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January 22, 2009


Michael Sacks, William Kepler Whiteford Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and a faculty member at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has been named the 2009 recipient of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Van C. Mow Medal. Sacks was selected to receive this honor for his contributions in advancing the biomechanics of native and engineered heart valve tissues.

His research emphasis is on quantification and modeling of the structure-mechanical properties of native and engineered soft tissues, with a focus on tissues of the cardiovascular and urological systems.

The Van C. Mow Medal, established in 2004, is bestowed upon an individual who has demonstrated meritorious contributions to the field of bioengineering through research, education, professional development, leadership in the development of the profession, mentorship to young bioengineers and service to the bioengineering community.

Sacks will receive the medal at a bioengineering conference in June.


Fiore Pugliano, senior adviser and lecturer in the Department of English, has been awarded the 2009 Ampco-Pittsburgh Prize for Excellence in Advising. The award, which carries a $4,000 cash prize, recognizes Arts and Sciences undergraduate advisers for their outstanding achievements.

David Bartholomae, chair of the department, said Pugliano has played a key role in the overall development of Pitt’s English program. “For more than 30 years, Fiore has touched the lives and careers of thousands of students in Arts and Sciences. He has helped to establish both the conventions and the high standards for advising that are currently in place,” said Bartholomae, who also credits Pugliano for his role in the growth of the department. “Over the last few decades, we have carried out major revisions of our undergraduate curriculum. At every stage of the process, Fiore was an important player in overseeing, monitoring and evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum.”

Pugliano has advised writing, literature and film studies students since 1974. He also teaches courses in professional communications and has sponsored a number of student internships and independent studies for students at the University and with city government and the local business community.

Pugliano earned his BA degree at Duquesne University and both his MA and PhD degrees at Pitt. He has received the Alan Markman Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the Educational Council Award and the Faculty Partner Award.

The Ampco-Pittsburgh Prize for Excellence in Advising is given annually to a full-time faculty member who has served as a departmental adviser for at least three years on the Pittsburgh campus. The award was established in 2006 through a contribution from the Ampco-Pittsburgh Corp.


Adam Shear, assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies, has won the 2008 Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award in Scholarship, a national award given by the Jewish Book Council, for “The Kuzari and the Shaping of Jewish Identity, 1167-1900.”

The book is believed to be the first comprehensive exploration of this major medieval work and the first history in the English language of any work of medieval Jewish thought.

The Jewish Book Council is a not-for-profit organization devoted to the promotion of Jewish-interest literature. It serves as a catalyst for the writing, publication, distribution, reading and public awareness of books that reflect the variety of the Jewish experience.


The Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center at Children’s Hospital has recruited Fernando Holguin, a nationally renowned asthma researcher, to lead its efforts to identify how environmental risk factors impact asthma in this region and to develop new education, prevention and treatment strategies.

Holguin will serve as the clinical director of the Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center. The center is funded through a five-year, $5 million grant to Children’s Hospital from The Heinz Endowments.

Holguin and his team will identify communities in the region where asthma is most prevalent and begin studying environmental risk factors that might impact asthma in those communities.

They will utilize Children’s Ronald McDonald Care Mobile to conduct these studies. The communities to be studied currently are being identified. Patient recruitment is expected to begin later this year.

“Environmental risk factors that may affect asthma include everything from depression and obesity to secondhand smoke and air pollution exposure. We plan to study areas where asthma rates are higher than normal and/or there are suspected risk factors such as air pollution,” said Holguin. “Once we better identify which of these environmental risk factors are most prevalent, we will evaluate how the stressors are related to the severity and control of the patients’ asthma. Then we can begin to develop education, prevention and treatment strategies that are sustainable in these communities.”

In addition to his new role at Children’s Hospital, Holguin will serve as an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics in the School of Medicine and as a pulmonologist in the Asthma and Allergic Diseases Research Center at UPMC.

Holguin is chair-elect of the American Thoracic Society’s environmental and occupational health program committee.

He comes to Pittsburgh from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where he was a pulmonologist and epidemiologist conducting clinical and epidemiological asthma research. He was the director of Emory’s asthma translational research program.

The asthma burden in Pennsylvania is especially acute in children and other special populations, such as African Americans, females, people with low income and those with limited education.

In the Pittsburgh region, asthma is diagnosed at about the same rate as the national average. However, use of emergency services by children with asthma in Greater Pittsburgh is 300-400 percent above the national average, and asthma hospitalization rates for children are two to three times higher than recommended by recent studies.


David A. Anderson, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Prosthodontics, has been appointed director of diversity initiatives for the School of Dental Medicine.

