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

August 31, 2006

What's new? Health Sciences, Non-academic areas

The hustle and bustle that marks the beginning of each academic year is here again. But schools at Pitt have not slept through the summer months, which saw everything from major renovations to the establishment of new academic programs to the hiring and promotion of employees.

The University Times asked deans and other school officials to provide a brief look at “what’s new” in their schools. Following is part 1 of the story, which includes information on Pitt’s six Schools of the Health Sciences and the Health Sciences Library System, as well as on miscellaneous units around campus. Part 2, which will cover what’s new in Provost-area schools and the four regional campuses, will be published in the Sept. 14 issue.

A caution to the reader: None of the summaries here is meant to be all-encompassing, but rather they are overviews highlighting recent school news.


Dental medicine

Paul A. Moore became chair of the dental school’s anesthesiology department July 1. He succeeds C. Richard Bennett, who had been chair since 1971.

New faculty in the dental school are Joseph Giovannitti, associate professor of anesthesiology and director of anesthesiology for the dental school’s special needs clinic; Thankam Thyvalikakath, assistant professor in dental public health and information management; Maria Tassopoulou-Fishell, assistant professor in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopaedics; Sean Boynes, assistant professor in anesthesiology, and Anitha Potluri, assistant professor in diagnostic sciences.

Renovations that will lead to the expansion of the dental school’s special needs clinic are underway at Salk Hall. In the first phase of the project, the school’s dental implant center, now on the third floor of Salk Hall, will be moved to the ground floor of the Salk Hall Annex to make way for the growing clinic.

Phase I construction, which will take about two months, is expected to be complete by the end of 2006, said dental school facilities director Bill Steinhauser.

Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

The joint Pitt-Carnegie Mellon University Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center, now in temporary space on Craig Street, is seeking a permanent home for its offices, Dean Clifford Brubaker said.

The new center, formed in July and funded by a five-year $15 million National Science Foundation grant, will develop technologies to help older people and people with disabilities live independently and productively.

(See July 20 University Times.)

A clinical doctorate in speech language pathology — the first of its kind in the country — now is being offered in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders. The Doctor of Clinical Science provides students and returning speech language pathologists with advanced academic course work, clinical skill-building, case-based learning experiences, allied discipline rotations and extensive mentored clinical practice.

Graduates, who will have completed more than 2,000 hours of clinical contact as well as 15 weeks of medical and related professional rotations, will have fulfilled the requirements for certification by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association as well as for Pennsylvania state licensure.

The school’s emergency medicine program recently was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. The program was commended by the commission for its international student mix, reputation, clinical sites, faculty exposure to EMS research and the program’s format.

New faculty at the school are assistant professors Ketki Raina in the Department of Occupational Therapy and Geoffrey V. Fredericks in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders. Bambi R. Brewer is a new visiting professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology.

Raina is a 2005 graduate of SHRS and most recently was a post-doctoral associate in the Department of Occupational Therapy.

Fredericks completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Mayo Clinic and most recently was an assistant professor at Radford University.

Brewer most recently was a graduate research assistant at Carnegie Mellon University.


The School of Nursing is launching a new doctoral degree program in nursing practice this fall to help address the clinical teaching shortage in nursing. The new Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program is the first professional doctorate in the school, said Dean Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob, who noted it also is the first such program in Pennsylvania and one of only a handful across the country.

The program is offered as an alternative to the more traditional research-based PhD doctoral program offered at the school. The DNP program is practice-focused and brings the education of advanced practice nurses to a new level of expertise to meet the evolving demands of the modern health care system. DNP students may choose either administration or clinical specialist tracks.

DNP graduates from the administration track might aim for leadership positions in a hospital or community setting. Those in the clinical track might seek positions in specialty settings within institutions or clinical instruction roles, including adult medical surgical and psychiatric mental health.

Also new at the school is the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) program, an advanced specialty master’s degree program for nurses who would like to assume an expanded role within their organizations. The CNL program combines didactic instruction in basic science with clinical leadership skills training.

