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May 28, 2015

People of the Times

Ellen R. Cohn, faculty member in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders and associate dean for instructional development, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, will join the board of the Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association as president-elect on July 1.

Cohn also begins a fourth year term as a member of the American Telemedicine Association’s board of directors.


Timothy Billiar, George Vance Foster Professor and chair, Department of Surgery in the School of Medicine as well as vice president and chief academic officer for University of Pittsburgh Physicians, has been awarded the Medallion for Scientific Achievement, the highest honor conferred by the American Surgical Association (ASA).

“This is a much-deserved and singular honor for a physician-scientist who has excelled in his profession,” said Arthur S. Levine, senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine. “Dr. Billiar is a stellar researcher who has made invaluable contributions to our understanding of critical molecular pathways in shock, sepsis, cardiovascular disease and much more.”

The Medallion for Scientific Achievement is given to a surgeon who has served in his or her field with unusual distinction. Awarded 27 times in the last 45 years, other recipients include Pitt’s Bernard Fisher (2000) and Thomas Starzl (1990).

Billiar was named chief of the Department of Surgery in 1999. He was appointed the first Samuel P. Harbison Assistant Professor of Surgery at Pitt in 1992, after serving as chief surgical resident for two years and completing three years as a research fellow at Pitt’s School of Medicine.

He began his postgraduate training at the University of Minnesota and received his medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

He also holds the title of distinguished professor and was elected in 2006 to membership in the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences.


mcconnell-serioSuzie McConnell-Serio, head coach of the women’s basketball team, won this year’s History Makers Award in the sports category.

The awards honor persons who have changed the region, the nation and the world.

Proceeds from the awards dinner support the Heinz History Center educational programs, exhibits and collections.


Ben Bratman, faculty member in the School of Law, has won the Eric W. Springer Professionalism Award.

Established to recognize outstanding members of the W. Edward Sell American Inn of Court, this award honors lawyers or judges in the region whose life and practice display sterling character and unquestioned integrity, coupled with ongoing dedication to the highest standards of the legal profession and the rule of the law.

The award honors the legacy of Eric W. Springer, a veteran attorney of 50 years whose work includes preparing litigation related to Brown v. Board of Education with Thurgood Marshall. As a founding member of the W. Edward Sell American Inn of Court, he served as a faculty member at the School of Law and a research professor in the Graduate School of Public Health.


ROOTBrian Root, assistant director of housing and residence life at Pitt-Greensburg, is one of 12 local residents recognized by the Boy Scouts of America Westmoreland-Fayette Council as “Trailblazers of Westmoreland County.” The program honors those who embody the 12 virtues of Scout law. Root, although he has never been a Scout, was recognized for his loyalty.

Chuck Boyer, president of the Greensburg Kiwanis Club, nominated Root for the Trailblazer award. “He’s probably one of the most committed people to community service that I’ve ever known, and I’ve been involved with Kiwanis for over 30 years,” Boyer said.

Root volunteers for the local Kiwanis Club, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the United Way and many other community organizations.


John F. Alcorn, faculty member in pediatrics at the School of Medicine and in the Division of Pulmonology at Children’s Hospital, has been selected as the 2015 recipient of the Parker B. Francis Jo Rae Wright Award for Scientific Excellence.

The award was established by the Parker B. Francis fellowship program and the Francis Family Foundation to honor Jo Rae Wright. The award was presented to Alcorn at the American Thoracic Society meeting.

“The Parker B. Francis Fellowship Program and the Francis Family Foundation have been instrumental in my early career development to independence,” said Alcorn. “Receiving this award is exceptionally meaningful to me as I previously completed my PhD training under Jo Rae’s mentorship at Duke University. I am honored to be the recipient of the Jo Rae Wright Award and I hope to continue on the path toward becoming a leader in pulmonary research.”

Alcorn’s research focuses on T-cell mediated immunity during influenza infections and secondary bacterial pneumonia, as well as the role of T-cells in severe, steroid-insensitive asthma.

The Parker B. Francis Jo Rae Wright Award for Scientific Excellence is given annually to a recent graduate of the fellowship program whose research shows outstanding creativity and promise and who has demonstrated outstanding mentoring and professional leadership qualities. Alcorn will receive a one-time award of $5,000 to be used to support research costs.

Wright was a scientist, teacher and mentor, and a leader in academia and professional organizations.

She served as dean of Duke University’s graduate school and as a member of the Parker B. Francis Fellowship Program Council of Scientific Advisors 2004-07 and was a mentor to Parker B. Francis fellows.


Carrie Leana, the George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management at the Katz Graduate School of Business, has been elected to the board of governors of the Academy of Management, the professional association for management and organization scholars.

Leana’s research and training are in the area of organizational behavior. She has published two books and more than 100 papers on topics such as authority structures at work, employment relations and human and social capital development. She has done field research in steel mills, public schools, insurance firms, aerospace contractors, police departments, child care centers and nursing homes.


Ann Thompson, vice dean of the School of Medicine and faculty member in critical care medicine, is one of seven women selected by the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh for its 2015Tribute to Women Leadership Awards. She is being recognized for her service in the area of health care.

“The awardees all come from different sectors which distinguishes them, but they’ve all done some extraordinary work to advance the opportunities for women,” says Magdeline Jensen, CEO of YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh.

Nominations were open to the public and a panel of judges selected the final seven based on leadership, community volunteer work that goes above and beyond their professional careers and the length of their involvement.

“We were looking for women who have blazed some leadership to advance the leadership for all women in their communities,” says Jensen.


The Press Club of Western Pennsylvania announced the winners of the 51st annual Golden Quill Awards last week. The competition recognizes professional excellence in written, photographic, broadcast and online journalism in western Pennsylvania.

Cristina Rouvalis won a Golden Quill in the Education Features, Magazines category for “Lessons of the Heart” in Pitt Magazine.

Pitt also had five finalists in the competition:

• History/Culture Article or Series, Nondaily Newspapers finalist: Anthony Moore, “Africa’s Cultural Diversity Embodied in the Artifacts and Design of One Room,” Pitt Chronicle.

• Profile Feature, Magazines finalist: Sally Ann Flecker, “When Fred Met Margaret,” Pitt Med.

• Health/Science/Environment Feature, Magazines finalist: Cindy Gill, “Well Aged,” Pitt Magazine.

• Health/Science/Environment Article or Series, Nondaily Newspapers finalist: Joe Miksch, “Spider Personality Test: What Group Trait Leads to a Busy Life?” Pitt Chronicle.

• Feature Illustration finalist: Catherine Lazure, “Trying on Personalized Medicine,” Pitt Med.


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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