Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

February 20, 2014

Obituary: Sarah E. Wolfe

Sarah E. Wolfe, assistant professor of psychiatry, and her sister Susan Wolfe were killed in their East Liberty home Feb. 7, 2014. Police are investigating.

Born in Clinton, Iowa, on March 14, 1975, Sarah Wolfe earned all her degrees at the University of Iowa: a bachelor’s in psychology in 2001, an MPH in epidemiology in 2003 and an MD in 2007 from Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine.

In 2007 she relocated to Pittsburgh to begin the five-year triple board program in psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry and pediatrics at Pitt under program director Dena Hofkosh. During her training, she consistently ranked in the top percentile of all psychiatry trainees in the national in-training exam. She also received the American Psychiatric Association Outstanding Performance Award for the annual mind games resident competition.

After completing her residency in 2012, she was appointed as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry. She was particularly interested in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders in children with chronic illness, somatoform disorders and pain disorders in children and adolescents. Her work in numerous UPMC clinics such as the John Merck program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC), the Medical Coping Clinic at Children’s Hospital and the Visceral Inflammation and Pain Center at UPMC Presbyterian provided her with the opportunity to pursue those interests.

“She was just fantastic,” recalled Hofkosh. “She was incredibly smart and very passionate.”

Hofkosh said Sarah Wolfe worked with very complex children’s cases “and very challenging social situations associated with poverty and with mental illness in many cases in the family.” She was dedicated to staying connected with the families “and really figuring out how she could be of most help, of best service. Her compassion and ability to connect with very troubled kids and families was quite remarkable.”

Martin Lubetsky, faculty member in psychiatry, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry services at WPIC, and chief of pediatric behavioral health at Children’s Hospital, agreed. “She was dedicated to her patients and was sincere in helping them in every way possible. Sarah was one of our most beloved psychiatrists, and her memory and legacy for compassionate care will carry on with all those who have been honored to know her and work with her.”

An outstanding clinician-educator, she was highly involved in the training and supervision of medical students and residents. She was the resident director of the triple board acting internship for the 2011-12 academic year.

Roberto Ortiz-Aguayo met Sarah Wolfe as a resident in the triple board program and they remained friends and colleagues after their appointment to the psychiatry faculty. “One of Sarah’s best qualities was undoubtedly her humor,” said Ortiz-Aguayo, “While at times — to be honest, most times — it had a decisively self-deprecating twist to it, this was not enough to hide the quiet strength that was at the core of who she was. As a testament, those of us in the triple board program have, for years now, referred to ourselves as ‘The Wolfe Pack’ and we will continue to do so.”

She was a member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

In addition to her education and clinical activities, she was known as an animal rights advocate and vegan who brought home-baked vegan pastries and desserts to her residency locations and clinics.

—Marty Levine