WINTER 2017 CONNECTING ALUMNI, FRIENDS AND COMMUNITY JACOBS SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO
WORLD-CLASS NEONATAL CARE IN BUFFALO
THE EXCITEMENT IS BUILDING Terra cotta panels—28,006 of them to be precise—are being installed as the high-performance “skin” of the new home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The panels were manufactured by Boston Valley Terra Cotta of Western New York, which won the contract over two German firms. “This medical school building is a new landmark for Buffalo,” says Willard Pottle, international sales and marketing manager at Boston Valley Terra Cotta. “Terra cotta isn’t a 25 to 30 year kind of material. It’s a material for buildings that will be there a long time.” When installation is complete, the building will be covered in 105,000 square feet of terra cotta panels. Each panel weighs 60 pounds and measures 1 foot by 5 feet. For more on construction of the new medical school, turn to page 36. To learn more about the terra cotta panels, visit www.medicine.buffalo.edu and search “terra cotta.”
TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S
UB MEDICINE MAGAZINE, Winter 2017, Vol. 5, No. 1
Michael E. Cain, MD Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Eric C. Alcott Senior Associate Dean, Executive Director Medical Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement
3 VITAL LINES Progress notes
26 DOCTOR VISITS
Editorial Director Christine Fontaneda Assistant Dean, Senior Director Medical Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement
Editor Stephanie A. Unger
Reflections on careers
Contributing Writers Colleen Karuza, Mark Sommer, Lori Ferguson, John DellaContrada Mary Cochrane, Ellen Goldbaum
People in the news
Copyeditor Tom Putnam Photography Sandra Kicman, Douglas Levere, Nancy J. Parisi
32 Q & A
Art Direction & Design Karen Lichner
Conversations with experts
UB Medicine is published by the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB to inform alumni, friends and community about the school’s pivotal role in medical education, research and advanced patient care in Buffalo, Western New York and beyond. Visit us: medicine.buffalo.edu/alumni www.facebook.com/ UBMedicalAlumniAssociation
COVER IMAGE: Satyan Lakshminrusimha, MD, chief of the Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, caring for a newborn at Women and Children’s Hosptial of Buffalo. Photo by Sandra Kicman.
Jennifer A. Kuhn oversees construction of the new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. On page 32, she provides an update on the project as it nears completion.
8 Caring for the Most Vulnerable Populations
Critically ill newborns in Western New York receive world-class care from a team led by Satyan Lakshminrusimha, MD.
12 THE MAN BEHIND PRECISION MEDICINE AT UB
John Tomaszewski, MD, chair of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, uses new computational tools to help transform care.
PIONEER SURGEON BRINGS EXPERTISE TO BUFFALO Steven Schwaitzberg, MD, chair of surgery, is retooling surgical training at UB while forging entrepreneurial collaborations.
24 AN UPLANNED CAREER, ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP Drucy Borowtiz, MD, who helped transform care for cystic fibrosis patients, was recently tapped for a national role.
Editorial Advisers John J. Bodkin II, MD ’76 Elizabeth A. Repasky, PhD ’81 Affiliated Teaching Hospitals Erie County Medical Center Roswell Park Cancer Institute Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System Kaleida Health Buffalo General Medical Center Gates Vascular Institute Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital Catholic Health Mercy Hospital of Buffalo Sisters of Charity Hospital Correspondence, including requests to be added to or removed from the mailing list, should be sent to: Editor, UB Medicine, 901 Kimball Tower, Buffalo, NY 14214; or email email@example.com
U B M E D V I TA L L I N E S
CAMPAIGN ENTERS FINAL STRETCH “Alive and Well” Film Debuts At no other time in the 170-year history of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences have so many come forward to help Build the Vision for its future. This esprit de corps was on full display the evening of September 20 when more than 300 donors gathered at the Westin Hotel downtown to mark the public launch of the final phase of the $200 million Build the Vision Campaign for the new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. More than $177 million has been raised to date and the theme of the evening was clear: With everyone pulling together, the final $23 million will be raised by the close of the campaign in January 2018. A highlight of the evening was the debut of the Build the Vision Campaign film, “Alive and Well,” produced by local filmmaker John Paget. To view the film, go to: medicine.buffalo.edu/campaignfilm.
Suzanne Aquilina, DNP, and Alan Aquilina, MD, emeritus clinical professor of medicine.
Charles Kreiner, president, James H. Cummings Foundation, and Jillian Korn, Class of 2020, Cummings Scholar and Dr. Thomas and Barbara Guttuso Scholar.
Gregory and Joanne Bauer.
Photos by Nancy J. Parisi
Jeremy Jacobs, left, joining Dean Michael E. Cain, MD, in a toast.
U B M E D V I TA L L I N E S
CASTELLANI FAMILY MAKES $1 MILLION GIFT Joins Circle of Visionaries
The Lawrence P. Castellani Family Foundation has made a $1 million gift to the University at Buffalo, $900,000 of which will support the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ Build the Vision Campaign. The gift to the medical school, which qualifies them for the Circle of Visionaries recognition society, was made in tribute to UB Council Chairman Jeremy M. Jacobs and L. Nelson Hopkins III, MD, a SUNY Distinguished Professor of Neurosurgery. A portion of the gift will be directed to the Department of Neurosurgery, which Hopkins chaired from 1989 to 2013. Castellani noted that his friendship with the men and their leadership at UB “had a tremendous influence on the gift” and how it will be designated. “I have the greatest respect for Nick Hopkins, his passion, dedication and abilities in neurosurgery. He is truly a remarkable individual,” Castellani says, noting that his younger brother, Daniel A. Castellani, MD ’81, is a neurologist who studied under Hopkins at UB. “And the UB medical school is driven by the campaign leadership of Jeremy Jacobs,” he continues. “I don’t think there is any doubt that as a result of his leadership and support, Buffalo is a much better and more vibrant place to live and work. “With their combined accomplishments on behalf of UB, we saw an opportunity to give to support their efforts and make a difference for the university and for Buffalo,” says Castellani, who made the gift through the foundation with his wife, Joan J. Castellani. He said their two children, Lawrence Castellani Jr. and Julianne Castellani Vardan, are foundation trustees who will oversee its partnership with UB. Castellani said Hopkins took him on a tour of the new medical school, which gave Castellani the opportunity to “see the difference
Joan J. Castellani and Lawrence P. Castellani
in health care for this region that the facility will make.” A senior executive with more than 30 years of experience, Castellani started stocking shelves in 1962 for his family’s upstate New York supermarket chain, which became Tops Friendly Markets. He became CEO of Tops in 1991, and remained in that role until 1998, when he stepped down to run Latin American operations for Royal Ahold NV, a Dutch supermarket operator. He finished his retail career as CEO and chairman of Advanced Auto Parts.
NEUROSURGEONS PERFORM LIVE CASES FOR INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE Kaleida Health’s Gates Vascular Institute (GVI)—a UB teaching affiliate—was one of seven medical facilities in the U.S. and one of 12 international medical sites selected to broadcast live surgeries for the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) conference, the world’s largest educational meeting specializing in interventional cardiovascular medicine. On November 1, UB and Kaleida Health neurosurgeons Elad Levy, MD, Adnan Siddiqui, MD, PhD, Kenneth Snyder, MD, PhD, and Jason Davies, MD, PhD, performed two live cases from the GVI. In addition, L. Nelson Hopkins, MD, former chair of neurosurgery at UB and
founder and chief scientific officer of the Jacobs Institute, led discussions on current innovations. “The University at Buffalo Neurosurgery (UBNS), Kaleida Health’s Gates Vascular Institute and the Jacobs Institute in Buffalo represented one of several international sites chosen to transmit live cases to the TCT,” says Hopkins. “This speaks volumes about our team and staff here at the GVI and Jacobs Institute. UBNS is the only neuro group invited to transmit at the TCT conference. This is a testimony to the outstanding reputation of our center for patient care, teaching and research.”
