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August 4, 2020
Pitt Collaborative Receives $7 million for COVID-19 Outpatient Convalescent Plasma Therapy Trial
A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and other universities was recently awarded more than $7 million in funds to collaboratively study the role of convalescent plasma in mitigating symptoms of COVID-19 in patients with mild illness and preventing the progression of the disease from mild to severe.
Convalescent plasma is derived from blood donated by persons who have already had COVID-19 and have recovered. Convalescent plasma contains antibodies that can bind to the virus that causes COVID-19 and neutralize it.
“We are going to recruit patients who are at high risk for developing severe illness and may be most likely to benefit from a preventative treatment, such as patients over 50, those with heart disease, lung disease or diabetes and patients who are immunocompromised,” said Clifton Callaway (pictured), executive vice-chair of emergency medicine at Pitt.
The award comes from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Researchers on the team also come from Michigan Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina and Stanford Medicine.
July 21, 2020
Doctoral Student Major Will Conkright Receives Army Medical Award
On June 30, Major Will Conkright received the 2020 Colonel Mary Lipscomb Hamrick Army Medical Specialist Corps Manuscript Award for a study he led, investigating tactically related physical performance and body composition recovery following U.S. Army Ranger training.
The study was published in the May 2020 print issue of the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports. Selection for this award is highly competitive and is given to researchers demonstrating excellence in publishing peer-reviewed literature with profound relevance and impact to the military.
July 1, 2020
Susan Whitney Provides Health Recommendations to Department of State
Susan Whitney, professor of physical therapy in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, recently provided recommendations to the U.S. Department of State. She presented her expertise on vestibular disorders and concussions to the Standing Committee to Advise the U.S. Department of State on Unexplained Health Effects on U.S. Government Employees and Their Families at Overseas Embassies.
Whitney provided guidelines and best practices on treating current government workers and potential patients for unexplained health effects while working at overseas embassies. This committee will be writing recommendations on how to deal with these incidents.The goal is to not have to pull workers from their positions in other countries if there are more episodes.
July 1, 2020
Carli Liguori Named Finalist for American Society for Nutrition Translation Award
Carli Liguori, a visiting instructor in the School of Education, has been named a finalist in the American Society for Nutrition Translation Award Program.
The award recognizes “outstanding early-career scientists and clinicians interested in translating their research to a defined audience to improve public health and/or health outcomes.”
Liguori was one of four finalists chosen from a pool of 70 applicants for the award.
In particular, Liguori, along with fellow School of Education faculty members in the Department of Health and Human Development, John Jakicic and Renee J. Rogers, were recognized for their study, “Changes in Dietary Intake with Varying Doses of Physical Activity within a Weight Loss Intervention: The Heart Health Study.”
In the study they found that following a calorie-restricted diet resulted in roughly the same amount of weight loss, about 20 pounds, regardless of a person’s level of physical activity. The team also saw that participants’ level of physical activity did not affect their ability to keep their calorie and fat consumption within bounds.
The team was honored at a virtual event held by the American Society for Nutrition in June 2020.
June 29, 2020
New Research Investigates the Role of Lipid Rafts in Virus Infiltration
New interdisciplinary research co-led by Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and Carnegie Mellon University sheds light onto how and why the cell membrane forms and grows “lipid rafts” triggered by ligand-receptor activity. The work could lead to new strategies and innovative approaches to prevent or fight the action of the virus through the integration of biomedical and engineering knowledge.
“Our team used an interdisciplinary approach to better understand why active receptors tend to cluster on lipid rafts. More importantly, we confirm and predict the formation of the complex ligand receptors,” said Luca Deseri, professor in the Swanson School’s Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Department.
Other institutions involved with the research include DICAM-University of Trento in Italy and the University of Naples-Federico II in Naples, Italy. The research was published in the Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids.
June 23, 2020
SHRS Professors Named Fellows of the American Physical Therapy Association
Two professors in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences recently earned a prestigious honor in physical therapy.