Another new program, a doctoral degree for nurse practitioners, is awaiting state board approval.

The school’s Anatomy and Physiology Laboratory has undergone a major renovation and now offers computers at each of its learning stations, enabling students to more easily follow an instructor’s demonstration. The lab is fully equipped with the latest teaching enhancements, thanks to the generosity of nursing alumna and former faculty, Ellen Chaffee, whose estate bequest provided the financial resources for the recent upgrade.

Other renovations at the school include the conversion of a conference room to office space to accommodate a growing research faculty. In addition, several classrooms have been renovated, including one that was converted to a conference classroom.

Public Health

The Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) welcomed a new dean, Donald S. Burke, who began his duties July 1. Burke is an internationally renowned expert in the prevention, diagnosis and control of infectious diseases of global concern, including HIV/AIDS and avian flu.

He also will direct Pitt’s new Center for Vaccine Research; serve as associate vice chancellor for global health, a newly created position within the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, and become the first occupant of the UPMC-Jonas Salk Chair in Global Health.

(For more on Burke, see March 16 University Times.)

In response to a directive by the Council on Education for Public Health, GSPH has initiated significant changes in the school-wide core curriculum. Included are two new courses, Overview of Public Health and Public Health Biology.

School officials said the new core curriculum aims to enable graduates “to articulate and advocate the values and ethics that distinguish public health as a historic, contemporary and cohesive practice and inquiry; to assume key management roles in health organizations, and to provide leadership in creating, implementing and interpreting policy that promotes the ideals of public health.”

The curriculum changes went into effect this month for incoming MPH, MHA, MMPH students and for DrPH students who are required to take core classes.

The front lawn of GSPH, running along Fifth Avenue, has been converted into a small parklet. With cozy seating and exotic grasses, this area is a great place to relax, officials said.


The School of Medicine is sporting a new department, a new institute, a restructured curriculum and several new department chairs, school officials said.

The Department of Biomedical Informatics, which is focused on the science and engineering of information handling in health care delivery and biomedical research, became the newest of the School of Medicine’s 28 departments this summer. It builds on a history of biomedical informatics at Pitt that dates back to the early 1970s and is intended to further strengthen the University’s status in the field of biomedical informatics, which is playing an increasingly important role in health care research and delivery, officials said.

The chair of the new department is Michael J. Becich, professor of biomedical informatics, professor of pathology and professor of information sciences and telecommunications. Until recently, Becich also was vice chair of pathology informatics in the Department of Pathology.

The Institute for Clinical Research Education has been established to enhance the growing opportunities for clinical research training at the Schools of the Health Sciences. Under the direction of Wishwa N. Kapoor, the new institute was designed to better integrate existing programs, foster efficiencies of operation and provide a central location and infrastructure for high-caliber teaching and mentoring.

The institute is expected to enhance collaboration and cooperation among clinical research trainees and researchers from multiple disciplines and to expand training opportunities in clinical research for clinicians during the early phases of their academic careers.

The Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) is undergoing a 70,000-square-foot building expansion, which will more than double its current working space.

Founded in 1992, MWRI is part of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. The institute has grown from an initial 20 faculty members to a current total of 260 faculty and staff. The expansion will provide additional laboratory, office and support system space and enable MWRI to recruit more than 100 additional scientists, clinicians and other health care professionals. The facility is scheduled for occupancy in early 2007.

Work continues on the new Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in the city’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, with the opening expected in early 2009. The 1.45 million-sq.-ft. facility on a 10-acre site will be the new clinical home of faculty from the School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics and will replace the existing Children’s Hospital facility on the Oakland campus.

The new hospital will include a clinical services building to house all inpatient and outpatient services as well as a pediatric research center that will be twice as large as the current John G. Rangos Sr. Research Center in Oakland.

The medical school’s curriculum has been restructured to expedite students’ opportunities for exploring electives and areas of specialty earlier in their education and to allow time to perform research for a required scholarly project, school officials said.

