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October 15, 2009

People of the Times

Donald S. Burke, dean of the Graduate School of Public Health, has been elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies, one of the highest honors in health and medicine. burke

An expert in the prevention, diagnosis and control of infectious diseases, Burke also serves as associate vice chancellor for Global Health and director of Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research. He has focused his research on HIV/AIDS, tropical viruses, hepatitis, influenza and emerging infectious diseases. His life-long mission has been to prevent and lessen the impact of epidemic infectious diseases around the world.

Burke’s expertise spans “from the bench to the bush” including laboratory research, field studies, vaccine trials and implementation and evaluation of programs to control infectious diseases. He has led major vaccine research and development efforts for Japanese encephalitis, dengue, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and biodefense threats. The diagnostic assays he developed for epidemic viral encephalitis and for HIV/AIDS have become worldwide standards.

His epidemiological studies of HIV among incoming military recruits first revealed the magnitude of the epidemic in the United States, and his international molecular epidemiology studies of HIV unraveled its emergence, evolution and global spread.

He also was instrumental in launching HIV/AIDS vaccine trials in Thailand, leading to the recent first-ever successful vaccine trial in that country. Additional studies he led in the Congo basin in Africa demonstrated the key role of the hunting of wild animals for their meat in the emergence of new epidemic viruses.

Prior to coming to Pitt, Burke had a 23-year career at the Walter Reed Army Institute, where he last served as associate director for emerging threats and biotechnology and retired from active duty at the rank of colonel in 1997.

He then assumed a leadership position in public health as director of the Center for Immunization Research at Johns Hopkins.

At Pitt, Burke assembled and is leading an international team of epidemiologists and computer scientists who are evaluating pandemic influenza control strategies.

The National Academy of Sciences is a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on health issues.

Donald M. Yealy, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the School of Medicine, has received the Outstanding Contribution in Research Award from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). The award recognizes Yealy’s significant contributions to research in emergency medicine.

Yealy is a principal investigator on two current federally funded research trials totaling $9.7 million. He has focused most of his academic research on clinical decision-making and the early care of many life-threatening conditions, including community-acquired pneumonia, sepsis, acute heart failure and respiratory failure.

Yealy is co-editor of “The Trauma Manual: Trauma and Acute Care Surgery,” a guide to emergency and surgical care.

This year, ACEP honored nine physicians for a variety of activities related to emergency medicine.

Transplant pioneer Thomas E. Starzl has received the National Institute of Medicine’s 2009 Gustav O. Lienhard Award for “outstanding national achievement in improving personal health care services in the United States.” StarzlThomas

Starzl is Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery in the School of Medicine and director emeritus of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute at UPMC. He achieved international acclaim by laying the groundwork for the transplantation field of medicine.

Starzl performed the world’s first liver transplant in 1963 while at the University of Colorado. Four years later, he performed the first successful liver transplant. In 1980, he introduced the new anti-rejection medications anti-lymphocyte globulin and cyclosporine, which became the accepted transplant regimen for patients with liver, kidney and heart failure.

In 1981, Starzl joined the Pitt School of Medicine and led the team of surgeons who performed the city’s first liver transplant. Thirty liver transplants were performed that year, launching the University’s liver transplant program — the only one in the nation at the time.

In 1989, Starzl introduced the anti-rejection medication FK506, which increased survival rates markedly for liver and other organ transplants and led the way to other successful types of organ transplants, including pancreas, lung and intestine.

Starzl retired from clinical and surgical service in 1991,but remains active in research, mapping the relationship between donor and recipient cells and developing new therapeutic strategies to achieve immune tolerance after transplantation.

David Hackam, a researcher at the School of Medicine and a pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital, has been named one of 12 winners of the Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Awards for his research into necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a leading killer of premature infants.

NEC is a severe inflammatory disease of the intestine that affects thousands of premature infants in the United States each year. In extreme cases, NEC leads to perforation of the intestine, a condition that can be fatal if not treated with emergency surgery.

Hackam is Roberta Simmons Associate Professor of Pediatric Surgery at Pitt and co-director of the Fetal Diagnostic and Treatment Center at Children’s and Magee-Womens hospitals.

He and his team have identified a genetic “switch” called toll-like receptor 4, or TLR4, that is turned on in infants who develop NEC. This grant, funded by The Hartwell Foundation, will enable the team to continue working toward developing new medications to turn this switch off.

The Hartwell awards provide each research team $100,000 per year for three years.

Rory A. Cooper, director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, a partnership composed of Pitt, UPMC and the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, will receive the Veteran of the Year Award from the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania (VLP).rory cooper

A decorated U.S. Army veteran, Cooper uses a wheelchair as a result of a spinal cord injury sustained in military service. He is one of the world’s foremost authorities on wheelchair design.

VLP provides essential housing, employment and other vital supportive services to eligible veterans, service members and their families.

The School of Medicine has named Michael Boninger, a researcher in spinal cord injury and assistive technology, as chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Since 2007, Boninger has directed the UPMC Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, which combines medical care and research to help patients regain independence and enhance their quality of life. Boninger will continue serving in this role along with his position as associate dean for medical student research at the School of Medicine and his secondary appointments in the School of Engineering and School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Boninger is recognized for his extensive research on spinal cord injury, assistive technology and overuse injuries, particularly those associated with manual wheelchair propulsion. He receives funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Boninger is director of Pitt’s Model Center on Spinal Cord Injury and medical director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, a joint venture of UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh and the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, which has been designated a Center of Excellence for Wheelchairs and Related Technology by the VA.

