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March 3, 2011

People of the Times

soskaTracy Soska, director of continuing education at the School of Social Work and co-director of the University’s Community Outreach Partnership Center, will be honored in May with the Community Ally Award, given by Community Human Services.

CHS provides shelter, housing, a food pantry, free medical and mental health services, homeless outreach, rental assistance, community support and in-home help to adults with disabilities.

In announcing the award, Adrienne Walnoha, CHS chief executive officer, said, “As we were planning for this year, we could not think of a person who more genuinely embodies the spirit of civic engagement, community development and relationship-building than Tracy. In these challenging times … it is people like him that inspire us to dig deep, stand our ground and bring the best of ourselves to work each and every day.”

Soska has had long community-related service, notably on the University Senate’s community relations committee. He was a recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award in 2002.

The School of Medicine recently named J. Peter Rubin, an expert on adult stem cells derived from fat tissue and body contouring surgery, as chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

RubinIn addition to his role as division chief, Rubin is director of the UPMC Life After Weight Loss Program. He is co-director of the Adipose Stem Cell Center and co-director of the UPMC Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Center. Rubin’s laboratory research focuses on applications of adult adipose-derived stem cells for restoring damaged tissues after trauma and cancer therapy. He currently is the lead investigator for clinical trials using technologies designed to improve the lives of wounded military personnel.

Rubin has received numerous awards for his research work, most notably for the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering and for his National Institutes of Health-funded work with fat-derived stem cells.

As a past president of the International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics and Science, Rubin led a group of scientists worldwide who study the use of fat stem cells for treating numerous disorders. He also has been chair of the Plastic Surgery Research Council, the oldest basic science research organization in the field of plastic surgery.

He currently serves as chair of a joint task force of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons on the use of stem cells.

Additionally, Rubin serves as the liaison between the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons, working to promote safety and quality standards in plastic surgery after weight loss.

Eric Swanson, a faculty member in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, recently was elected as a fellow of the American Physical Society. Swanson was elected for “contributions to the theory of hadron spectroscopy, especially in the areas of charm-quark mesons, gluonic excitations and mesonic molecules.”

Swanson’s research concentrates on describing the structure and interactions of hadrons, those particles that are made of quarks and gluons.

Francesca (Checka) Leinwall has been named vice president of Student Affairs at the Titusville campus.

Leinwall comes to Pitt-Titusville from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where she most recently was director of campus activities and programs and associate director of student life.

She is a member of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, the American College Personnel Association and the American Institute of Parliamentarians.

She completed her bachelor’s degree at Western Maryland College and graduate degrees from the University of Virginia and Penn State.

DayBilly Day, a faculty member in pharmaceutical sciences at the School of Pharmacy, was elected as the 2011-12 chairperson-elect of the steering committee of the Chemistry in Cancer Research working group (CICR) of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The mission of CICR is to promote the future success of cancer research through the scholarly exchange of chemistry-related information within the community of researchers that utilize chemical sciences and technologies in accomplishing their objectives.

Day’s research has centered on the chemistry and pharmacology/toxicology of cancer, particularly anti-tubulin/microtubule agents, anti-estrogens, anti-topoisomerase II agents and nitric oxide and pro/anti-oxidant biochemistry.

Annette Devito Dabbs, a faculty member in the Department of  Acute and Tertiary Care, School of Nursing, has been named Clinical Nurse Specialist Researcher of the Year by the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, an organization that represents all clinical nurse specialists in the United States.

Katherine Wisner, a faculty member in psychiatry, recently received the American Medical Women’s Association’s 2011 Women in Science Award.

The award is presented to a woman physician who has made exceptional contributions to medical science, especially in women’s health, through her basic clinical research, her publications and leadership in her field. Wisner

Wisner’s research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) since 1988. She has served on NIMH grant review sections since 1994.

She is only the second American to be elected president of the Marce International Society for the study of Childbearing Related Disorders.

Her major interest is women’s health across the life cycle, with a particular focus on childbearing. She is a pioneer in the development of strategies to distinguish the effects during pregnancy of mental illness from medications used to treat it.

Wisner was elected to the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in 2005. She received the Dr. Robert L. Thompson Award for Community Service from Healthy Start of Pittsburgh in 2006 and the Pennsylvania Perinatal Partnership Service Award in 2007.


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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