The new structure gives students 18 months to complete a year’s work. The upshot for faculty is that where once classes were monolithic, now a professor might have a mixture of second-, third- and fourth-year students.

Also, a new training track in global health has been added to the areas of concentration available to students.

In addition to Becich, recent department chair appointments include:

• Bruce Freeman, who is the new chair of the Department of Pharmacology, succeeding John S. Lazo, Allegheny Foundation Professor of Pharmacology, who stepped down as department chair to devote his efforts to establishing and co-directing the University’s new Drug Discovery Institute.

Freeman formerly was a professor of anesthesiology, biochemistry and molecular genetics, and environmental health sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He also held positions there as director of the Center for Free Radical Biology, senior scientist at the Comprehensive Cancer Center and vice chair for research in the Department of Anesthesiology.

• Jonas T. Johnson has succeeded Eugene N. Myers as chair of the Department of Otolaryngology and been installed as the inaugural Eugene Myers Professor. Johnson joined the department in 1979 and has been a professor there since 1987; he became vice chairman of the department in 1982 and director of its Division of Head and Neck Oncology and Immunology in 1986.

Johnson’s research focuses on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; he is collaborating with others on vaccine development for oral cancer.

Myers has been named Distinguished Professor of Otolaryngology.

• Steven D. Shapiro is the new chair of the Department of Medicine, the school’s largest department. He also assumes the department’s endowed chair as the Jack D. Myers Professor of Medicine. (For more on Shapiro, see Feb. 2 University Times.)

• George K. Gittes, professor of surgery, has been named the Benjamin R. Fisher Chair of Pediatric Surgery and surgeon-in-chief at Children’s Hospital.

Before coming to Pittsburgh, Gittes was the Thomas K. Holder/Keith W. Ashcraft Professor in Pediatric Surgical Research at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, director of surgical research at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and professor of anatomy and cell biology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

His research focuses on the developing pancreas and juvenile diabetes, with particular emphasis on the cellular signals that regulate the growth and differentiation of stem cells into pancreatic beta-islets. Gittes was president of the Society of University Surgeons in 2005-2006.

Other recent appointments at the medical school include:

• Fadi Lakkis, professor of surgery and immunology and the recently named scientific director of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, is widely recognized for his research in transplant immunology. He plans to lead the institute in its ongoing efforts to develop safer and more effective methods of transplanting organs and inducing post-transplantation tolerance.

Since his arrival, Lakkis has developed an innovative program that uses small marine mammals closely related to common jellyfish as models for studying the mechanisms of immunotolerance and organ rejection.

In addition to his academic and research efforts, Lakkis continues to practice clinical nephrology by managing the post-surgical care of kidney recipients. Before coming to Pitt, Lakkis was director of transplant medicine at Yale University School of Medicine.

• Emanuela Taioli, an internationally recognized cancer expert, has been selected as the inaugural Arnold Palmer Professor of Cancer Prevention. The endowed chair was made possible by a $2 million gift from the Arnold D. Palmer 2003 Charitable Trust to the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI).

Taioli also serves as professor of epidemiology in the Graduate School of Public Health, professor of medicine (hematology and oncology) and director of UPCI’s Cancer Prevention and Population Science Program.

Taioli was recruited from the IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico in Milan, Italy, where she was also a technical adviser to the Italian Ministry of Health and a member of the Italian National Oncology Commission. Her research focuses on the genetic and environmental factors of cancer susceptibility.

• Mary L. Phillips, co-director of the Brain Imaging Research Center and professor of psychiatry, is researching ways to better understand the physiological mechanisms of normal and abnormal emotion, with particular emphasis on the novel use of functional neuroimaging techniques to measure and represent graphically the neural mechanisms of mood disorders.

Phillips also holds a position as professor of neuroscience and emotion in psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry in London.


Susan M. Meyer was named associate dean for education at the School of Pharmacy and professor of pharmacy and therapeutics. Meyer has spent much of her career at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, serving for the last eight years as the association’s senior vice president.