David A. Lewis has been named chair of the Department of Psychiatry and medical director of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC). davidlewiswpic

Lewis is UPMC Professor of Translational Neuroscience in the Department of Psychiatry; professor of neuroscience in the School of Arts and Sciences, and director of Pitt’s translational neuroscience program.

His research focuses on the neural circuitry of the prefrontal cortex and related brain regions and the alterations of this circuitry in schizophrenia. In addition to his academic responsibilities, Lewis serves as director of a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Conte Center for the Neuroscience of Mental Disorders in the Department of Psychiatry. The Conte center is focused on understanding the role of prefrontal cortical dysfunction in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.

Dorothy J. Becker, professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine and chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Children’s Hospital, has been elected president of the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society. dorothybecker

Becker’s clinical research into Type 1 diabetes has received continuous NIH funding for the last three decades.

Also, Becker is the principal investigator and coordinator of six U.S. centers in a multinational primary prevention trial for Type 1 diabetes, or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. This 10-year NIH study is designed to determine whether feeding predigested cow milk formula to babies who are bottle-fed will prevent insulin-dependent diabetes.

The American Academy of Clinical Toxicology (AACT) honored Edward P. Krenzelok with the AACT Career Achievement Award. The award is given to an academy member in recognition of a lifetime of exceptional dedication to and distinction in the field of clinical toxicology. Edward_Krenzelok

Krenzelok is the Dr. Gordon J. Vanscoy Chair in Pharmacy in Pitt’s School of Pharmacy and director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center and the Drug Information Center at UPMC.

He is a past president of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology.

Krenzelok serves on the board of directors of the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

He is a former chair of the United States Pharmacopeia clinical toxicology and substance abuse committee and a former member of the Food and Drug Administration nonprescription drug advisory committee.

Pitt breast cancer research pioneer Bernard Fisher has been awarded the 15th Jacobson Innovation Award of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The award honors living surgeons who have been innovators of a new development or technique in any field of surgery.

Fisher is Distinguished Service Professor at Pitt and founding member of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, a research consortium that explores various cancer treatments.

He was honored with the Jacobson award in recognition of his overturning the paradigm that had led to radical mastectomy as the standard treatment for breast cancer. He was the first to establish, by laboratory and clinical investigation using randomized trials, a scientific basis for breast-conserving surgery.

Fisher established the effectiveness of treatment using chemotherapy and/or tamoxifen and, more recently, was the first to prove that tamoxifen could help to prevent breast cancer in high-risk women.

He is best known for his groundbreaking 1974-1986 study demonstrating that a combination of lumpectomy and radiation therapy is as effective as radical mastectomy in treating breast cancer.

According to the ACS, Fisher’s work has played a major role in bringing about the improvement in breast cancer survival rates that has recently been reported in the United States and Great Britain.

Recently, Fisher was among six inductees in the Allderdice High School’s inaugural Hall of Fame class.

Pennsylvania Bio, the statewide association representing Pennsylvania’s biosciences community, has appointed Marc Malandro, Pitt associate vice chancellor for technology management and commercialization, to its board of trustees.

Staff in the Office of Public Affairs and a Pitt history professor have won International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)/Pittsburgh 2009 Golden Triangle Awards.

IABC/Pittsburgh gave Awards of Excellence for the best entries and Awards of Honor for outstanding runners-up.

The awards were presented Oct. 7 at the University Club.

The Best in Show Award went to Pitt for “Free at Last?,” an event detailing slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th centuries; the entry also won an Award of Excellence in the special events category.

Also in the special events category, Pitt won an honor award for “Blue Gold & Black: From Doorway to Distinction”; the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs won an honor award for “GSPIA’s 50th Anniversary.”

In the communication skills category, Pitt Med won an excellence award in the publications/magazine subcategory; “Blue Gold & Black: From Doorway to Distinction” also won an honor award in the audiovisual subcategory, and the GSPIA web site earned an excellence award in the subcategory of web sites.

Pitt communication skills category winners were: Joe Miksch of Pitt Med for “The Investigator’s Path” (excellence in feature writing); Robert Hill, vice chancellor for Public Affairs, for “Presbytery Night at Heinz History Center” (honor in speech or script); Hill for “African American Chamber of Commerce” (honor in speech or script); Laurence A. Glasco, faculty member in history, for “Free at Last? Glasco Essay” (honor in speech or script).

Pitt communication creative category winners were: Gary Cravener of Pitt magazine (excellence in publication design/magazines); Marci Belchick-Beas and Rainey Dermond for “Blue Gold & Black 2008” (honor in publication design/annual reports); Amy Porta Kleebank for “Free at Last? Catalogue” (honor in publication design/other publications); Jane Dudley for “Pitt Rep: American Revelations” (honor in publication design/other publications); Bill Ivins for “Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series” (excellence in publication design/poster);  Bill Ochsenhirt for “Kuntu Baseball” (honor in publication design/poster); Dudley for “Pitt Rep: American Revelations” (honor in publication design/logo or organizational identity); Sarah Nelsen for “From Doorway to Distinction Invitation” (honor in publication design/other), and Belchick-Beas for “Free at Last? Exhibition” (honor in publication design/other).


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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