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July 7, 2005


Thomas A. Medsger Jr., Gerald P. Rodnan Professor of Medicine at the Pitt School of Medicine, recently received the “Doctor of the Year” award from the Scleroderma Foundation in recognition of his career-long work in clinical research and treatment of scleroderma.

Medsger is world-recognized for scleroderma research and has made significant contributions to understanding the epidemiology, clinical and laboratory features and natural history of this disease.

Medsger, who also serves as division chief of rheumatology and clinical immunology and is director of the scleroderma research program and UPMC’s Scleroderma Clinic, received the award last month at the Scleroderma Foundation’s annual meeting in Boston, where he was a principal speaker.

Scleroderma is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the auto-immune rheumatic diseases. It is estimated that there are 300,000 persons with scleroderma in the United States, including 80,000 -100,000 with the systemic form and the rest with the localized form.

The Scleroderma Foundation is the national organization for people with scleroderma and their families and friends. It was formed in January 1998, by a merger between the West Coast-based United Scleroderma Foundation and the East Coast-based Scleroderma Federation. Medsger chaired the foundation’s combined research grants committee for three years and for the last 10 years has served as treasurer and member of the board of directors of the foundation’s western Pennsylvania chapter.

Medsger also has published on adult-onset Still’s disease, polymyositis-dermatomyositis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Raynaud’s disease and Sjogren’s disease.


Joseph Myers, a sports injury researcher and associate director of the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory (NMRL) at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, has been awarded the 2005 New Investigator Award from the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) Research and Education Foundation. Myers received his award last week at NATA’s 56th annual meeting and clinical symposia in Indianapolis.

The award recognizes outstanding research contributions to sports medicine and athletic training during the five years following completion of a Ph.D., which Myers completed in 2001. He was a unanimous selection in his first year of nomination.

Myers’s ongoing work at the NMRL has focused on identifying specific neuromuscular and biomechanical alterations associated with the treatment and rehabilitation of shoulder injuries and disease conditions. These investigations in particular can assist clinicians in more effectively managing injuries in overhead-throwing athletes.

In December 2004, Myers received a grant from the Aircast Foundation Inc. to look at functional impairment in patients with rotator cuff injuries. He also has been studying shoulder injuries in throwing athletes, with funding from NFL Charities.

Myers also is an assistant professor and coordinator of graduate studies in sports medicine at Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition. He also is an assistant professor in the medical school’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

The NATA award is called the Freddie H. Fu, M.D., New Investigator Award. Fu is the David Silver Professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Pitt’s School of Medicine.


Pitt has named Anna C. Balazs a Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in the School of Engineering.

Balazs received the title of distinguished professor for her extraordinary levels of achievement within her field.

Balazs’s research focuses on theoretical and computer modeling of the thermodynamic and kinetic behavior of polymer blends and composites. She also investigates the properties of polymers at surfaces and interfaces.

After holding postdoctoral positions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts, Balazs joined Pitt’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 1987 as an assistant professor. In 1997, Balazs moved to the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.

In addition to being a distinguished professor, Balazs also is Robert Von der Luft Professor and a researcher in the University’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Institute of NanoScience and Engineering.

Balazs also is a senior visiting fellow at the Oxford Center for Advanced Materials and Composites and the Materials Science Department of Oxford University in England.

Among her many awards are the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award from Pitt and the National Science Foundation’s Special Creativity Award.


Savio L-Y. Woo, Whiteford Professor and director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center in the Department of Bioengineering, has been selected to receive the 2005 Robert Henry Thurston Lecture Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

This award was established in 1925 to honor Robert Henry Thurston, the first president of the ASME and is given yearly to the person who best encourages stimulating thinking on a subject of broad technical interest to engineers.

Woo will be honored at the ASME international mechanical engineering conference Nov. 10, when he will deliver a lecture entitled, “Going From In Vitro to In Vivo: The New Big Challenges for Ligament and Tendon Biomechanics Research.”


Guo-Qiang Bi, assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Pitt School of Medicine, recently was awarded a fellowship to conduct research this summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), an internationally renowned biomedical and environmental research center on Cape Cod, Mass.

Bi is one of eight scientists to receive a prestigious MBL summer research fellowship this year. He will live and work through Aug. 5 at MBL, the oldest private marine laboratory in the Western Hemisphere.

Bi’s research is focused on understanding the cellular basis of learning and memory to provide insights into related disorders. At MBL, he and his wife and research associate, Pak-Ming Lau, will be using advanced imaging and electrophysiological methods to study the synaptic connections between neurons, as well as collective activity of neuronal circuits grown in culture dishes.


Pitt law professor Rhonda Wasserman and Harry J. Gruener, visiting assistant clinical professor, received the Student Bar Association Excellence-in-Teaching Award at the May 28 Pitt law commencement ceremony.

Each year, the law graduating class chooses a full-time faculty member to receive the award. This was the first year in the school’s history that two recipients shared the honor.

Wasserman, who joined the Pitt law faculty in 1986, has published articles on state jurisdiction, federal removal practice, class actions and the use of preliminary injunctions for innovative purposes in such journals as Minnesota Law Review and Boston University Law Review.

An advocate of public-service law, Wasserman has taught courses including Adoption Law, Family Law, Legal Process, Civil Procedures and Conflict of Laws. She received the Excellence-in-Teaching Award in 1990 and the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2000.

Gruener has practiced law in Pennsylvania for more than three decades. A partner at Goldberg, Gruener, Gentile, Horoho & Avalli, P.C., Gruener concentrates on family law. He served as an adjunct professor at Pitt, teaching the Family Law course in 1998, and now serves as the associate director of the Family Law curriculum, designing and teaching additional courses within that area.


Angela Ford, associate director of the Center for Minority Health at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), has been named to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and Sports by Calvin B. Johnson, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, on behalf of Gov. Ed Rendell.

The council assists the Commonwealth in developing new statewide programs that promote physical fitness and serve as an example for Pennsylvanians to be more active.

Ford is one of 11 new appointments to the 15-member board, which includes Nicole Johnson-Baker, government affairs consultant, American Diabetes Association, Miss America 1999 and a student in GSPH’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. Board members serve two-year terms.

The Governor’s Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and Sports was established by an executive order in 1976 and placed under the guidance of the Department of Health. The 15-member council is composed of individuals representing various sectors, including amateur and professional sports, business and industry, state and local governments, other state agencies, persons with special needs, public health, education, community recreational organizations, the medical profession and the general public.


Samuel Gershon, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine, last week received the Mogens Schou Award for distinguished contributions at the sixth International Conference on Bipolar Disorder.

Gershon has dedicated his academic career to biological psychiatry and initiated the first American studies of lithium in bipolar patients more than 40 years ago.

The awards were named in recognition and appreciation of Mogens Schou, honorary president, International Society of Bipolar Disorders, and emeritus professor, The Psychiatric Hospital, Risskov, Denmark, whose groundbreaking research 50 years ago proved lithium’s significant mood stabilizing effects for the treatment of bipolar disorders.

The sixth International Conference on Bipolar Disorder, which was sponsored by Pitt’s School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is the only venue in the world devoted exclusively to highlighting new research into bipolar disorder.

The disease, which affects both adults and children, accounts for nearly half of all suicides in the United States and costs billions in medical bills, missed work and lower productivity.

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