Thirty-five practicing radiologists employed by Great Lakes Medical Imaging (GLMI) are joining the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as full-time faculty members in the Department of Radiology. They also will provide care to the community as clinicians with UBMD Radiology and UB’s hospital partners. Kenneth D. Pearsen, co-founder and former president of GLMI, has been appointed chair of the Department of Radiology; he also has been named president of the UBMD Radiology practice plan. Angelo DelBalso, who had served as chair of the Department of Radiology, has returned to the faculty full time. The UBMD Radiology practice plan will provide radiology services to Kaleida Health, just as GLMI has done for years. The new agreement also makes UBMD Radiology the sole provider of radiology services at Erie County Medical Center. “This is a major success story,” says Michael E. Cain, UB vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “This transition takes advantage Kenneth D. Pearsen, MD of the very talented pool of radiologists at Great Lakes Medical Imaging and complements the strong collaborations between the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and our hospital partners at Kaleida Health, ECMC and elsewhere on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. “The transitioning of the radiologists from Great Lakes Medical Imaging into the UB Department of Radiology and UBMD Radiology will re-energize radiological care, education and science in Western New York, providing UB medical students with a solid foundation in the science of imaging and how it applies to patient care.” To read more, go to buffalo.edu/news and search “Department of Radiology.”
JACOBSEN NAMED ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR MEDICAL CURRICULUM Lisa Jane Jacobsen, MD, MPH, MSHPEd, has joined the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as associate dean for medical curriculum, clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and vice chair of medical education in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In her role as associate dean, Jacobsen is actively involved in shaping the medical curriculum to ensure that students continue to receive the most up-to-date medical knowledge in an environment where newer, most effective teaching techniques are being applied. She also trains medical students and residents in obstetrics and gynecology in diverse clinical settings. Jacobsen comes to UB from Tufts University School of Medicine, in Boston, Mass., where she served as assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology. She earned her medical degree from Tufts, where she also completed her residency in OB/GYN, fellowship training in pediatric and adolescent gynecology and a master’s in public health. Lisa Jane Jacobsen, In 2016, she completed a master’s in health professions education at Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for MD, MPH, MSHPEd Health Professions. Jacobsen has been actively involved in medical education, helping to design curriculum, as well as teaching. She has received numerous teaching awards, including the 2016 ACOG Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology National Faculty Award, and the 2015 Excellence in Teaching Award from students at Tufts University School of Medicine. In her clinical practice, Jacobsen cares for pediatric and adolescent patients with a wide range of gynecologic conditions, as well as older women with general OB/GYN concerns.
Photo by Douglas Levere
PEARSEN APPOINTED CHAIR OF DEPARTMENT OF RADIOLOGY
U B M E D V I TA L L I N E S
NIH SELECTS TWO UB MEDICAL STUDENTS AS MEDICAL RESEARCH SCHOLARS Two students from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences have been selected by the National Institutes of Health to participate in the prestigious Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP). The year-long residential program at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., introduces medical, dental and veterinary students to innovative research in their fields. Gregory Roloff, a native of Buffalo, and Gregory Roloff Daniel Kuhr, originally from Elwood, N.Y., are among 52 medical and dental students comprising the fifth class of the MRSP, which serves as a fellowship between the third and fourth years of medical school. Four UB medical students have been selected to the program since
its launch in 2012. Elizabeth Heller, MD ’15, and Alex Dinh, MD ’16, were accepted to the MRSP’s second and third classes, respectively. “We are thrilled to have outstanding UB medical students continuously accepted to the MRSP,” says David Milling, MD ’93, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Daniel Kuhr “Participation in this highly-selective program presents our students with a unique opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge and understanding of academic medicine, leading to successful careers as physicians and researchers.”
STUDENT SELECTED AS SARNOFF FELLOW
CONSOLIDATION OF PEDIATRIC HEMATOLOGY AND ONCOLOGY SERVICES
Vinny Polsinelli began conducting research in Haiti following his first year of medical school at UB. Today, he is one of only 11 students nationwide selected for a 2016-17 fellowship by the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation. As a Sarnoff fellow, he receives a $30,000 stipend for a one-year mentored research experience with pre-eminent cardiovascular scientists of his choosing. Polsinelli, who recently completed his third Vinny Polsinelli year of medical school, says the program’s unique qualities and focus on cardiovascular research appealed to him. “The Sarnoff program is a close, intimate community of world-class people in the field. Its cornerstone is closely guided mentoring that extends well beyond your fellowship year.” After completing their year of research, fellows have opportunities to remain involved in the Sarnoff community. They are encouraged to participate in annual scientific meetings and other Sarnoff-sponsored gatherings, where they can receive career development advice from Sarnoff alumni and reconnect with colleagues. Fellows also are provided with an allowance for travel expenses related to finding a preceptor and laboratory. After visiting labs at five universities, Polsinelli chose to work with Sanjiv J. Shah, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at Northwestern University. To learn more, visit medicine.buffalo.edu and search “Sarnoff.”
Construction has begun on a new pediatric outpatient clinic on the ground floor of Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The $5.7 million Katherine, Anne and Donna Gioia Pediatric Hematology Oncology Center is phase two of a collaboration between Roswell Park, Kaleida Health and UBMD Pediatrics to consolidate hematology-oncology services for children in the region under the Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders Program of Western New York. Kara Kelly, MD ’89 Phase one is an 11-bed inpatient unit that will be housed on the top floor of Kaleida’s new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, slated for completion in late 2017. “Currently there are separate inpatient and outpatient facilities at both Women and Children’s Hospital and at Roswell Park, which is incredibly inefficient,” says Kara Kelly, MD ’89, head of the joint pediatric hematology-oncology program. “Having a dedicated center that cares for children with blood disorders is going to do so much to improve access, especially as we look to offer more novel therapies and expand our bone marrow program.” Kelly was recruited to Buffalo in 2016 to serve as chair of pediatric oncology at Roswell Park and chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology in the UB Department of Pediatrics. She was formerly a professor of pediatrics at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and associate director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology-Stem Cell Transplant at Columbia.
A WEIGHT LIFTED OFF MY SHOULDERS
Dean Salem has lived a life of firsts: a first-year medical student in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, he is the first in his family to study medicine. He also is the first of his parents’ five children and is the first to go to college, graduating from UB in 2014 with a BS in medical technology. A month or so later, he began his first fulltime job, as a medical technologist at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo, a place where he first spent time as a volunteer. Salem’s parents immigrated to the United States from Yemen, where they had grown up in a village farming community. “They came here in the hope of providing a better life for their children, and I think they have succeeded,” says Salem, who adds that he wanted his degree for himself and for his family. “When I graduated, I felt as if I had lifted up my entire family with me,” he says. “My experience at UB demonstrated to my younger siblings the opportunities that college brings.” Now, Salem has another first on his list: he’s been awarded a Western New York Medical Scholarship, thanks to a generous gift from Catholic Health System, Dean Salem which has committed $384,000 to funding three scholarships over a 12-year span. The four-year scholarships are awarded to Western New Yorkers who are UB medical students. The highly select criteria require recipients to have excelled academically at and graduated from high schools in the eight-county region and demonstrate financial need. The students, who receive $30,000-plus annually, must pledge to practice in Western New York for five years upon finishing medical school and resident training. The scholarship program is designed to train and retain more doctors in the area, countering a steady decline in the number of physicians who practice in Western New York. The Buffalo region is on the lower end of 305 U.S. areas in terms of number of family practice physicians.