Her activities in the areas of pharmacy education and academic affairs focus on curricular and institutional quality improvement, instructional design and assessment, and faculty development.

Meyer managed the development of the Education Scholar scholarly teaching development program for health professions educators, and supervised the development and periodic revision of educational outcomes to guide curriculum development in pharmacy education.

Meyer received her BS in pharmacy from Ohio Northern University, and received her MS and PhD degrees in pharmacy practice education from Purdue University.

Her teaching experience includes a stint at the State University of New Jersey College of Pharmacy.

Library System

The Health Sciences Library System (HSLS) introduced a new, streamlined account registration process for access to HSLS electronic resources from remote locations. Users can register for an account using their Pitt or UPMC email accounts to access library resources remotely or to use computers in HSLS libraries.

There also is an option to retrieve forgotten passwords instantaneously. (For more information, go to

The HSLS web site soon will have a new look and expanded functions. Beginning next month, a preview of the enhanced web site will be available via a link on the HSLS homepage (

The most obvious change to the web site is the simplified design focusing on the most important features as identified by library users. The site features a new search interface based on the Vivisimo search environment. The interface allows users to search PittCat for library resources, the full text of hundreds of e-books or PubMed or other databases for journal articles. The search interface also features a tool to help users quickly locate the full text of journal articles.

Falk Library soon will complete a three-month construction project to build a state-of-the-art computer classroom and four group meeting rooms. The meeting rooms, set to open in early September, will be equipped with laptop computers and a plasma room display.

The library system announced a number of appointments and promotions including:

• Leslie Czechowski is the new HSLS collections librarian. Her duties include coordinating collection development activities at HSLS, as well as care of the rare books and manuscripts collections. She previously held positions in the libraries at Grinnell College, Northwestern Health Sciences Library in Bloomington and the University of Minnesota.

• Melissa Ratajeski joined HSLS as a reference librarian. A recent graduate of Pitt’s School of Information Sciences, her responsibilities include serving as liaison to the University’s institutional animal care and use committee.

• Ahlam Saleh was appointed HSLS liaison librarian to the School of Pharmacy, after the retirement of former liaison Alice Kuller. Saleh will provide instruction on library programs, resources, services and the use of online information resources.

• Ansuman Chattopadhyay was named head of the Molecular Biology Information Service.

• Yi-bu Chen, formerly visiting librarian/assistant information specialist, recently received a faculty librarian appointment as an information specialist in molecular biology.


Following is a sampling of recent developments around campus.

Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education

CIDDE’s list of instructional technology and Blackboard mCast presentations has grown over the summer. The mCasts will return to a weekly schedule (Blackboard at 12:30 p.m. Wednesdays and IT at 12:30 p.m. Thursdays) beginning today, Aug. 31. For information visit

A new instructional development mCast series now is in the planning stages.

Another helpful addition for instructors using classrooms with wireless Internet access is CIDDE’s Wireless on Wheels cart. The WOW cart, equipped with up to 30 laptops, brings a computer lab directly to the classroom.

Computing Services and Systems Development

A two-year plan to implement wireless network access across the Pittsburgh campus began July 1. Six public areas that offered wireless access to students now have been opened to faculty and staff. Wireless is available on the Cathedral of Learning lawn and in the Commons Room, the study areas on the second floor of Posvar Hall and at the Petersen Events Center, Hillman Library and the William Pitt Union Lounge.

Campus buildings are being surveyed to determine the number of access points needed, said CSSD director Jinx Walton. An installation schedule is expected to be finalized by October. A guest policy that will allow wireless network access to selected visitors also is in the works.

Conflict of interest policy

Pitt’s conflict of interest policy is under review. Although a portion regarding entrepreneurial activities was revised a year ago, the entire document has not been updated since 1997.

