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May 11, 2006


Among the faculty and staff of Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences whose work recently has been acknowledged with awards and accolades are the following:

• At its 97th annual meeting in Washington, D.C., last month, the American Association for Cancer Research presented Bernard Fisher, Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery at the School of Medicine, with its Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is given to individuals who have had a lasting impact on the cancer field through a single scientific discovery or a body of work.

Fisher, a graduate of the medical school who has been a member of its faculty since 1944, was recognized for his pioneering research on tumor metastasis that contributed to a better understanding of the spread of cancer. He is particularly well-known for his work with adjuvant breast cancer therapy that demonstrated the effectiveness of tamoxifen as a preventive measure for women at high risk for developing the disease, and he was a co-founder of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, a research consortium that explores various cancer treatments.

• The Society for Adolescent Medicine named Brian Primack, assistant professor in the medical school’s Division of General Internal Medicine, as its 2006 New Investigator of the Year at the group’s annual meeting in Boston.

The New Investigator of the Year honor is bestowed upon an outstanding researcher fewer than seven years removed from his terminal degree who has made significant contributions to adolescent health through his work. Primack received this national award based on his professional experience, his colleagues’ recommendations and a manuscript he submitted to the society, “Association of Adolescent Smoking and Media Literacy About Smoking.”

The study suggests that students with higher smoking media literacy scores are significantly less likely to smoke than those with lower media literacy scores, even after controlling for multiple variables.

• Claudia Roth, president and CEO, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, has been elected to the board of directors for the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems (NAPHS). She will serve a three-year term, which will last through December 2008.

NAPHS membership is comprised of behavioral health care provider organizations that own or manage more than 600 specialty psychiatric hospitals; general hospital psychiatric and addiction treatment units and behavioral health care divisions; residential treatment facilities; youth services organizations, and extensive outpatient networks. The association was founded in 1933.

• Malcolm McNeil, chair of the Department of Communication Science and Disorders in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), was selected to receive Honors of the Council by the Council of Graduate Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders. This recognition is given to one educator nationwide per year.

McNeil was recognized for his contributions to the council, along with his achievements in graduate education in communication sciences and disorders.

McNeil has served on the council’s executive board for four years and for two consecutive terms as its treasurer, in addition to his service on other council committees.

In addition, McNeil and SHRS colleague Joan C. Rogers, professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy, were named as two of Therapy Times’s “most influential leaders, luminaries and influencers in the therapy industry.”

McNeil was recognized for his research on aphasia and his theoretical reformulation and research on apraxia of speech. Rogers was recognized for her long history of empowering others, including patients with dementia and depression.

Rogers also recently was elected to the board of directors of the American Occupational Therapy Association. In addition, she received a Star Award from the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals for her long-standing contribution to arthritis care and research.


The founding member of Pitt’s biology department was honored last week in Harrisburg. Max A. Lauffer, 91, was cited by Gov. Ed Rendell: “It is with a remarkable caliber of character, an exceptional talent for leadership and a passion for public service that you continually surpass the call of duty and make a positive impact on your community and our entire commonwealth.”

In 1949, Lauffer became the chair of the newly created Department of Biophysics at the University (now known as the Department of Biological Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences).

Lauffer also was recognized by the biology department as a distinguished founding member of the Department of Biological Sciences.

At a May 6 ceremony, the department also announced the establishment of the Tousimis-Lauffer Distinguished Annual Lecture in Biological Sciences through a gift from Anastasios J. Tousimis, president and CEO of Tousimis Research Corp., Inc., of Rockville, Md. Tousimis, who was one of Lauffer’s students, earned a B.S. and M.S. in biophysics at Pitt in early 1950s, and a Ph.D. degree from George Washington University.

During his career, Lauffer was known internationally for his research on the structure and biological activity of viruses. He earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Minnesota in 1937. After working at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research at Princeton University, he joined Pitt in 1944 as part of an interdisciplinary group of distinguished professors who were developing new programs in the study of viruses.

Lauffer became the first chair of the Department of Biophysics when the department was founded in 1949 and dean of the Division of Natural Sciences in 1956. In 1963, he left his administrative post to return to Pitt’s biophysics department as Andrew W. Mellon Professor.

He edited the Biophysical Journal, the official publication of the American Biophysical Society, of which he was once president.