Photo by Douglas Levere
Catholic Health System supports WNY Medical Scholarship Fund
Salem is very grateful to Catholic Health and the Western New York Medical Scholarship Fund. “Medical school is stressful enough without having to think about the debt that you are incurring while you attend,” he says. “This scholarship allows me to focus singularly on my education rather than on financial constraints, and I believe that I will be a better physician for it. It truly is a weight lifted off of my shoulders. “The University at Buffalo is where my interest in science was fostered,” he adds, “and I am happy to be able to continue my education in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.” If you would like to contribute to this fund, contact Eric Alcott at (716) 829-2773; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CARING FOR THE
Photos by Sandra Kicman
S AT YA N L A K S H M I N R U S I M H A , M D , A N I N T E R N AT I O N A L L E A D E R I N N E O N ATO LO GY
Satyan Lakshminrusimha, MD, vice chair of the Department of Pediatrics, professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Neonatology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“Call me Satyan.” If you are a parent of a newborn who requires critical
BY COLLEEN KARUZA
care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, a UB teaching affiliate, these will probably be the first words you’ll hear from Satyan Lakshminrusimha, MD. “There’s no place for fancy titles or formality here,” says the internationally known neonatologist who insists on this level of intimacy with anxious families who depend on him for medical care and support. “I tell parents that they are not my patients—their baby is.” When loved ones and a multidisciplinary team of pediatric specialists unite to make crucial decisions at the speed of life, last names become superfluous.
A COMPREHENSIVE MODEL OF CARE As chief of the Division of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, Lakshminrusimha says it is his job to ensure that the critically ill preterm and term infants in Western New York and beyond receive the support and quality treatment they need. Under his leadership, the division integrates state-ofthe-art care, innovative research and “hands-on” training to create a comprehensive model of care. The division is part of the Neonatal Research Network of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a group of 15 academic neonatal research centers across the country that work to transfer laboratory discoveries to the bedside through carefully designed clinical studies—“the hallmark of outstanding clinical research,” says Lakshminrusimha.
PARTNERING WITH FAMILIES The 64-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo admits 800 to 950 babies each year, with an average daily census of 50 to 55 babies. “In broad strokes, we treat three types of patients,” explains Lakshminrusimha. “We see term babies whose mothers had normal pregnancies, but in the transition from womb to birth, the babies have problems clearing their lungs. These infants are effectively treated and sent home after a short time. Then there are the preterm babies, who have a range of challenges requiring much longer hospital
stays, with some celebrating their first birthdays here. The third group of babies are those born with anomalies and often require surgery.” In all cases, families are encouraged to participate in their child’s care. “Because babies can spend anywhere from a few days to more than a year here, we rely on the family’s support as much as they rely on ours,” Lakshminrusimha says. “Parents are vital sources of information for us and other families, and we encourage them to participate in physician rounds to ask and answer questions that may arise.” As a result, meaningful, enduring bonds between families and staff are quickly formed. “The most impressive thing about Satyan is the humanity he brings to his professional life,” observes Teresa Quattrin, MD, A. Conger Goodyear Professor and chair of pediatrics at UB and pediatrician-in-chief at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. Humble and self-effacing, Lakshminrusimha scores a “10” on the likeability scale, adds Corinne Leach, MD, PhD, UB associate professor of pediatrics, who directs quality improvement at the NICU at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. “Satyan’s approachability and genuine concern for the welfare of his patients invite an easy, open rapport with families.”
A DREAM COME TRUE Lakshminrusimha, a native of Mysore, India, says that there was no defining moment that led him to pursue a career in medicine. “I come from a family of engineers, and my dad thought I should do something different.” The dutiful son subsequently travelled a different path, graduating with high honors from the University of Mysore Medical College in 1988. Following graduation and a one-year internship in surgery, pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology, he served as a medical officer at an Indian Railways hospital at Vriddhachalam Junction in South India. Trains carrying
“On the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, we now have a strong, collaborative medical complex and a fertile ground for new research advances, and Satyan’s international reputation has attracted many excellent pediatric researchers to Buffalo.” James Russell, PhD, emeritus professor of physiology and biophysics and pediatrics
thousands of Sri Lankan refugees—many seeking help for infectious diseases such as malaria and diarrhea—would pass through the station. “Each day, we’d care for 15 to 20 babies, but our best efforts could not save them all,” Lakshminrusimha recalls. “I saw the harsh human toll exacted by a lack of medical education and inadequate technology in a third-world country. I knew then that I wanted to devote my professional life to making a difference in this vulnerable population.” Lakshminrusimha returned to his hometown and completed a residency in pediatrics at Cheluvamba Hospital for Women and Children in 1994. Recognizing that more advanced training opportunities existed in the U.S., he completed a second residency in pediatrics at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City and came to UB in 1996 as a fellow in neonatal-perinatal medicine. Leach, who recruited the young trainee to the fellowship program, said he was hard not to notice. “He had the highest scores I had ever seen on the international medical licensing exams. He was clearly brilliant, and his mentors and professors universally praised his impeccable abilities and character,” she says. For Lakshminrusimha, the chance to work at UB—the place where pioneering research advances in surfactant, inhaled nitric-oxide therapy, high-frequency ventilation and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation were helping to dramatically reduce the mortality and morbidity rates of newborns—was a dream come true.
AT HOME IN THE LAB UB fellowships require both research experience and clinical practice, and Lakshminrusimha went to work in the laboratory of James Russell, PhD, now-retired professor of physiology and biophysics and pediatrics at UB. “A lot of fellows feel that research is drudgery, but Jim taught me that it can be fun, eye-opening and exciting,” says Lakshminrusimha, who credits Russell with being an early role model and one of his most influential mentors. “One publication is usually the norm for our fellows, but Satyan churned out several,” Russell recalls. In fact, adds Leach, “Satyan was so bright and so productive in the laboratory, that our group wanted him to stay on as faculty.” However, an obligation to work in an underserved area for his visa requirements led him out west, where he worked for
three years at the Pediatric Associates of Southern Colorado. Lakshminrusimha continued to collaborate with UB faculty, and in 2003, he returned, “as promised,” assuming the title of assistant professor of pediatrics.
A RISING STAR It didn’t take long for Lakshminrusimha to distinguish himself as one of the world’s leading experts in pulmonary hypertension, dedicated to developing better resuscitation methods in neonates. “As a translational researcher, he is virtually unparalleled in his ability to distill large amounts of information in medicine and science in a short period of time,” says Leach. Quattrin recalls the words of the late Bruce Holm, PhD, former senior provost at UB and one of the international superstars of surfactant research and advancement in the late 1980s. “After meeting Satyan, Bruce pulled me aside and said, ‘You have a rising star there and one that will shine like a comet!’” Lakshminrusimha now heads UB’s Center for Developmental Biology of the Lung, the laboratory that played a historic role in developing surfactant replacement therapy, which resulted in a dramatic decrease in the mortality rate for preterm babies in respiratory distress. An absence of surfactant, a naturally occurring material produced in the lungs primarily during the last month of gestation, can cause life-threatening breathing difficulties in newborns, particularly preterm babies. As director of the center, Lakshminrusimha carries on that legacy of excellence, focusing on developing and investigating the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for cardiopulmonary transition disorders and premature lung disease in neonates. These strategies include new medications, nitric oxide, surfactant and the judicious use of oxygen. Lakshminrusimha encourages a “team science” approach in his lab, says Quattrin, “always recognizing the contributions of others and giving appropriate credit for efforts.”