Jerome Rosenberg, chairman of the University’s conflict of interest committee and its subcommittee for entrepreneurial oversight, said his office is working to integrate the University’s policy and is reviewing the levels of financial interest necessary to constitute a conflict of interest. Rosenberg said a draft proposal would be released to administrators, deans and the University Senate this fall. The Board of Trustees ultimately must approve any changes, he said.


Current and recently completed campus facilities projects include:

• New student housing. Located between the Peterson Events Center and Pennsylvania Hall is Panther Hall, a new 512-bed undergraduate residence hall that opened this month.

This sister dormitory to Pennsylvania Hall consists of three- and five-person suites and two-person hotel type rooms. Additionally there are support areas such as study rooms, lounges, laundry rooms, a café, vending areas, workout room and multi-purpose room.

• The Pitt Legacy Exhibit. Located in Alumni Hall’s first floor lobby, these two multi-media, interactive information kiosks provide historical data on a broad range of University alumni. The kiosks contain electronic operating devices for audio and visual projection onto special glazing and activated by built-in touch screens. The user touches the screen at various prompt locations to activate a series of visual and audio data related to specific alumni, historical periods of the University or specific subject matter.

• Litchfield Plaza renovation. The Litchfield Plaza has been renovated to improve accessibility, drainage and physical appearance. New pavers have been placed, highlighted by a composite grouping of colored pavers in the shape of a large University of Pittsburgh Panther, which can be viewed from the upper stories of the Towers residence halls. New skylights were incorporated into the plaza area to provide natural lighting to the food service areas below.

• Nano Technology Suite. A state-of-the-art nano technology facility has been constructed in the sub-basement of Benedum Hall. This facility, supplemented by cutting edge research equipment, will complement the University’s efforts to expand research into the nano technology area.

• Thornburgh Study Room. A reading/resource room dedicated to Pitt alumnus and former Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh is being constructed in Hillman Library. This room will house portions of the Thornburgh Archives and serve as a facility for presentations and seminars.

• Public Safety Building. A new multi-story public safety building is being constructed on Forbes Avenue next to the Eureka Building. The building will house the University Police Department and Environmental Health and Safety.

• Classroom renovations. A variety of classroom and lab renovation projects have been completed across the Pittsburgh campus, including renovations in the Life Science Complex.

Nationality Rooms

The Nationality Rooms Program has a new tour coordinator and Quo Vadis (guide) adviser. Michael Walter has experience as a docent and in auctioning art.

Among the program’s new guide training instructors are Sybilla Suda, who is fluent in German, French and Hungarian, with some Dutch, and Galina Dubrovina, born in Moscow, chair of the Russian Room Committee and fluent in Russian and French.

Guide training includes learning the pronunciation of foreign names and terms, art methods, development of Western and non-Western musical forms and architectural styles. Focus also will be on engaging children in active viewing of the rooms.

PeopleSoft upgrades

Look for PeopleSoft’s academic advisement feature for students to be rolled out in mid-September, said University Registrar Sam Conte, head of the PeopleSoft implementation team. The software includes a degree audit feature that will be released after the fall term’s add-drop period.

Conte said representatives from various University departments will begin meeting with CSSD representatives in September to pinpoint potential difficulties that may arise with a planned upgrade from PeopleSoft 8.0 to 8.9 set for implementation in May.


University Library System

Faculty, staff and students no longer will receive overdue notices from ULS in the mail. But library scofflaws aren’t off the hook: Written notices are being replaced with electronic ones.

Recalls for checked-out books, availability notices for requested books and cancellation notices also are going paperless.

The move will save hundreds of thousands of paper notices, according to ULS officials. In the spring term alone, ULS sent more than 87,000 paper notices to library patrons.

Holders of special borrower’s cards will continue to receive notices on paper but will have the option to sign up for email notification.

Stairs to the first floor entrance of Hillman Library are being restored. Later this fall, patrons will be able to use a new circulation desk at the first floor entrance in addition to the existing ground floor desk.

—Peter Hart and Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 39 Issue 1

Leave a Reply