Janet Freburger, professor, and Sara Piva, associate professor, have been named Catherine Worthingham Fellows of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the highest honor among APTA’s membership categories. To be eligible, individuals must have advanced the physical therapy profession through frequent and sustained efforts for a period of no less than 15 years. They also must have demonstrated excellence in one primary domain, such as advocacy, education, practice or research, and made significant contributions, achievements or leadership to at least two other domains.
Freburger and Piva become the 9th and 10th current and former Department of Physical Therapy faculty members, respectively, to receive designations as Catherine Worthingham Fellows.
June 15, 2020
Pitt, UPMC Team Creates ‘Playbook’ for Athletics Return
A multidisciplinary team of clinicians and researchers at Pitt and UPMC has developed guidelines to assist coaches, athletic trainers and organizers with creating a safe environment for youth athletes, fans and staff as they consider a return to play.
The UPMC Youth Sports Playbook contains recommendations for establishing a minimal set of standards in several categories for resuming athletic programs, including pre-participation physicals, social distancing, equipment sanitization, personal protective equipment, acclimation phases, practice and competition tactics and illness protocols.
Among the people involved with the creation of the playbook are Jeane Doperak (pictured), assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and program director for the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship; and MaCalus V. Hogan, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery and vice chairman of education and residency program director.
June 3, 2020
Charleen Chu Wins Distinguished Educator Award
Charleen T. Chu, professor of pathology and the A. Julio Martinez Endowed Chair in Neuropathology, received the 2020 Robbins Distinguished Educator Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology. The award recognizes individuals whose exemplary contributions to education in pathology have demonstrated a manifest impact at a national and international level.
Chu’s research focuses on understanding cellular, biochemical and molecular genetic mechanisms that contribute to neurodegeneration and neuroprotection. Her work has been recognized with other honors, including the Carnegie Science Emerging Female Scientist Award, election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation Honor Society and the ASIP Outstanding Investigator Award.
June 1, 2020
School of Pharmacy Helps Launch Collaborative Podcast Effort
The Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association has partnered with Pharmacy Podcast Network to bring a series of podcasts designed to help community pharmacists implement change and practice transformation.
The podcasts have been developed in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and their “Flip The Pharmacy” team and paid for through grant funding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association.
The series, titled "Beyond the Sig,” will feature pharmacy industry leaders, pharmacy owners, academia, student pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to showcase the transformation of pharmacy.
May 29, 2020
Epidemiology’s Dara Mendez Featured in Webinar on COVID-19
Dara Mendez, assistant professor of epidemiology in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, was recently featured on a webinar hosted by 1Hood Media and UrbanKindInstitute to talk about COVID-19 and Black communities in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. The interview covered COVID-19 inequities, testing and contact tracing.
Mendez is on the Black COVID-19 Equity Coalition and ACHD/DHS COVID Advisory Committee and is collaborating with birth and maternal health experts in the community on a new virtual doula program to support pregnant people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the full episode, visit 1Hood Media’s Facebook page.
May 26, 2020
Research Team Receives Grant to Form AI System to Debunk False COVID Information
Yu-Ru Lin, associate professor in the School of Computing and Information (SCI), Adriana Kovashka, assistant professor in SCI and Wen-Ting Chung, research assistant professor in the School of Education, have been awarded a RAPID Grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a debunking system for COVID-19 related misinformation.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the RAPID Grants have been awarded to research teams to “mobilize the scientific community to better understand and develop measures to respond to the virus.”
“We rely so much on mass media and social media to get information, even more so during the pandemic,” said Lin, the project’s principal investigator, whose research focuses on using data science to understand collective behavior and social movement. “The mission of this project is to reduce the harmful impact of misinformation.”
Using machine learning and data mining, the team will create an AI system that identifies which false information is most influential, who is most affected by it and how to "debunk" the problematic information automatically in social media. Their debunking system will rely heavily on citizen journalism and crowdsourcing images that counter misinformation on Twitter.