FROM MENTEE TO MENTOR In 2016, Lakshminrusimha was named Mentor of the Year by the Eastern Society of Pediatric Research for sustained
excellence as an educator and mentor to new trainees. The youngest physician to win the award, he works with UB medical students, pediatric and gynecology/obstetrics residents and pediatric neurology fellows, many of whom do not have prior exposure to research. “I cannot begin to list all the attributes Satyan brings to the lab bench as a mentor,” says Russell. “He’s an outstanding researcher: supportive, collegial and an allaround good person. People naturally gravitate toward him and want to work with him.” Great mentors often produce exceptional physicianresearchers. “Over the years, he has mentored many successful fellows who have gone on to garner prestigious national awards and keenly competitive federal grants, and to publish high-quality, game-changing research,” adds Russell. In 2013, for example, Shaon Sengupta, MD, one of Lakshminrusimha’s pediatric residents and recipient of UB’s Frawley Residency Research Fellowship award, coauthored with him a major paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Pediatrics that revealed that babies born at 37-38 weeks, although close to full-term, are still at significantly higher risk for adverse health outcomes, such as hypoglycemia and respiratory difficulties, than those babies born at 39-41 weeks. The study also found that birth by elective caesarean section pushed health risks even higher. Because of similar studies and additional corroborating evidence, national practice guidelines were revised and in most cases, women are no longer induced before 39 weeks. These results translated into better models of care and patient outcomes.
SEA CHANGE IN WESTERN NEW YORK
Lakshminrusimha adds that physicians who are researchers and educators “could not be happier” that the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital will join Buffalo General Medical Center, Gates Vascular Institute, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and other health partners in downtown Buffalo in 2017. “Going back and forth takes up a lot of time,” he notes. “We have effectively built bridges— both literally and figuratively—to bring advances from bench to bedside in a more expedient manner, which will especially benefit patients with complex health problems. “Earlier this year, we sent a team over to Roswell Park Cancer Institute to deliver the baby of a woman who was hospitalized there,” Lakshminrusimha recalls. “Because she was receiving chemo and because her baby needed to be transferred to our NICU for some health issues, the woman could not see her child for four months. Once the hospitals are closer together and connected, this type of situation will never happen again.”
“WHY I DO WHAT I DO” Lakshminrusimha says his vision and hope for neonatal care and research “may sound corny or clichéd,” but one day, “I hope to be out of work.” He says his goals are to “ultimately eliminate all problems related to prematurity, to develop simple, effective ways to help babies breathe and live out their natural lifespan and to improve education and global health.” Ask him what fuels these lofty goals and he pulls from his treasure trove of memories a story about a miracle baby. “In 2004, the Canadian province of Ontario was overwhelmed by births and many preterm babies were being treated here across the border. A baby girl, only 23 weeks old, had been transferred to our NICU. Three days later, I received a call in the middle of the night that she was gravely ill and probably had only hours to live. I called her family, which drove in from Ontario, and together we decided to try what we call ‘desperate measures’ to keep the baby alive. These measures included surfactant. We watched and waited, and the baby’s condition changed overnight. She was the most stubbornly determined baby I had ever treated.” Today, the preemie, who was once at the threshold of death’s door, is an active sixth grader in a gifted and talented program. “Every time I see her at our annual summer picnic, it hits me that she is the reason I do what I do—help sick babies get well and achieve their full potential.”
In 1996, when Lakshminrusimha came to Buffalo, approximately 16,500 babies were born in the area. In recent years, the average is about 15,000, but that number is increasing. “New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has been terrific in throwing political support behind revitalizing Buffalo,” he says. “There is new momentum, new partnerships, growth, and most encouraging, our young people are coming back and the birth rate is rising.” “We are experiencing a sea change in the practice of medicine and the conduct of research in Western New York,” says Russell. “On the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, we now have a strong, collaborative medical complex and a fertile ground for new research advances, and Satyan’s international reputation has attracted many excellent pediatric Teresa Quattrin, MD, chair researchers to Buffalo.”
“The most impressive thing about Satyan is the humanity he brings to his professional life.” of pediatrics
MAN BEHIND PRECISION
MEDICINE AT UB
J O H N E . TO M A S Z E W S K I , M D , C H A I R O F PAT H O LO GY A N D A N ATO M I C A L S C I E N C E S
BY COLLEEN KARUZA
It may seem ironic that the physicians with the least amount of patient contact are among the lead architects of precision-medicine care plans, providing the blueprints for most treatment decisions. Unseen—and unsung, perhaps—but far from being unheard, pathologists and their laboratory teams function as indispensable resources for improved patient outcomes and disease management. A staggering seven billion clinical lab tests are performed in the United States each year, “yielding actionable data that directly influence three out of four medical decisions,” says John E. Tomaszewski, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “If the lab data system collapsed tomorrow, there would be no prescriptions, no diagnoses, no transfusions, no treatment plans, no prognostic predictions.”
ENTER MOLECULAR DIAGNOSTICS Five years ago, when he was recruited to Buffalo from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Tomaszewski was given a welcome opportunity to advance UB’s Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences by expanding its basic
and clinical research programs—including adding a 21st-century molecular diagnostics component—and enriching the educational experience of its students, residents and graduate research trainees. It was an irresistible challenge for the physicianresearcher who has long recognized the critical role pathology plays in the rapidly changing landscape of quality patient care delivery. “The 21st-century goal to personalize medicine will be driven by 21st-century molecular diagnostics—the fastestgrowing area in pathology,” says Tomaszewski, who was recently honored with a mastership designation from the American Society for Clinical Pathology for significant contributions to both the organization and the fields of pathology and laboratory medicine. Molecular diagnostics is an area of study that evolved following the mapping of the human genome. It uses advanced biology techniques to analyze an individual’s genetic code to create a molecular fingerprint that helps diagnose and monitor disease, determine best therapeutic
Photo by Sandra Kicman
John E. Tomaszewski, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, is internationally recognized for his translational research on genitourinary cancers and immunopathology.
options and assess disease risk and treatment response. The introduction of numerous novel drug targets and new treatment strategies, particularly in cancer, can be traced to molecular diagnostics and biomarker discoveries.
INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE Perhaps at no other time in their history have the fields of pathology and anatomical sciences been more dynamic. In addition to clinical laboratory science being reshaped by advances in DNA microarray technology, there are exponential increases in the number of tests, issues of cost-containment and efficiency, ever-changing expectations for information connectivity, and an unprecedented volume of “big data” being amassed on genomics, cancer genetics and gene expression. In his role as chair, Tomaszewski says that he is determined to prepare future pathologists for the expanding roles they will assume in disease prevention, diagnosis and management. And in the laboratory—where every new test, device and process stems from innovation—demands run high.
“Pathologists can no longer be just great laboratory physicians,” he explains. “We need to be leaders and train tomorrow’s leaders in this new era of integrative medicine, and we need to anticipate and assimilate the seismic paradigm shifts rapidly occurring in medicine and health care. “What we do in the lab informs almost every clinical specialty,” he adds, “so it’s important that we be fluid, knowledgeable and bring our ‘A-game’ everyday.”
BRIDGE TO QUALITY CARE For pathologists like Tomaszewski, patient care, even when not faceto-face, means “assisting patients and clinicians in the understanding and use of clinical laboratory data for the planning of therapeutic decisions.” Because pathology is the bridge to quality clinical care, the challenges and responsibilities are ever present. “You realize that you are the patient’s best shot for a definitive diagnosis, and what comes out of your lab will set the stage for his or her entire care package,” Tomaszewski says. “You want to get it right.
“I like the fact that Buffalo is way ahead of the curve in taking a more integrative, efficient approach to the practice of medicine.” John E. Tomaszewski, MD, chair pathology and anatomical sciences
“It all boils down to you, and the trust and confidence each patient and his or her clinician place in you to provide useful data. Without it, no diagnosis or prognostic prediction can be made.” Tomaszewski points out that there are more than 18,000 practicing pathologists in the U.S., a number that is expected to grow as greater demands are placed on laboratories. “And behind each pathologist, is a group of highly skilled, versatile lab professionals who are as equally committed to producing quality results,” he stresses. “Simply put, we could not get along without them.”