Lauffer’s many awards and honors include the Eli Lilly and Company Research Award in Biochemistry, the Pittsburgh Award of the American Chemical Society and the University of Minnesota Outstanding Achievement Award.

When Lauffer retired in 1984, Pitt hosted a symposium at which eminent colleagues reported on advances in the field Lauffer had helped create. One of those in attendance was Jonas Salk, Lauffer’s former colleague and discoverer of the Salk polio vaccine.


Joseph S. Alter, a professor in the Department of Anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences, has received the 2006 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize from the South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) for his book, “Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between Science and Philosophy.”

Founded in 1941, AAS is a scholarly, nonprofit organization devoted to the facilitation of educational opportunities for those interested in Asia through publications, meetings and seminars.

A sociocultural anthropologist whose area of interest is South Asia, Alter earned his Ph.D. at the University of California-Berkeley in 1989. He has conducted research on the symbolic meaning of the body in the practice of Indian wrestling; the relationship between sexuality, male celibacy and nationalism in postcolonial India, and the development of scientific yoga therapy as a modern, middle-class form of public health in urban India.

“Yoga in Modern India” is considered to be the first cohesive ethnographic history of modern yoga in India, written not only for students and scholars, but also for practitioners who seek a deeper understanding of how yoga developed into the popular phenomenon it is today.

Alter is the author of several other books, including “The Wrestler’s Body: Identity and Ideology in North India” and “Knowing Dil Das: Stories of a Himalayan Hunter.”


Pitt faculty and staff recently won the 2006 CGS Student Choice Awards, which are determined by nominations from College of General Studies students. The awards, which were announced at a reception on April 21, are designed to highlight teachers and staff who are dedicated to Pitt’s non-traditional students.

Awardees included:

Sherry Miller Brown, director of the McCarl Center for Non-traditional Student Success; Tim Carr, CGS adviser; Ellen Cohn, associate professor and assistant dean for instruction at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences; David Defazio, adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs; David Korman, adjunct professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs; Joanne E. Meldon, mathematics department faculty member; Linda Howard, CGS manager of customer service and noncredit operations; Melvin Watkins, CGS adviser, and Carol Stanton, CGS career counselor.


The Edward and Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University Center (JUC) of Pittsburgh this week honored Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon for fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between the Hillel JUC and the universities they serve.

In addition to being a focal point of Jewish cultural identity and religious celebration, the Hillel JUC plays a role on both campuses and in the community by promoting social justice and diversity programs that help build bridges between different groups on campus.

Together with the universities, the Hillel JUC strives to forge links between students and the western Pennsylvania region, recognizing the potential for strengthening the community as students consider establishing independent lives, careers and families in the Pittsburgh region.

Richard Kalson, president of the Hillel JUC’s Board of Directors, stated, “Our Hillel is very dedicated to working together with our local universities to foster a vibrant campus community, and we are proud to publicly acknowledge the value of this relationship by honoring President Jared Cohon and Chancellor Mark Nordenberg at our annual community event.”


David Willey, physics instructor at the Johnstown campus, has received the 2005-2006 President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award was presented at the UPJ commencement ceremony on May 6.

According to UPJ President Albert Etheridge, “Dave approaches his teaching with an uncommon passion for the students to learn and for them to understand the principles of physics. He instills students with an unfulfilled desire to know more and to understand more.”

Willey’s student evaluations are filled with praise for his teaching, Etheridge added. “He challenges his students to craft their scientific inquiries carefully, to think critically and to formulate nontraditional approaches to problem solving. Through open dialogue and an insistence for excellence, he consistently prepares students to think and solve problems in different ways.”

Willey might be best known as a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” Etheridge said. “He has wowed audiences with his demonstrations of physics. Through his appearances on ‘The Tonight Show,’ Dave is reaching millions with his message of the importance of science and its application in everyday life. His devotion to physics and, more importantly, his ability to inculcate students with a love and appreciation for science has won the admiration of colleagues from across the region and beyond. As a teacher, colleague and role model, [Dave] is regarded as intellectually spirited, challenging and enthusiastic.”

Willey earned his B.S. from Aston University, U.K., a certificate in education from Birmingham University, U.K., and an M.S. from Ohio State University. He joined the Pitt-Johnstown faculty in 1975. In 1990 he received the Dr. Ed Vizzini Teacher of the Year award.

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