“When people are used to consuming the same media sources or discussing news with people strictly in their social circles, they lose out on the opportunity to see alternative information, or other points of view,” said Chung, whose research interests include group bias and sociocultural factors on learning and motivation. "The system could be a learning device that helps cultivate people with a more critical view in discerning the features of problematic information."
Kovashka, whose expertise is in computer vision and machine learning, added, “What makes this interesting, is how it taps into the work of advertisers. It’s been shown that people will be most likely to click on something is when a post prompts an emotion—in this case it’s fear. Of course, computationally modeling what specific aspect of visual or textual content will evoke an emotion and what kind of behaviors it will prompt is challenging, so part of the goal of this proposal is to advance how we computationally analyze persuasion.”
The team expects to complete their project within the year.
May 14, 2020
Dental Medicine Researcher Mary Marazita Earns Distinguished Professor Honor
Mary Marazita from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine was recently awarded the designation of distinguished professor in recognition for her internationally renowned, groundbreaking and widely heralded work in the genetics of craniofacial disorders. The appointment is effective in Sept. 1, 2020.
The appointment of a faculty member to a distinguished professorship constitutes the highest honor that the University can accord a member of the professorate. The designation recognizes extraordinary, internationally recognized, scholarly attainment in an individual discipline or field. These individuals are expected to make special contributions to the intellectual advancement of their home departments and schools, as well as to the institution as a whole.
Marazita has published over 400 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 23 book chapters or monographs and over 500 abstracts. Her work has been represented in scientific journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and Nature, among others. She also directs Pitt’s Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics.
May 12, 2020
Joshua Matilla Awarded Public Policy Fellowship
Joshua Matilla was recently selected for the 2020-2021 class of Public Policy Fellows at the American Association of Immunologists. Matilla is assistant professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
The fellowship program provides early-career researchers, who are within 15 years of receiving their terminal degree and committed to a career in biomedical research, with the opportunity to learn about and participate in the public policy and legislative activities of the association. Up to 10 fellows are selected to participate annually. Fellows serve from May 1 of their selection year to April 30 of the following year.
May 5, 2020
Listen to a Follow-up Discussion from Pitt Panelists on COVID-19
On February 12, Pitt’s Global Studies and Asian Studies Centers hosted an information session to answer the community’s questions about the novel coronavirus. The event drew approximately 250 people, and it featured two Pitt scientists, two Pitt historians and an epidemiologist from the Allegheny County Health Department.
Two months later, the event’s moderator, Global Studies Center director and professor of political science Michael Goodhart brought two of the panelists together for a follow-up discussion.
In the podcast, Goodhart spoke with Megan Freeman, a pediatric infectious diseases senior fellow in the School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, and Mari Webel, assistant professor in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences' Department of History. Goodhart, Freeman and Webel discussed the developments in the understanding of the disease and the social response that’s come along with it.
"The Global Studies Center wanted to continue this conversation both as a service to our communities and as an intellectual contribution to our evolving understanding of this pandemic and its effects, said Goodhart.
“One of the things most interesting for me to track as a historian has been the way people have been talking about what they should be doing, and how it impacts their lives,” said Webel, who has recently published two articles in The Conversation about the dangers and implications of identifying the virus with its place of origin.
“The translation of early information about COVID-19—which focused on older demographic populations being most at risk, which focused on men—and the early guidance about mask-wearing, we’re seeing that change over time … It’s been an interesting phenomenon see to play out,” Webel said.
Goodhart said that the Global Studies Center will be organizing related online events throughout the summer and encouraged people to check their website for information.
April 24, 2020
PInCh Offering Bonus Prize Money for Pandemic Health Ideas
The Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh) 2020 is now offering a bonus award of up to $25,000 for ideas that impact aspects of health that are related to an epidemic or pandemic.