UB’S LEGACY The Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences has more than 40 full-time faculty and residency and graduate programs located on the South Campus and within four UBaffiliated teaching hospitals. In his first few years as chair of the department, Tomaszewski has focused on strengthening existing clinical, educational and research programs and creating new ones. “We’ve established a dynamic, collaborative work culture and have strategically aligned programs with what our strengths are as a department and what we want to become,” he explains. “We’ve made fundamental changes in the team and hired new faculty, including biomedical engineers and computational analysts, who will take us to places where we have never been. We’ve rebooted our graduate programs, and, most important, we’ve changed how we approach and use complex data.” Tomaszewski acknowledges that he is fortunate to be able to build on UB’s legacy of pioneering contributions to cell biology, experimental pathology and anatomy. “There is an impressive backdrop here for us to leverage innovations in clinical informatics, computational diagnostics and translational medicine.” His hope is that over the next decade global healthcare will move to a place where value, cost-efficiency and diagnostic precision are givens for every patient.
A VISUAL BRAIN “Ever since I was a child, I loved looking at things to see how they worked,” Tomaszewski says. “I have a visual brain, and have always felt most at home in a laboratory.” Choosing a profession flowed naturally from this interest and aptitude, he explains. “At the end of the day, you are fortunate if you can go with your strengths and heart, and for me it was pathology.” Even after three decades, Tomaszewski is unshakable in his belief that “there is no field in medicine and biomedical science that is more exciting and rewarding than pathology.” A native of Philadelphia, Tomaszewski received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) School of Medicine, where he also completed residencies in anatomic and clinical pathology and a fellowship in surgical pathology. He then received specialized training in renal pathology at Columbia University in New York City, and in immunology and human leukocyte antigen testing at UPenn with the late Chester M. Zmijewski, PhD ’60, an internationally acclaimed, UB-trained immunologist (see related article on page 16). “As far back as I can remember, I have found science and research to be intellectually engaging. While I don’t have a PhD in basic science, I have a deep respect for lab data, knowing full well that medicine cannot advance an inch without it,” he says. Tomaszewski joined the UPenn faculty in 1983 as assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine. During his 28-year tenure, in which he advanced to professor, he also served as director of electron microscopy, director of surgical pathology, vice chair of anatomic pathology for hospital services and interim chair of pathology and laboratory medicine. Prior to moving to Buffalo, Tomaszewski had only the “loosest of connections” to the city, explaining that he worked with John S.J. Brooks, MD, and served as chief resident under Richard Cheney, MD, both UPenn faculty who later served as chairs of
pathology and laboratory medicine at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Tomaszewski says he was attracted to the opportunity at UB because of “the rapid growth and development the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and UB’s heavy investment in the city’s future.” UB’s reputation and its strong commitment to technology were also primary factors. “UB has a supercomputer and a robust computational science and biomedical engineering program—areas where medicine needs to go,” he explains. “I like the fact that Buffalo is way ahead of the curve in taking a more integrative, efficient approach to the practice of medicine.” Tomaszewski jokes that two of his favorite things about Western New York—“one of the prettiest areas in the country”—are the ability of its residents to correctly pronounce his Polish last name and the memory of the first time he sampled “suicide-sauce” chicken wings.
A NEW ANALYTIC MODEL Tomaszewski is internationally recognized for his translational research on genitourinary cancers and immunopathology and holds five patents in novel systems and methods for detecting cancer. His studies focus on renal transplantation and advanced tissue analysis, work that has improved treatments for bladder and prostate cancer patients and kidney transplant recipients. He and his research team are currently involved in innovative, translational image science, using quantitative image analysis, computer vision and machine learning to diagnose problems in prostate and other genitourinary cancers. “We are taking an integrative approach to diagnosis, hoping to create a new analytic model, fusing the data from the quantitative analysis of high-resolution images with multidimensional molecular data sets,” he explains. “This fused-diagnostics approach, which we hope will be a hallmark of 21st-century
Photo by Douglas Levere
Erin Ly, MD ’16, left, and Sarah Morse, Class of 2017, working at the Sectra Table, a multi-touch display that allows students to explore and examine virtual representations of real bodies in minute detail
diagnostics, will support predictive disease modeling and patient response to therapy based on precision medicine,” he continues. “Our group is working to develop platforms that will support this new way of addressing complex, multivariable testing.”
MOVING INTO THE DIGITAL AGE In February 2015, the James H. Cummings Foundation awarded UB a $1 million gift to develop a Structural Sciences Learning Center under Tomaszewski’s leadership. That sizable gift is “a clear demonstration of the Cummings Foundation’s support for the educational and scientific innovations that the new medical school makes possible,” says Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The multidisciplinary center will be located on the seventh and third floors of the new medical school and will be “open for business” when the building opens in 2017, says Tomaszewski. Offering specialized training in anatomical science, the center— one of only a few of its kind in the country—will provide an innovative approach to teaching and research, bringing together the expertise and computing power of UB’s schools of medicine and engineering with UB’s New York Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, Clinical and Translational Research Center and Institute for Healthcare Informatics, all located downtown on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. “Our goal is to transform anatomy, cell biology and pathology education and research by bringing them into the digital age,” Tomaszewski says. “Advanced computational tools now allow for the mining of the tremendous quantitative structural information
embedded in human anatomy, cells and molecules. Those data can be used to develop new predictive models, diagnoses and treatments that will directly benefit patients.” In the Structural Sciences Learning Center, medical, bioengineering and computer science students will learn how the “big data” of structure interact. Physicians and biomedical scientists, engineers and computer scientists will jointly develop a unique capacity for creating and annotating the vast amounts of biomedical data embedded in the human organism. “I enjoy watching students who come in and don’t know their way around a lab develop into functional, competent scientists,” says Tomaszewski, who is excited by the seemingly endless educational and laboratory research opportunities within the new medical school. “The seventh floor has been built out with laboratories,” he says. “There’ll be classic anatomy and research labs, phantom labs, robotic labs, surgical simulation and structural sciences labs. We’ll have anatomical engineering labs, with a heavy computational emphasis. On the third floor we will leverage the work of our core labs into computational approaches of advanced cellular and tissue imaging. And the best part is that we will lay the foundation for a culture of multidisciplinary collaboration, where important data will be collected, interpreted and shared. “It’s personally and professionally rewarding to be able to strive for better value, better outcomes and best practices in the work we do,” he adds. “There’s no place I’d rather be than Buffalo, and I am thrilled to be part of this great university.” Ellen Goldbaum contributed to this article.
THE IMPACT OF PREHISTORIC SPECIES ON HUMAN ANATOMY COMPUTATIONAL ANATOMIST JACK TSENG, PHD, RECRUITED TO UB
BY ELLEN GOLDBAUM
Ancient mammals. Prehistoric hyenas. The evolution of dogs. These aren’t typical research subjects for a medical school faculty member, but then Jack Tseng, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, is not a typical medical school faculty member. Tseng, an evolutionary biologist who specializes in studying the craniodental systems (skulls) of mammals, is part of a small but growing trend in medical schools hiring researchers who study prehistoric species in order to shed light on human anatomy. When he interviewed at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences last summer, Tseng said he was struck by the interest his chair, John Tomaszewski, MD, had in how paleontology and paleobiology might impact the study of anatomy. “Dr. Tomaszewski was interested in the fact that I look at anatomical changes over the geologic time scale. He believes it can be very useful and illuminating for clinical research.” The hiring of Tseng, a computational anatomist, and others with computational backgrounds, is helping to bring a more
quantitative, technology-based focus to the study of anatomy at UB. And while Tseng has focused on creatures from the distant past, the tools he uses are entirely cutting-edge. That’s not accidental, since Tseng grew up in Silicon Valley and attended the University of California at Berkeley, intending to study computer science. Somewhere in his undergraduate career, he developed a passion for paleontology and found that digital tools were extremely useful in studying ancient mammals. “As an undergrad, I was split between working in research laboratories in traditional paleontology and also biomechanics, to look at long-term anatomical changes in mammalian skeletons in one, and how biological materials withstand very large forces in the other,” Tseng explains. “Now my job is a combination of computing, anatomy, and biomechanics. I get to do all of it. My interests came full circle.” Tseng earned his doctorate in integrative and evolutionary biology at the University of Southern California and then spent several years as a fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, mostly studying extinct carnivores.
