptor of the Year Award, which recognizes faculty clinical preceptors who consistently provide outstanding clinical instruction in the clerkship setting for Pitt medical students: Henry Driscoll, psychiatry; David Eibling, otolaryngology; Jean Harwick, ophthalmology;  Brian Heist, medicine; Franziska Jovin, neurology; Laurie Knepper, neurology; Danforth Lincoln, family medicine; Ryan Romeo, anesthesiology; Johanna Rosen, pediatrics; Devereux Saller, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences; Arvind Srinath, pediatrics; Edith Tzeng, surgery; Katherine Watson, pediatrics; Lauren Wendell, emergency medicine.

• The William I. Cohen Award for Excellence in Clinical Skills Instruction, which recognizes faculty who consistently provide outstanding clinical skills instruction: Jason Rosenstock, psychiatry, and Evan Waxman, ophthalmology.

• The Award for Excellence in Clinical Precepting, which recognizes clinical preceptors who consistently provide outstanding clinical instruction in a community setting for Pitt medical students: Lawrence Butler, pediatrics; Madhusudan Menon, medicine; Jennifer Sepp, family medicine. Butler is a three-time winner of this award.

• The Clinical Educator of the Year Award, which recognizes individuals for their service as mentors to medical students in elective courses: Ian Conner, ophthalmology; Christopher Schott, emergency medicine; Sarah Tilstra, medicine.

• The Award for Outstanding Mini-Elective, which recognizes faculty who volunteer their expertise to present a mini-elective for first- and second-year students: Jason Rosenstock, psychiatry, and Ulka Sachdev, surgery.

• The Excellence in Education Awards, chosen by the Class of 2017 for valued contributions and dedication to teaching of the organ systems: course director — Jenifer Lee, medicine; lecturer — Jeffrey Nine, pathology; small-group facilitator — James Johnston, medicine.

• The Excellence in Education Awards, given by the Class of 2018 for valued contributions and dedication to teaching of the basic sciences and organ systems: course director — John B. Schumann, neurobiology; lecturer — Georgia Duker, cell biology; small-group facilitators — Bernard Macatangay, medicine.


Anna C. Balazs is the first woman to win the Polymer Physics Prize, established in 1960 by the American Physical Society to honor outstanding accomplishment in and excellence of contributions to polymer physics research.

Balazs, a distinguished professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering within the Swanson School of Engineering, conducts research related to developing theoretical and computational models that capture the behavior of polymeric materials, nanocomposites and multicomponent fluids.

Balazs is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Materials Research Society. She was a visiting fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University. She was chair of the American Physical Society Division of Polymer Physics, 1999-2000, and received a Special Creativity Award from the National Science Foundation.

In 2003, she received the Maurice Huggins Memorial Award of the Gordon Research Conference for outstanding contributions to polymer science. Recently, she received the Royal Society of Chemistry S F Boys – A Rahman Award (2015), the American Chemical Society Langmuir Lecture Award (2014), and the Mines Medal from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (2013).

Balazs will be honored at the American Physical Society’s annual meeting in March. She will deliver a talk on her work and receive a $10,000 prize.


Pitt’s chapter of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society, has elected officers who will begin serving their 18-month terms in January. They are Peter Koehler, academic assistant to the dean of the University Honors College, president; Lisa Bell-Loncella, chair of the chemistry department at Pitt-Johnstown, vice president; and Judith Yanowitz, faculty member in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences in the School of Medicine, secretary-treasurer.


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has named Robert H. Squires winner of its 2015 Murray Davidson Award. Squires is a faculty member in pediatrics and director of pediatric hepatology, a program of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Children’s Hospital. The award was presented at the annual meeting of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) in Washington, D.C.

The award recognizes an outstanding clinician, educator and scientist who has made significant contributions to the field of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition.

Squires is the principal investigator for the multicenter, multinational National Institutes of Health-sponsored pediatric acute liver failure study group; the site principal investigator for the Childhood Liver Disease Research Network; and was the principal investigator for the Pediatric Intestinal Failure Consortium.

Squires served as chair of the AAP Section on Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition and was an executive council member of NASPGHAN.


Phil Brooks, an entrepreneur and business consultant with 30-plus years of experience in manufacturing, mining, information technology, life sciences and entertainment, has joined the Innovation Institute as a full-time executive in residence.

In this role Brooks will mentor faculty and students seeking to commercialize their innovations by assisting with strategic planning, grant writing support, competitive analysis, market research and finance.

Brooks has served in a variety of roles with university-based spinouts at Pitt, Carnegie Mellon and Lehigh, including serving as CEO and COO of two stem cell companies.

For the past 17 years Brooks has co-owned Brooks Consulting LLC, a management consulting firm. Prior to this, he owned a public relations firm focused on the high tech sector and also served as a director of a large accounting firm. He has a BS in biology and an MS in pharmacotherapeutics, as well as an MBA.

Brooks currently chairs the growth and transaction committee and is a member of the screening committee for BlueTree Allied Angels, a Pittsburgh-based early-stage investment firm.