Anderson received his Doctor of Dental Surgery and Master of Dental Science degrees from Howard University and Pitt, respectively. He also holds certificates for general dental practice and prosthodontics residencies from the Veterans Administration.

In addition to maintaining a private practice in Pittsburgh for 25 years, Anderson has held faculty appointments in departments of oral and maxillofacial surgery in area hospitals.

Anderson has led regional components of the American Dental Association, American College of Prosthodontists and Chi Delta Mu — an affiliate organization of the National Medical Association and the Pennsylvania dental political action committee.


Jeff Gleim was named associate vice chancellor for alumni relations and executive director of the Pitt Alumni Association (PAA), effective Jan. 2.

Gleim, who has served as Pitt’s interim associate vice chancellor for alumni relations since Aug. 1, was appointed two years ago as the PAA’s associate executive director.

In his roles as associate vice chancellor for alumni relations and executive director of the Pitt Alumni Association, Gleim will oversee the association’s communications, marketing, membership, student involvement and outreach areas.

Prior to joining the University in 2007, Gleim was director of the Ohio State University Alumni Association’s advocates program. There he was responsible for more than 200 alumni clubs and organizations worldwide. He was instrumental in developing a new strategic plan and generating new sources of revenue.


Valerie Watzlaf, associate professor in the Department of Health Information Management at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), recently was elected director of the American Health Information Management Association’s board of directors. 

AHIMA has more than 50,000 members and provides a network of health information management professionals dedicated to improving health care through high-quality information management.

Watzlaf holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Health Services Administration at the Graduate School of Public Health.

She received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Pitt.


Also at SHRS, Anthony Delitto, professor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, has been named associate dean of research. Delitto also serves as vice president for education and research at the UPMC Comprehensive Spine Center.


Books by two Pitt professors were selected as Choice magazine outstanding academic books of 2008.

Winners were English professor Susan Harris Smith’s book, “Plays in American Periodicals, 1890-1918” and Department of Psychiatry Chair in Suicide Studies David Brent’s “Eight Stories Up: An Adolescent Chooses Hope Over Suicide,” co-authored with DeQuincy A. Lezine of the University of Rochester Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide.

Every January, Choice publishes a list of Outstanding Academic Titles that were reviewed during the previous calendar year. This list reflects the best in scholarly titles reviewed by Choice and brings with it the recognition of the academic library community.

The list contains approximately 10 percent of some 7,000 works reviewed in Choice each year. The editors base their selections on the reviewer’s evaluation of the work, the editor’s knowledge of the field and the reviewer’s record.


Laura Perry-Thompson, program coordinator for the master of social work program at Pitt-Johnstown, has been named senior officer for equity and inclusion.

Perry-Thompson joined the Pitt-Johnstown staff in 2003 with a dual appointment in the Personal Counseling Center and Academic Success Center.

In 2007, she was named program director of the master of social work program, where her responsibilities include teaching courses on cognitive behavior theory and social work with diverse populations.

In her expanded role, Perry-Thompson will lead initiatives that foster equity and inclusion in the campus community. She will assume the role of ombudsperson in responding to allegations of discrimination or harassment, and will serve as liaison to the Office of Affirmative Action and as the UPJ president’s liaison to intercultural campus groups including the Black Action Society and the UPJ Alliance.

Additionally, she will lead the efforts to assess progress in promoting equal opportunity, inclusivity and access.

A member of the Women’s Help Center board of directors for more than 25 years, Perry-Thompson also is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Association of Social Workers and the Cambria County Health and Welfare Council. In addition to being a licensed social worker, she is certified by the American Red Cross as a critical incident/disaster/mental health specialist.

Prior to coming to Pitt-Johnstown, she worked as a psychiatric social worker and employee assistance program coordinator. Perry-Thompson earned an MEd in rehabilitation counseling and a BS in psychology from Pitt, and is a graduate of the inaugural MSW program cohort at Pitt-Johnstown.


McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Ira J. Fox, director of the Center for Innovative Pediatric Regenerative Therapies, a joint program of the School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery, the McGowan Institute and Children’s Hospital, is co-author of new guidelines for the responsible development of safe and effective stem cell therapies for patients.

The guidelines were released by the International Society for Stem Cell Research, the world’s leading professional organization of stem cell researchers.

The guidelines provide a roadmap for medical researchers and doctors, outlining what needs to be accomplished to move stem cells from promising research to proven treatments for patients. The guidelines are expected to accelerate the translation of stem cell research into practice while addressing associated scientific, clinical, regulatory, ethical and social issues.


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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