Chester M. Zmijewski, PhD ’60
ALUMNUS AND LEADER IN IMMUNOLOGY Chester M. Zmijewski, PhD ’60, a pioneer in transplantation research and clinical immunology and professor emeritus of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), died August 15. He was 84. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Zmijewski earned a PhD in bacteriology and immunology at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Chester M. Zmijewski Biomedical Sciences in 1960. As a graduate student, Zmijewski could not have found a more perfect fit for his research interests in immunology. “UB was leading
the pack in innovative advances in transfusion medicine, autoimmunology, tissue typing and serology at that time,” says John E. Tomaszewski, MD, chair of the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at UB, who was mentored by Zmijewski at UPenn. Zmijewski’s chief graduate advisor at UB was Ernest Witebsky, MD, one of the world’s leading immunologists. Witebsky, a German émigré who fled Nazi Germany in 1935, was the founding chair of what is now UB’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Zmijewski’s colleagues at UPenn have remarked that it was Zmijewski’s training under Witebsky that instilled in him “an appreciation of the importance of order, detail and the essential balance between the theoretical and the practical.”
Jack Tseng, PhD
In 1963, Zmijewski accepted a position at Duke University, where his investigations helped to usher in a new era of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing, a series of tests to determine donor-recipient tissue compatibility for organ and bone marrow transplantation. In 1964, he and his colleague Bernard Amos, PhD, organized the world’s first histocompatibility testing workshop to address the lack of standardized practices in HLA typing among immunogeneticists. Still extant, the annual gathering is known today as the International HLA and Immunogenetics Workshop. In 1975, Zmijewski was recruited to UPenn to further develop tissue typing services, including HLA typing, antibody screening and post-transplant monitoring, using the latest technologies. “Chet pushed all his trainees to be better scientists, constantly encouraging us to take on more responsibility
He still studies prehistoric species and recently co-authored a paper on the origins of the beardog, an extinct but ferocious early ancestor of dogs, that received significant media attention. At UB, Tseng teaches gross anatomy, using computational tomography (CT) technology to develop virtual and 3D-printed models that provide medical students with a deeper understanding of how anatomical structures function. He also applies his expertise on mammalian structure and function to humans, using digital tools to explore relationships between musculoskeletal structure and function, an area of intense interest for bioengineers and orthopaedic researchers who seek more effective orthopaedic implants for an aging population. The conventional bioengineering premise dictates that when replacing human bony parts, the goal is to restore function by using materials that don’t deteriorate as rapidly as biological material, but basically retain the same shape as the structure being replaced. “But I think there’s a better way,” says Tseng. “What can we learn from nature? Think about the evolutionary history of mammals: there is a set of scientific experiments that has already been conducted, with many more replicates than possible in even the largest laboratories. What if by using nature-inspired implants, we could not only restore function but improve it?” Tseng plans to collaborate with researchers at the UB School of Dental Medicine to study biomechanical questions related to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), looking at how the shape of the jaw affects function and the force of the bite. To read about a study Jack Tseng and colleagues recently published in Royal Society Open Science, go to buffalo.edu/news and search “Tseng.”
and to think on our feet,” says Tomaszewski, who worked for a year in Zmijewski’s HLA lab while a medical resident at UPenn. “He was one of the most brilliant people I ever met. If you look at the names of his collaborators on journal publications, you can see that he stood tall among the elite that dominated the field of immunology.” In 1996, Zmijewski retired from UPenn, having trained a generation of pathologists, transplant physicians and clinical researchers in the pre-transplant serologic work-up that he helped pioneer and which remains the standard of practice today. Zmijewski’s mentoring may be his greatest legacy in a career of remarkable achievements, Tomaszewski notes. “You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who studied under Chet who wouldn’t credit him with helping to lay the foundation for the clinical practices of transplantation and clinical immunology in play today.”
BRINGS HIS EXPERTISE
Photo by Douglas Levere
S T E V E N S C H WA I T Z B E R G , M D , N E W C H A I R O F SURGERY, HAS HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
Steven Schwaitzberg, MD, chair of surgery, helped pioneer minimally invasive surgery techniques and the preclincal and clinical use of surgical robots.
“It’s the best chair of surgery position available in America.” That’s how a national recruiter described
BY COLLEEN KARUZA
the vacancy at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to Steven Schwaitzberg, MD, professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, back in 2015. Schwaitzberg had just wrapped up his tenth year as chief of surgery at Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital, and wasn’t looking to leave his position or the Boston area. “I was completely caught off guard by that recruitment pitch,” he admits, “but they say you should make a move every decade to reinvigorate yourself. To me, it was worth a look.” Bringing a diverse array of clinical, scientific, technological, administrative and team-building strengths to the table, Schwaitzberg emerged as the frontrunner in a select group of national candidates. He confessed that, at the time, he knew little about Buffalo’s resurgence and its ambitious plan to reposition itself as a world-class center for health care, biomedical research and entrepreneurship. But seeing is believing, and Schwaitzberg soon realized that Buffalo is a city on the move. “I saw an energized community with smart, engaged people open to new ideas and business models,” he says. “I saw the chance to transform students into national leaders in science and medicine. The resources and talent UB was investing in the Great Lakes Health System were nothing short of amazing. To me, it looked like a perfect storm of possibility.” Schwaitzberg took the position.
INVESTING IN SURGICAL LEADERS In announcing Schwaitzberg’s appointment, Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences at UB and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, described “an outstanding physician-researcher” who would “move the Department of Surgery forward, expand its translational and clinical research programs, enhance the excellence of its graduate medical education and mentoredresearch training programs, and develop and align a comprehensive clinical program at Great Lakes Health, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the community.” When he joined UB on June 1, 2015, Schwaitzberg hit the ground running. “Nothing happens quickly enough for me,
and while it’s true that Rome wasn’t built in a day, I wanted to make sure, from day one, we were providing the best medical education experience in the country,” he explains. One of the first items on his to-do list was to provide surgical residents with financial assistance to complete “surgery-plus” training toward graduate degrees. Two scholarships have since been established: A biomedical engineering scholarship, funded by Covidien, a division of Medtronic; and a business school scholarship, funded by Kaleida Foundation. In addition, general surgery residents may enroll in a newly accredited fellowship in biomedical informatics, supported by graduate medical education funds from UB-teaching affiliates Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center. “To produce the surgical leaders of tomorrow,” Schwaitzberg contends, “we need to invest in our trainees’ intellectual development today by giving them something more.”
DESIRE TO COLLABORATE If the mandate is to make the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus a model center of excellence for the 21st century, Schwaitzberg’s recipe for success is to mobilize leaders who inspire people to succeed. He sees endless possibilities for forming strategic partnerships with industry leaders and entrepreneurs, engineers, computer scientists, businessmen and others who embrace change and drive progress with innovative thinking. “If we want to stimulate economic growth and development, we need to attract people who believe it’s possible to catch lightning in a bottle,” says Schwaitzberg, who holds a joint appointment as medical director of surgical program development for Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center. “We need to forge connections where none previously existed.” In his first year, Schwaitzberg proved to be a conduit for cooperative partnering. Entrepreneurs Jay Sexton, of Arizona, and Steffen H. Fletcher, MD, of Florida, had been scouting locations in Boston and Houston for their biotechnology start-up company, Atomic Medical
“If we want to stimulate economic growth and development, we need to attract people who believe it’s possible to catch lightning in a bottle. We need to forge connections where none previously existed.” Steven Schwaitzberg, MD, chair of surgery
Innovations (AMI), when they met Schwaitzberg. Never one to ignore the knock of opportunity, he introduced the pair to Alan Rosenhoch, business development manager at Invest Buffalo Niagara, and Kim Grant, business development executive at the UB New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. Today AMI is housed in the Center of Excellence and, with UB sponsorship, was accepted into the Start-Up New York tax breaks program. Schwaitzberg, the man Business First called “Buffalo’s foremost traffic conductor,” argues that you can’t connect the dots without the dots. “I have an intense desire to collaborate with folks who care deeply about improving clinical outcomes, which to me is the big picture,” he says. “We have incredible talent in Western New York, and we’re just so much better when we work together.”
