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 September 2001
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University News

The Good Word
America's Best

Once again, the University of Pittsburgh scored high in the annual US News and World Report "Best Graduate Schools" rankings. Among them:

* School of Nursing, tied for 12th

* School of Social Work, tied for 13th

* School of Public Health, tied for 13th

* School of Medicine, tied for 20th (for research)

Geriatric Excellence

Already an excellent center of research on aging, Pitt now officially has a national Center of Excellence in Geriatric Medicine.

The recent designation by the John A. Hartford Foundation, which funds research and training in the nation’s very best geriatrics programs, recognizes a string of advances by Pitt researchers in such areas as Alzheimer’s, depression, incontinence, osteoporosis, frailty, pain, and cardiovascular disease. It also recognizes Pitt’s strategic plan to accomplish more.

In the late 1990s, Art Levine, senior vice chancellor for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, and Jeffrey Romoff, chief executive officer of UPMC, made a major commitment to geriatrics. That commitment paid off brilliantly around the beginning of 2000, when Pitt landed Neil Resnick from Harvard. Resnick, whose research expertise is in urinary incontinence, was brought to Pitt to head the geriatrics program, the same position he held at Harvard’s Brigham Women’s Hospital.

Once here, Resnick hit the ground running. He merged the academic geriatricians, previously at three hospitals. He brought in his wife, Susan Greenspan, who is renowned for her research in osteoporosis. When Resnick arrived, Pitt had a dozen fellowship-trained geriatricians. Now there are 25. Resnick also brought in more clinician educators to teach geriatrics.

The new designation as a center of excellence puts Pitt in an even better position as a leader. The designation, Resnick says, is letting Pitt create a physician scientist element to its geriatrics curriculum, allowing fellows not only to learn how to teach geriatrics but also how to conduct important research. Says Resnick, “We’re going to build on an already excellent program to train tomorrow’s academic leaders.” —David R. Eltz

Panther Pride

This fall, while the new Heinz Field on the North Shore welcomed the Pittsburgh Panthers for their first games, the Oakland campus was welcoming its newest panther to town. That panther, a bronze statue made in Parma, Italy, stands on a pedestal in the shadow of the clock near the William Pitt Union, at the center of campus activity. “I think you will overwhelmingly find it will be the most photographed thing on campus,” says Joyce Giangarlo, advisor to the Student Government Board (SGB).

Ten-and-a-half-feet long, the panther was cast with a sleek and muscular tone in pure bronze by sculptor Miriani Guido. With one paw poised in the air, the panther appears ready to pounce on an unsuspecting enemy. The statue, which arrived on campus in May and was stored over the summer in a University warehouse, was placed outside the union at the end of August. A time capsule to be opened in the year 2051 was buried beneath the statue.

The project, which began with SGB deliberations in April 1999, cost $72,000, the most student government has ever spent at one time. The sculpture is worth every penny, says former SGB president George Mongell, because it should instantly become not only a tribute to Pitt and its great past but also a testament to the University’s promising future. What’s more, adds Mongell, “It will remind Pitt students to stand proud. —Mark Dragotta

A Model for Research

A spinal cord injury can be one of the most elusive injuries to cure and one of the most expensive to treat, but Pitt wants to make sure it isn’t one of the most debilitating to live with.

Pitt and UPMC now have the Model Center on Spinal Cord Injury, established with a $1.6 million grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Under Michael Boninger, the director of Pitt’s Center for Assistive Technology, the model center plans to conduct research on a new generation of wheelchairs and devices that help improve the independence of people with injured spinal cords.

The designation “model center” is awarded only to programs that already demonstrate excellence in treatment. And this center can only make Pitt’s and UPMC’s programs, both in care and research, even better. “The grant will encompass data from when you get injured until you go back to work,” says Boninger. The monitoring will continue throughout a patient’s life, always to see how he or she can be better served.

A large part of the work will involve testing new devices. One advanced wheelchair, for instance, the Independence 3000 IBOT Transporter, balances on two wheels and could climb stairs. The IBOT also travels over rough terrain and beaches, and rises up to allow an occupant to reach high cabinets. Study participants will be the only people in the country using the machine, at home, in their everyday lives, says Boninger.

“It can clearly improve the quality of your life,” he adds. And that’s what a model center is all about. —DRE

Preserving the Information Age

While steel magnate Andrew Carnegie believed that good books would naturally replace bad books, he could not have foreseen the rise of the information age, where anything written —good or bad—can live in electronic space, perhaps forever. Therefore, it only stands to reason, said Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a nonprofit philanthropy, that schools such as Pitt’s School of Information Sciences have a tremendous responsibility.

“More information has been created in the past 30 years than was produced in the previous five thousand,” said Gregorian, former president of the New York Public Library. Good, well-trained people have to preserve all information in ways that are not only organized, but also accessible to everyone. Gregorian was speaking during the recent kick-off for the School of Information Sciences’ 100th anniversary, at the place Carnegie’s philanthropy helped to establish—the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland.

