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December 10, 2015

People of the Times

Velpandi Ayyavoo, faculty member in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, has been appointed Velpandiassociate dean for faculty affairs at the Graduate School of Public Health.

The associate dean for faculty affairs oversees all faculty activities including appointments, promotions and the tenure process.

Ayyavoo succeeds Todd Reinhart, who is leaving the University to become dean of sciences and health professions at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Ayyavoo joined the Pitt faculty in 2000. She has authored or co-authored more than 70 publications, brought in more than $6 million in extramural support, served on more than 60 dissertation and thesis committees and mentored 15 post docs.

In stepping into her role as associate dean for faculty affairs, Ayyavoo has outlined the following priorities: increase support for career development of junior faculty members; participate in efforts to diversify the faculty; and seek advice from faculty about their key issues and concerns regarding faculty recruitment, promotion and tenure.


Amy Houtrow, faculty member in physical medicine and rehabilitation and pediatrics at the School of Medicine and chief Houtrowof the Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Children’s Hospital, has been named to the pediatric standing committee for the National Quality Forum pediatric measurement endorsement project.

Houtrow joins a group of clinicians, researchers, administrators and advocates who are evaluating measures related to child health that will be used for public reporting and accountability for all pediatric populations and in all settings of care.

Launched in July, the project will address topic areas that include preventive services, management of acute conditions and management of chronic conditions for children and adolescents.

The 27-member steering committee will evaluate newly submitted measures and make recommendations for which measures should be endorsed as national consensus standards for accountability and quality improvement in pediatric care.

Houtrow’s clinical focus is on treating children with disabling conditions and improving their health, function and quality of life. Her research evaluates trends in disabilities among children and how to improve health services to optimize outcomes.

In addition to the National Quality Forum committee, she serves on the Institute of Medicine standing committee of medical experts to assist Social Security on disability issues.


Several School of Education faculty members have been honored recently.

Stephen J. Bagnato Jr., a faculty member in both the School of Education and the School of Medicine, was among 21 Penn State alumni honored for their outstanding professional accomplishments and given the lifelong title of Alumni Fellow, the highest award given by the Penn State Alumni Association.

Patricia Crawford, associate chair of the Department of Instruction and Learning, has been awarded an honorable mention from the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) as part of its Distinguished Education Research Article Awards.

Each year, ACEI identifies outstanding articles published in that year’s volume of the Journal of Research in Childhood Education.

Ellice Forman, a faculty member in the Department of Instruction and Learning, was named a 2015 fellow of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Bethany Barone Gibbs, a faculty member in the Department of Health and Physical Activity, received the Outstanding Junior Scientist Award from the University and the Aging Institute of UPMC Senior Services.

Sean Kelly, a faculty member in the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies, received an outstanding reviewer award from the journal Sociology of Education.

Kelly also was invited to join the editorial board of the American Educational Research Journal, one of the flagship publications of AERA.

Rich Milner, Dr. Helen S. Faison Chair in Urban Education, and director of the School of Education’s Center for Urban Education, was named by the American Enterprise Institute as one of 200 university-based scholars who shape public discussions of education.


CopelandAllegheny County Council has appointed School of Social Work Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Valire Carr Copeland to the Accountability, Conduct and Ethics Commission. The commission provides a vehicle for the receipt and investigation of complaints regarding alleged unethical behavior by county officials and employees.


The statewide Nightingale awards program has recognized several Pitt School of Nursing faculty.

Lora Burke was the recipient of the 2015 Nightingale Award for Nursing Research. Kathy Magdic received the 2015 Nightingale Award for Nursing Education — Academia.

In addition, there were two finalists from the nursing school: Susan Wesmiller was a finalist for the Nightingale Award for Nursing Education — Academia and Catherine Grant was a finalist in the Advanced Practice RN category.

The awards program recognizes nurses who best exemplify compassionate care, clinical expertise, education and leadership.


Nursing faculty member Ann Mitchell has been named a fellow of the International Academy of Addictions Nursing.

The organization aims to foster excellence in addictions nursing and to recognize those who have contributed to addictions nursing in sustained and significant ways through practice, administration, research and education.

Mitchell’s current work looks at addiction training for nurses using a screening brief intervention and referral to treatment program.


Brian A. Potoski, faculty member in the pharmacy and therapeutics department in the School of Pharmacy, has been appointed to serve as the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists representative on the creation of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) clinical practice guidelines for complicated intra-abdominal infections in adults and children.

IDSA represents physicians, scientists and other health care professionals who specialize in infectious diseases. Its purpose is to improve the health of individuals, communities and society by promoting excellence in patient care, education, research, public health and prevention relating to infectious diseases.


Health Sciences Library System reference librarians Rose Turner and Linda Hartman won the 2015 First Place MAC/MLA Research Poster Award for their poster, “Comparing CINAHL and Scopus Coverage of Allied Health Journals,” at the mid-Atlantic chapter of the Medical Library Association annual meeting.


