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May 26, 2005


Bernard Fisher, a pioneer in the biology and treatment of breast cancer, was honored by the University with a special lecture and portrait unveiling.

A 1943 graduate of Pitt’s School of Medicine, Fisher now serves as Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery at the University and scientific director of the Pittsburgh-based National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, the research consortium he chaired from 1967 to 1994.

Fisher is known for overturning the prevailing paradigm that breast cancer metastasizes in an orderly and sequential fashion. Instead, he proposed that breast cancer is a systemic disease that metastasizes unpredictably, and would best be treated with conservative local treatment plus systemic chemotherapy.

Consequently, Fisher and his research team demonstrated the superiority of lumpectomy combined with adjuvant chemotherapy as a treatment for breast cancer. His later studies showed that the drug tamoxifen can substantially reduce the risk of breast cancer in high-risk women who have not yet developed this disease.

“His work changed the course of treatment, the rate of survival and the quality of life for women with breast cancer,” said Arthur S. Levine, senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine. “At a time when radical mastectomy was the standard treatment for breast cancer, Dr. Fisher’s landmark research found that less extensive and less disfiguring procedures were just as effective. His findings set a revolutionary new course for the treatment not only of breast cancer but other types of cancer as well. It was an honor to give Bernard Fisher the acknowledgement he truly deserves for his seminal research and the contributions his research has made to the health of all women.”

The portrait of Fisher is part of a dedicated gallery of research and clinical innovators in Pitt history, located in the Biomedical Science Tower. Other portraits installed include those of noted biochemist Klaus Hofmann, enzyme researcher Maud Menten, Nobel Laureate Philip S. Hench, polio pioneer Jonas Salk, resuscitation researcher Peter Safar, transplant surgeon Thomas E. Starzl and pioneering virologist Julius Youngner.

The 2005 Bernard Fisher Lecture was presented by Mary-Claire King, the American Cancer Society Professor of Medicine and Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, who discovered the first genetic link to breast cancer.


Joseph J. Schwerha, professor and director of the occupational health and environmental medicine residency program at the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), recently received the 2005 William Knudsen Award from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). The award is the highest honor bestowed by ACOEM, an international medical society of more than 6,000 physicians and other allied health professionals.

The award was created in 1938 by William Knudsen, then-president of General Motors, and honors an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the field.

Schwerha was recognized for his distinguished career in occupational and environmental medicine, as well as his service to ACOEM as a member of numerous committees and as a member of the board of directors of the Occupational Physicians Scholarship Fund.

He also was cited for his current work on a five-year retrospective study in Allegheny County, which will determine whether lowering air pollutants during that time has resulted in a decrease in the incidence of cardiopulmonary disease and asthma.

A member of ACOEM since 1968, Schwerha was named a fellow in 1975. Currently, a member of the editorial board for the college’s Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, he also chairs the occupational medicine practice committee.

ACOEM was founded in 1916 as an international medical society that provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces and environments.


Pitt assistant professor of ophthalmology Xiangyun Wei recently received the Career Development Award from the Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) organization. The $200,000 award will be distributed over a four-year period to support Wei’s eye research.

Established in 1990, the RPB Research Career Development Award Fund now totals nearly $1.6 million. To date, the program has recruited 113 vision scientists to research positions in departments of ophthalmology at universities across the country. Wei is the first researcher at Pitt’s School of Medicine to receive the Career Development Award.

Wei’s research focuses primarily on understanding how retinal cells organize. In his lab, he uses a variety of experimental approaches that involve genetics, molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry and developmental biology.

RPB is the world’s leading voluntary organization supporting eye research. Since it was founded in 1960, RPB has channeled hundreds of millions of dollars to medical institutions for research into causes, treatment and prevention of blinding eye diseases.


Terry Schwinghammer, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the School of Pharmacy, recently was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Japanese Society of Hospital Pharmacists for educational lectures and consultation he gave to improve practice at Japanese hospitals.

Schwinghammer, who also practices as a clinical specialist in ambulatory care at UPMC, visited four university hospitals in Fukuoka, Kagoshima and Nagasaki in March as part of a training program for the education of hospital clinical pharmacists. The program is supported by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

Schwinghammer has been an elected officer and committee member in the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), the Pennsylvania Society of Health-System Pharmacists (PSHP) and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP).

He has been a member of the House of Delegates for both ASHP and AACP and is a past president of the PSHP. He has served as secretary and then chair of the AACP section of teachers of pharmacy practice.

Schwinghammer also is a fellow of ACCP and ASHP and has been elected to membership in the Rho Chi Pharmaceutical Honor Society and the Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society. He was named Pharmacist of the Year by PSHP in 2001.


Law professor Elena Baylis’s article, “Minority Rights, Minority Wrongs” was one of four winners of the American Society of International Law’s “New Voices” competition. The article has been accepted for publication by the UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs.

Sherry M. Cleary, director of the University Child Development Center, was elected emeritus board member to the board of directors of the National Coalition for Campus Children’s Centers. She formerly served as president and treasurer of the coalition.

Cleary also was elected to a two-year term, beginning July 1, as president of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, an organization devoted to ensuring the provision of high-quality early childhood programs for young children in the commonwealth.


Cynthia Leaphart, research fellow in the Division of Pediatric Surgery, recently was awarded first prize for her research project at the third annual Richard Simmons Department of Surgery Research Day.

Her project, under the mentorship of David J. Hackam, Department of Pediatric Surgery, is titled, “Interferon Gamma Inhibits Enterocyte Migration Through De-Phosphorylation and Inactivation of the Gap Junction Protein Connexin 43.”

Leaphart is studying the causes of necrotizing enterocolitis to identify new treatments for this disease.


Faith Adiele, assistant professor of English, was named a PEN 2005 Beyond Margins Award winner. The Beyond Margins Award annually honors book-length submissions published in the United States by minority authors who have not received widespread media coverage. The award carries a $1,000 cash prize.

Adiele’s book, “Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun,” was honored as an outstanding biography/memoir by the PEN American Center’s open book committee, a group committed to racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities.

Her other recent honors include a UNESCO International Artists Bursary (2003), the John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Prize from Crab Orchard Review (2001) and the Millennium Award from Creative Non-Fiction (2000).


Harold Alan Pincus, professor and executive vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine, has been selected for the 2005 Vestermark Award given by the American Psychiatric Association and the National Institute of Mental Health for contributions to psychiatric education.

Pincus also is a senior scientist at RAND and directs the RAND-University of Pittsburgh Health Institute. In addition, Pincus directs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s National Program on Depression in Primary Care: Linking Clinical and Systems Strategies.

The Department of Medicine announced its annual awards on Research Day, May 5. The department sponsors the day to showcase ongoing, high-quality research and to encourage collaboration among departments and divisions in the Health Sciences.

Winners in the basic research category are: Michael Jankowski, doctoral student, gastroenterology; John Pacella, fellow, cardiology; Colin Syme, post-doctoral fellow, endocrinology; Tomoko Nukui, post-doctoral fellow, clinical pharmacology; Wendy Ning, junior faculty, pulmonary, and Suzanne Lentzsch, junior faculty, hematology/oncology.

In the clinical research categories winners are: Pradeep Nair, resident, general internal medicine, and Edward Wu, fellow, general internal medicine.


Elisa Beshero-Bondar, professor of English at Pitt-Greensburg, will join a group of 15 teachers selected from a national applicant pool at a summer study seminar supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Beshero-Bondar will participate in a six-week seminar titled, “Genre, Dialogue and Community in British Romanticism,” to be held at the University of Nebraska. The NEH selection carries a $4,200 stipend.

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