The school has come far in a hundred years. Beginning in 1901 as a department of the Carnegie Library in which children’s librarians were trained—the first of its kind—it became the Carnegie Library School in 1930 after moving to the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University. The school came to Pitt in 1962 as the Graduate School of Library Science. It has since grown into graduate and undergraduate programs that are dedicated to the study of the creation, organization, preservation, use, and delivery of information.

Working with information today is indeed a staggering responsibility, said Toni Carbo, dean of information sciences. For example, she said, “One of the things that can be a blessing, and also a problem, is the ability to customize information.” If people are seeing only what they want to see, what happens to their world view? As the school looks toward the future, it also needs to evaluate how technology can bring people closer together, instead of pushing them further apart. And here one hundred years of experience comes into play. “We don’t just teach people what to do and how to do it,” says Carbo. “We have them think about why—not only doing things right, but doing the right thing." —MD

Faculty Books

Jeffrey Schwartz, professor of anthropology, has co-authored a compendium that traces virtually all of the human fossil record. Extinct Humans, written by Schwartz and Ian Tattersall, curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is the first of a three-volume set (John Wiley and Sons).

Professor Emeritus of English Ed Ochester, who also is editor of the Pitt Poetry Series at the University of Pittsburgh Press, recently published two chapbooks of poetry, The Land of Cockaigne (Story Line Press) and Cooking in Key West (Adastra Press).

Kathleen George, associate professor in the theatre department, recently published the thriller Taken, her first novel (Delacorte Press).

Alejandro de la Fuente (Arts and Sciences ’96), an assistant professor of Latin American history at Pitt, has published A Nation for All: Race Inequality and Politics in Twentieth Century Cuba (University of North Carolina Press).

Appointments

Jere Gallagher, associate professor and chair of health, physical, and recreation education, has been appointed associate dean of the University’s School of Education....Jose-Marie Griffiths is the first Doreen E. Boyce Chair in Library and Information Science in the School of Information Sciences. Griffiths comes to Pitt from the University of Michigan....Internationally renowned scientist Richard D. Wood is the new Richard M. Cyert Chair in Molecular Oncology and director of the molecular and cellular oncology program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute....Anthony N. Wakim has been named medical director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at UPMC’s Magee-Womens Hospital. Wakim previously was with Allegheny University Hospitals in Pittsburgh....Kathleen M. DeWalt, professor of anthropology and public health, is the new director of the Center for Latin American Studies. She replaces Billie DeWalt. Billie DeWalt is the new director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. A Pitt professor since 1993, DeWalt will retain the title of Distinguished Service Professor of Public and International Affairs and Latin American Studies.

Cool Websites

The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute now offers a redesigned website (www.upci.upmc.edu) that offers information on everything from patient care to the latest news in cancer research. Visitors can also use the site to ask cancer-related questions, as well as schedule appointments through the UPCI referral service.

Scholars in the philosophy of science community can now circulate their work in the field online at http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu. A service collaboration of the University Library System, Pitt’s Center for Philosophy of Science, and the International Philosophy of Science Association, The PhilSci Archive lets scholars post their latest research free in an electronic archive, for their peers to read.

Research Periscope

Hubble Hubub: Andrew Hopkins, a postdoctoral fellow working with astronomy professor Andrew Connolly, recently received a Hubble Fellowship. The three-year award, funded by NASA and administered by the Space Telescope Science Institute, allows Hopkins to research the connection between star formation and the ages and shapes of galaxies, using photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope....Exposure to Violence: Kathryn Collins, a professor of social work, is studying the effects of children’s exposure to violence in the home, school, and community....Chatty Appliances: Bruce R. Childers, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, has received an IBM Faculty Partnership Award in the amount of $25,000. Childers hopes to develop computer devices that will allow appliances to communicate with each other....Sleeping in Space: It’s pretty dangerous to fall asleep when, say, you have a rendezvous with a satellite. But staying awake longer to make the appointment isn’t always the answer, since in an orbiting spacecraft the sun rises and sets every 90 minutes while the human body still ticks to a 24-hour clock. A NASA-funded study at the School of Medicine looks to reconcile the issue, in an attempt to determine the safest method for rearranging an astronaut’s sleep schedule to meet time-critical missions....Great Grace: Anthony Grace, a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry, recently received the Paul Janssen Schizophrenia Research Award from the International Congress on Neuropsychopharmacology in Belgium. He was being honored for his research into the effects of anti-psychotic drugs on the body’s dopamine systems and brain.

What’s New
Swanson Center for Product Innovation

The Swanson Center for Product Innovation at Pitt’s School of Engineering is up and running, thanks to a one-million dollar gift from Pitt alum John A. Swanson (Engineering ’67). Swanson is the founder of Swanson Analysis Services Inc., the internationally recognized authority in applying finite-element methods to engineering. The new center is designed to take products from conceptualization to production.



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