Michele Welker has joined the staff in the University Counseling Center as the coordinator of the Office of Sexual WelkerHarassment and Assault Response and Education.

Welker will be a member of the University’s sexual assault task force, which formed in 2014 and includes campus leaders from Student Affairs, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Athletics, faculty and staff from academic schools, various student groups and regional campuses. Welker will work closely with Pitt’s Title IX coordinator, Katie Pope, in leading the University’s efforts to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct.

Welker has experience as a counselor, case manager and advocate for women’s issues, including victims of domestic violence. She served as a clinician at the St. Vincent Family Center in Columbus, Ohio, providing counseling services for parents of children enrolled in the agency’s pre-school partial-hospitalization program.

She also worked as a clinical social worker for North Central Mental Health Services in Columbus, and as a case manager for CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence, providing comprehensive services for female residents at a Columbus women’s shelter.

In addition, Welker has been active with several local organizations, including Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR). She completed nearly 80 hours of volunteer training to assist victims of sexual assault through PAAR, and participated in the Columbus area rape treatment program (now the Sexual Assault Response Center), providing services for victims of sexual assault.

Most recently, she served as the family services coordinator and office manager for Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, a local nonprofit organization that assists low-income homeowners with critical home repairs and necessities.

Welker earned a BA in psychology, with a certification in women’s studies, at Ohio University, and a master’s degree in social work, with a specialization in women’s studies, at Ohio State University. She is a licensed independent social worker.

She replaces Mary Koch-Ruiz, who retired Sept. 30 after serving for more than 20 years in the position.


The Johnstown campus has named former Pitt infielder Niki Cognigni as head softball coach.

Cognigni replaces Sabrina Lane, who helped start the program two years ago.

Cognigni, who graduated from Pitt with a degree in communication in 2012, started all 202 games at shortstop in her college career. She led the Panthers with 11 multi-hit games during her senior season.

She was selected to the Big East All-Academic Team in both 2011 and 2012 and was a Blue Scholar Athlete with a GPA over 3.0.

When her collegiate playing days ended, Cognigni turned to coaching. From 2012 through 2015, she coached Rock Gold, an 18 & under travel ball organization.

In 2014, Cognigni was named head softball coach at Robbinsville High School in New Jersey, where she twice was named the Area Coach of the Year. In two seasons with the team, Cognigni guided Robbinsville to a pair of Central Jersey sectional championships and two New Jersey state runner-up finishes. She also guided the team to a Mercer County title in 2014.


The Staff Association Council (SAC) awarded six undergraduate students each a $500 grant to be used for books and related class expenses.

Children of Pitt staff members are eligible to apply for the grants, which are made possible through the SAC Book Fund.

Winners and their Pitt parents were recognized at the Dec. 8 long-term staff reception. They are:

Haylee Baxendell, a sophomore  on the Pittsburgh campus majoring in  molecular biology; parent: Lisa Baxendell, Department of Neurology.

Sarah Brasili, a sophomore on the Johnstown campus majoring in accounting; parent: Andrea Brasili, PCI Fiscal.

Alec DiVito, a junior on the Pittsburgh campus majoring in neuroscience; parent: Daniel DiVito, Facilities Management.

Julie Hartz, a junior on the Pittsburgh campus majoring in chemical engineering; parent: Jean Hartz, Health Sciences Research Administration.

Lauren Morlacci, a senior on the Pittsburgh campus majoring in industrial engineering; parent: Michael Morlacci, Admissions/Johnstown campus.

Alexandra Savage, a junior on the Pittsburgh campus majoring in mathematics and computer science; parent: Beverly Savage, Department of Anesthesiology.


Olivera Finn, distinguished professor of immunology in the School of Medicine, has been selected to receive the 2016 Finn_OLifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Immunologists (AAI). The award is the highest honor bestowed by the AAI Council upon an AAI member. It recognizes a member for a career of scientific achievement and for contributions to AAI and fellow immunologists.


The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has named two Pitt faculty members AAAS fellows.

Patricia Kroboth, dean of the School of Pharmacy and the Dr. Gordon J. Vanscoy Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Sandra D. Michell, faculty member and chair of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in the Dietrch School of Arts and Sciences, were among 347 AAAS fellows named for 2015 in recognition of their contributions to innovation, education and scientific leadership.

The fellows will be recognized Feb. 13 at the AAAS annual meeting in Washington, D.C.


Michael A. Zemaitis, a faculty member in the pharmaceutical sciences department at the School of Pharmacy, has received the Cardinal Health Generation Rx Champions Award. This award from the Cardinal Health Foundation honors a pharmacist who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to raising awareness of the dangers of prescription drug abuse among the general public and among the pharmacy community. The award also is intended to encourage educational prevention efforts aimed at patients, youth and other members of the community.

Zemaitis has been an advocate for research, policy and education surrounding prescription drug abuse. He has been funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to develop a plan for a prescription drug monitoring program in Pennsylvania.


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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