Proposals are not required to address this issue, but those that do would be eligible to receive additional funding. Applications will continue to be accepted for any innovative solution to a challenging health problem, from any discipline and on any topic that impacts health.
Two-minute video applications are due Wednesday, April 29, by 5 p.m.
A total of $555,000 in awards are available, with individual project awards ranging from $25,000 to $100,000. Teams that enter must include at least one University of Pittsburgh faculty member. Find more information or assistance with your submission online.
April 16, 2020
Bharath Chandrasekaran Appointed to National Institutes of Health Study Section
Bharath Chandrasekaran, a communication science and disorders associate professor and vice chair of research in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been appointed to a four-year term to serve as a charter member of the Language and Communication Study Section, beginning July 1, 2020, and ending June 30, 2024. The section is part of the Center for Scientific Review of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Members of NIH study sections are selected on the basis of their demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline as evidenced by the quality of research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors.
Chandrasekaran’s research examines the neurobiological computations that underlie human communication and learning.
April 12, 2020
Emily Murphy Named Distinguished Fellow of American Academy of Physician Assistants
Emily Murphy, assistant professor of physician assistant studies in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been recognized as a distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.
This honor is bestowed in recognition of exceptional leadership, contributions to the physician assistant profession and community service.
Murphy is also vice chair for academic and administrative affairs and director of the physician assistant studies program. Her clinical background is in neurosurgery, interventional radiology and pulmonology. Murphy currently holds a clinical appointment in addiction medicine with a private physician group.
March 18, 2020
Pitt Programs Rise in National Rankings, Physical Therapy Program Remains in Top Spot
The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) and School of Nursing recently announced new and improved rankings for several educational programs, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 edition of Best Graduate Schools.
Rankings rose for two SHRS graduate programs—occupational therapy is now ranked number three in the country, moving from its spot at number four. Speech-language pathology had the largest jump from number seven to number three. Physical therapy remains number one for the second consecutive rankings report, as well as the audiology program at number seven. No SHRS program rankings fell and no other comparable programs at other schools ranked higher in Pennsylvania.
Pitt Nursing meanwhile is now number six among Master of Science in Nursing programs, moving up six spots from number 12. The Doctor of Nursing Practice programs is now number eight in the country, moving up from number nine.
Every four years, U.S. News collects data by surveying experts who teach and direct programs in multiple health care professions asking them to evaluate their peers. U.S. News surveys only accredited programs.
Pitt Nursing also moved up two spots in the QS World University Rankings to number 16 in the world, ninth in the U.S. These rankings represent a weighted average of indicators that include peer assessment, student selectivity and achievement, mean grade-point average, acceptance rate, student-faculty ratio, faculty credentials and academic achievements and research activity.
February 13, 2020
Pitt Biostatistics Students Win Distinguished Paper Award
Award winners Peng Liu and (GSPH '16) and Yichen Jia study biostatistics. Each will present their work at the International Biometric Society's Eastern North American Region (ENAR) Spring Meeting in Nashville, from March 22-25. Liu will present “Outcome-Guided Disease Subtyping for High-Dimensional Omics Data,” and Jia will present “Quantile Regression on Cause-specific Inactivity Time.”
As part of their winnings, both receive a certificate, reimbursement for meeting travel expenses up to $650, tuition waiver for one ENAR short course of choice and an invitation to the ENAR president's reception.
February 6, 2020
Medical Researcher Paul Palevsky Named President-Elect to Foundation Board
Palevsky is a professor of medicine and clinical and translational science in the renal-electrolyte division at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and is chief of the renal section at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.
He is internationally recognized as an expert in acute kidney injury and critical care nephrology and has helped lead multiple clinical trials focused on the management of acute dialysis, prevention of acute kidney injury and slowing the progression of diabetic kidney disease. He has published more than 250 original articles, reviews and book chapters and has held multiple editorial positions.