Law professor emerita Stella Smetanka has received the 2015 Outstanding Pro Bono Award from the Pro Bono Center of the Allegheny County Bar Association. This award honors her contributions to providing free legal services to low-income residents of Allegheny County over the past year.

Smetanka currently directs the law school’s Social Security disability practicum, has supervised the Health Law Clinic, is a member of the board of directors for the Neighborhood Legal Services Association and volunteers at the Uptown Legal Clinic based in Bethlehem Haven. She has received the Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award from Pitt, the Woman of the Year award from the Pitt Law Women’s Association, the Women’s Bar Association of Western Pennsylvania and from the Women in the Law Division of the Allegheny County Bar Association.


Timothy Burke, a faculty member in the School of Medicine, has been named interim director at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, effective Nov. 1.

Burke is chief of staff and interim director at VA Butler Healthcare. Previously, he served as a primary care doctor at the VA Pittsburgh 2004-11 and was named vice president of the medical center’s primary care service line in 2007.


Terence W. Starz, faculty member in the School of Medicine Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, was named “Arthritis Healthcare Professional of the Year” by the Arthritis Foundation.

The award is presented annually to a health care professional who, the foundation says, has served it “in a leadership role and worked diligently to spread its mission.”

In his involvement with the Arthritis Foundation, Starz promotes arthritis education, access to care, research, partnership development, fundraising and advocacy. He has been on the executive committee of the western Pennsylvania chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, western and central Pennsylvania/West Virginia, since 1982.

For the last six years, Starz has served on the Arthritis Foundation’s Great Lakes region board of directors, where his interest in chronic pain led to his co-authoring a patient education program titled “Breaking the Pain Chain,” which is designed to help participants understand and manage the pain associated with arthritis.

Starz is a practicing rheumatologist and internist at UPMC Shadyside and UPMC Passavant, and he has done clinical research in rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and low back pain. He also is a clinical professor of occupational therapy at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

He is a past president of the Allegheny County Medical Society and the Pennsylvania Rheumatology Society.


The research of neuroscience faculty member Yan Dong in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, showing how drugs such as cocaine can hijack the brain’s circuitry, leading to addiction, has earned him the Society for Neuroscience’s Jacob P. Waletzky Award.

Dong received the $25,000 award at the society’s annual meeting. The award was established in 2003 and is given annually to a scientist who has conducted research or plans to conduct research in the area of substance abuse and the brain and nervous system.

The society cited Dong’s research for expanding understanding of brain mechanisms that underlie motivation and how drugs of abuse can impact these mechanisms. His research has characterized how drugs of abuse alter the way cells in the brain communicate with each other; identified that exposure to cocaine produces long-lasting changes in the way that the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens — two brain regions implicated in motivation and reward — talk to each other; and shown that these brain changes mediate the relapse to drug-seeking behavior after a period of abstinence.


The management accounting section of the American Accounting Association presented its 2015 Best Early Career Researcher in Management Accounting Award to Jongwoon “Willie” Choi, faculty member in business administration.


John Kirkwood, the Thomas and Sandra Usher Professor of Medicine, Dermatology and Translational Science and director of the melanoma and skin cancer program, received the Elsie Hillman Distinguished Scholar Award at this year’s Hillman Cancer Center gala.

Kirkwood served as founding associate director for medical oncology for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and served as chief of medical oncology until 1996. He has directed the Melanoma Center of UPCI since 1986 and is the principal investigator of the recently renewed Pittsburgh SPORE in Melanoma and Skin Cancer.

His research focuses on the immunotherapy and molecular therapy of melanoma and its precursors.


Brian Root, assistant director of housing and residence life on the Greensburg campus, received the Pitt-Greensburg Alumni Association (PGAA) Volunteer Excellence Award. The award was presented during the alumni celebration dinner held Oct. 2 as part of Pitt-Greensburg’s homecoming.

The PGAA Volunteer Excellence Award was established in 2009 to honor alumni who have dedicated a significant amount of personal time to attending alumni meetings and events, working on special projects, and contributing to the overall success of both the alumni association and the University.

Root has been active with the PGAA since graduating from Pitt-Greensburg in 2004. He is one of the 2004 class agents and has served as the PGAA secretary and vice president. He currently is chair of the PGAA events committee.

He served twice as president of the Kiwanis Club of Greensburg and is one of the campus co-chairs for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) One Walk, which brings hundreds of people to Pitt-Greensburg’s campus.

Root also directs the outdoor adventure and community service living community, and advises the Circle K Club and the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity, where he leads the primary alternative spring break trip. Root is UPG’s employee campaign coordinator for the United Way campaign.

This spring, he received the Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the University and to the Community.

He also received the 2014 President’s Distinguished Service Award for Staff at Pitt-Greensburg.


Lynn Coghill, director of the MSW program in the School of Social Work, has been named Social Worker of the Year by the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.



The People of the Times column features recent news on faculty and staff, including awards and other honors, accomplishments and administrative appointments.

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