THE SCIENCE OF LEARNING Khurshid Guru, MD, an international pioneer in robotic surgery and training and director of the Robotic Surgery at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, a UB teaching affiliate, was one of the first persons Schwaitzberg contacted when he arrived. “We’re both very much interested in the science of learning,” Schwaitzberg says of Guru, who also directs Roswell Park’s Applied Technology Laboratory for Advanced Surgery (ATLAS), a program that trains surgical teams from around the world in the latest robot-assisted surgical techniques and develops innovative, enhanced technologies. Guru says he sees in Schwaitzberg “a forward-thinking leader” who recognizes the importance of strong, evidence-based training programs, such as ATLAS, in honing the skills and capabilities of surgeons worldwide. “I think there’s tremendous opportunity for all of us in the region to collaborate on
projects that directly improve the care of our patients and there is a genuine eagerness to share what we’ve learned,” he says. A planned Surgical Science Learning Center within the new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will help cement these relationships. “We have the foundation for a learning laboratory that fosters idea incubation, cross-training, technology design and entrepreneurial vigor,” says Schwaitzberg, who will serve as the center’s director.
‘FIX-THIS-NOW’ MINDSET Born in Boston, Mass., and raised in Kensington, Md., Schwaitzberg earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Johns Hopkins University in 1977 and his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in 1980. “As a med student, I thought I would go into family medicine,” he says. But then one day, as he observed surgeons in the trauma operating room, something changed for him. “I was fascinated by the surgeons’ remarkable dexterity in solving problems in real time,” he recalls. “Often there is a problem in the OR that you’ve never seen before, but you can’t just walk away and come back the next day with solutions. Surgeons have a ‘we-need-to-fix-this-now’ mindset, and I knew that I was wired that way. To me, the OR was like a laboratory with collaborative space, and I wanted to be part of that.” Schwaitzberg went on to complete a surgical residency at the Baylor Affiliated Hospitals in Houston, Texas, and a fellowship at the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Institute, Floating Hospital for Children in Boston. His tendency to jump—“or perhaps ‘fall’ is the better verb,” Schwaitzberg says—into mettle-testing situations afforded him unique opportunities soon after medical school, when he joined the Army Reserves. “I wanted to
give something back to what I believe is the greatest country in the world, but it was an accident of circumstance that I was deployed during Operation Desert Storm,” he says. Schwaitzberg wound up as director of intensive care and surgical team chief at the 365th Evacuation Hospital in Seeb, Oman. As it happened, he was the only critical care doctor there. Returning to the U.S. in 1991, he took a position as assistant professor of surgery at the New England Medical Center—now Tufts Medical Center—and shortly thereafter was named director of its new center for minimally invasive surgery (MIS). But there was “one small problem”: He had never performed an MIS procedure. But Schwaitzberg—who today is a wellestablished leader in MIS techniques and the preclinical and clinical use of surgical robots—was destined to succeed. “It was a time when laparoscopy was gaining ground, and it was all about understanding cameras and computers. I’m a gadget guy and had a strong computer background as far back as high school,” he explains. “I was told, ‘we can train a surgeon in minimally invasive techniques, but it’s far more difficult to find a surgeon with the right technological strengths.’” Once he had the green light, it was full speed ahead. “I did the first appendix. I did the first hernia. I did the first spleen. I did the first colon. I did the first adrenal,” he told a reporter from the Boston Globe in 2006. Sometimes it was a “first” in the hospital (appendix and hernia); at other times, in the state and, occasionally, in the country. At Tufts, Schwaitzberg went on to serve as medical director and director of surgical research, holding academic appointments in the departments of Surgery, Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery and—not surprisingly—Engineering.
Photo by Douglas Levere
Steven Schwaitzberg, MD, chair of surgery, center, with Chandler Wilfong, MD, fifth-year surgery resident, left, and Arvind Manisundaram, MD, surgery intern.
THERE’S MUCH TO LEARN
Schwaitzberg, who holds three U.S. patents and focuses much of his research on device development, has an intuitive understanding of how things work and how things should work with the right people and support. Often in his career, preparation and aptitude have attracted opportunity, and then one thing leads to another. Take for example, his chance encounter with a group of bioengineers. “Leaving the OR one day, I reflected on how cold it was in there and how great it would be to have some sort of practical device to warm a patient’s blood to facilitate transfusions,” Schwaitzberg recalls. “I ran into a couple of bioengineers in the hall and asked them if it was possible to heat blood with microwaves. They said yes. We talked more, and this conversation led to research that in turn led to a federally approved microwave blood-warming device.” Schwaitzberg’s basic lab work on an anti-adhesion device in abdominal surgery led to clinical trials that supported its use in patients. Skills acquisition is another research interest, and Schwaitzberg is committed to bringing the necessary tools to surgeons around the globe. He has promoted and taught minimally invasive surgical techniques in the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Greece, Japan, Brazil and France, but as he said in a 2012 TED Talk, “we can’t travel everywhere” and “we need to make the world a smaller place” to standardize procedures. “Imagine using technology to deliver a lecture in English to nonEnglish speaking surgeons. Imagine having an actual conversation so that we exchange ideas,” says Schwaitzberg, who is currently working with IBM to develop a universal translator to erase language barriers and narrow the distance between people. “We need learning tools, but it’s really about setting up a dialogue and sharing what we know. In the United States, we spend more money per person on clinical outcomes that are no better than those in many other countries in the world. There’s much to learn.”
While Schwaitzberg is the recipient of many awards—including the American College of Surgeons 2010 Health Policy Scholar Award and the Computerworld/National Smithsonian Honors 21st Century Laureate Achievement Award—there is one honor that holds special meaning for him: the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) Distinguished Service Award, which he received in March 2016. The award, which is not conferred annually, recognizes a surgeon who has made a significant long-term educational, research, clinical or technological contribution to the field of surgical endoscopy and has advanced the mission of SAGES, the largest general surgery society in the U.S. “To receive recognition from this extraordinary peer group, whose members include many of my personal heroes, is humbling,” says Schwaitzberg. In his nomination letter, David Rattner, MD, chair of the SAGES Awards Committee, said, “Steve Schwaitzberg embodies qualities— energy, ‘can-do spirit’ and enthusiasm—to take on challenges that are at the core of SAGES’ culture. While there have been many terrific SAGES leaders over the years, few, if any, have put in the hours and sweat equity that Steve Schwaitzberg has. I can’t recall a task he was asked to do that he declined. To me, this is the essence of service.”
TRANSPLANTS LIKE US It’s been over a year since Schwaitzberg and his wife, Lisa Jane Jacobsen, MD, MPH, associate dean for medical curriculum at UB and a faculty member in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (see related story on page 5), have settled in Buffalo, a city they have grown to admire. “The incredible quality of life here continues to amaze us,” says Schwaitzberg. “Buffalo’s best-kept secret is that people love living and working here, and that speaks volumes to transplants like us.”
MECHANIC TAKES CAREER DETOUR TO MEDICAL SCHOOL Russ Pizzo, Class of 2019, recalibrates his goal
Russ Pizzo’s decision to apply to medical school at UB was a life-changer. “When I look back at it, there is something that has happened nearly every day since then that I can hold on to,” says the second-year student at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. A nontraditional student, the 36-year-old Rochester native arrived at UB’s medical school in a singular fashion. “I don’t think there is anyone as surprised as I am,” Pizzo says. “I mean, I barely graduated high school so I was not the world’s best student. I just didn’t want to do anything.” He was, however, a skilled mechanic. “My senior year of high school I worked at the Kodak garage, on everything from chain saws to giant cranes — and anything in between that you can think of,” he recalls. “I would go to school for a half-day, then work at Kodak for a half-day.” Pizzo graduated high school in 1998, and went on to earn a two-year associate’s degree in auto service from Alfred State College. “I got a job at a Porsche/Audi dealership in Rochester and worked mostly on the Audi line,” he says. “That was from 2000 to 2008. “I liked fixing European cars and German cars. They have their quirks and they are challenging, but they held my interest. I was master-certified by Audi and ASE — the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.” A promotion followed, as a service shop supervisor at a Honda dealer with the same dealership group. Pizzo remained in the new job from 2008 to 2009. “During that whole year and for the previous few years, I was not happy with what I was doing,” he says. “It was not something that just happened one day. Things just did not feel right. “But I didn’t have an answer. Turns out, the moment took some time to actually present itself.” Pizzo figured out where his future would be during the summer of 2009, prior to his going back to school. “It was nothing I had planned,” he says. That summer, he and his roommate had neighbors who were nurses. They all would sit out on the porch and have a few beers together and the nurses would
By Michael Andrei
tell stories about their day. “Hearing them talk about what they were doing was what planted the seed of going into health care for me. I had never worked in health care, but as strange as it may sound, I saw some parallels to auto service.” Pizzo was thinking about helping people with what he saw as technical issues. He saw a similarity between both fields: diagnosing a customer complaint, providing assistance and delivering it in layman’s language to the customer — or patient — helping them to understand. “Listening to our neighbors, it felt like a very similar thing as they talked about nursing and what they did as professionals day to day in assisting their patients,” Pizzo says. “But health care is more important in my mind. As a service it is more vital to people’s well-being. “I was never really a car guy, to be honest. On a level of importance, I didn’t equate finding the source of a rattle in a $40,000 or $100,000 automobile with treating someone for a serious illness. Both are valid of course, but I realized that one was not a good fit for me, while the other definitely was.” Pizzo started at Monroe Community College that fall. Then about midway through his second semester, he went from nursing to considering a career as a physician. “One big reason was that a friend of mine, Theresa Rose, who is a physician’s assistant and also a mentor, introduced me to someone who has turned out to be another one of my mentors.” The connection Pizzo made with Lawrence Chessin, MD, an internist and infectious disease physician in Rochester, was instant and pivotal. “He is the first physician that I had ever worked with,” Pizzo says. “I remember the very first time I shadowed him, I had a ‘eureka!’ moment. It was an overwhelming feeling of ‘this is the guy I want to be, this is what I want to do, this is where I want to go.’” Pizzo enrolled in the University of Rochester in the fall of 2011, graduating four years later with a BS in microbiology and immunology and a minor in history. During his time at the university, he worked as a research assistant and laboratory technician,
Photo by Douglas Levere Photo by Douglas Levere
publishing portions of his work in leukemia research. He entered medical school at UB in the fall of 2015. “The whole thing for me is working with patients — that’s what I really love about this,” Pizzo says. “So, when times get a bit challenging—when we wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into—it is the moments we get to see patients that remind us why we are doing this,” he adds. “Which is one of the nice things about UB. Some med schools have no patient interactions within the first two years — that period is all academic. “It is mostly academic for us, but we also have clinical experiences during that time,” he says. “We are seeing patients immediately, which is fantastic. “Obviously, our skill set is limited, but we are still learning and it’s a different way to learn.” Solving medical puzzles is another aspect of becoming an MD that attracts Pizzo. “It’s detective work, the way investigators follow leads,” he says. “Putting clues together to figure out what happened and why. It is an intricate process of assembling the pieces.” Pizzo also describes his path to medical school as a process of pieces gradually fitting together. “My background didn’t immediately lend itself to becoming a medical student,” he says. “I can’t point to any single moment or part of my past as the reason why I am here at UB.” He says that when he told his parents he was quitting his job — which had evolved into a comfortably paying mechanic’s position — “I remember the look of terror on
“I was never really a car guy, to be honest. On a level of importance, I didn’t equate finding the source of a rattle in a $40,000 or $100,000 automobile with treating someone for a serious illness. Both are valid of course, but I realized that one was not a good fit for me, while the other definitely was.” —Russ Pizzo
their faces. None of us knew what to expect. “But when I started doing well, I think it calmed their nerves and my nerves. I couldn’t do it without them or my family,” he says. As far as his move from auto mechanics to medicine, Pizzo is somewhat philosophical: “If somebody told me while I was servicing those huge cranes at Kodak that I would someday be at UB going to medical school, I would have keeled over. “But having made this decision, I still feel like I’m just kind of doing my job.”
AN UNPLANNED CAREER, ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP Drucy S. Borowitz, MD, a leader in cystic fibrosis care and research
Drucy S. Borowitz, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is an internationally recognized expert on cystic fibrosis, a disease that causes persistent lung infections and, over time, limits a person’s ability to breathe. As director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo for 25 years, before stepping down in 2014, she played a key role in advancing understanding of the disease and how best to treat it. Last January, Borowitz’s many accomplishments in the clinic and laboratory culminated in her being asked to join the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as vice president of community partnerships. It may seem like Borowitz, 63, mapped out her career from an early age. But she’d be the first to say that her path has been shaped instead by many unplanned twists and turns.
B y M a r k S o mm e r
New Sense of Possibility Borowitz grew up on Long Island, the middle daughter in a family of five. Her father, Eugene Borowitz, was a rabbi who taught at Hebrew Union College for 50 years, and her mother, Estelle, was a lay psychoanalyst. Drucy Borowitz attended Brandeis University, outside Boston, where she received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. She then attended medical school at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College. During her undergraduate years at Brandeis, society’s changing attitudes toward women changed Borowitz’s sense of possibility. “I was at Brandeis just at the moment when the women’s movement was encouraging and empowering people,” she recalls. “Women who graduated from medical school two years before I did could not get a credit card in their own name. Either their husband or father had to sign for them. That’s how different the world was. So, I was lucky to be on the cusp of that.” Following medical school, Borowitz completed an internship in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. She then headed west to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, where she completed a residency in pediatrics and served a fellowship in pediatric clinical nutrition/gastroenterology. She applied to UCSF, hoping to be near her future husband, Philip Glick,
MD, MBA, whom she had met during her fourth year of medical school when she completed an elective rotation at UCSF. Today, Glick is a leader in academic pediatric surgery and current president of the UB Faculty Senate. In 1988 after a stop in Seattle, where Glick completed further training at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, the couple moved to Buffalo—a place they now call home and where they raised their two children. Each took positions at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, a major UB teaching affiliate: Borowitz, as a pediatric gastroenterologist and Glick, as a pediatric surgeon and researcher. At the time, there was a shortage of pediatric subspecialists in Buffalo, so Borowitz was asked to work in the Division of Pulmonology and care for patients with cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects both the lungs and the digestive tract. Thus began her shift from gastroenterology to pulmonology. Research Discovery Sets the Stage The discovery in 1989 of the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis resulted in a renewed push to find a cure for the rare and progressive genetic disease. Borowitz was one of the clinical researchers who made major contributions to cystic fibrosis studies. She and her clinical research team at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo played a key role in developing a breakthrough drug approved for treatment of a less common gene mutation in cystic fibrosis, as well as a drug combination that the FDA approved for use in patients with the most common cystic fibrosis mutation. Last September, the drug combination—developed in part from studies conducted in Western New York—was approved for use in children as young as six. (It had been approved for adults in July 2015.) “Things are much better than they used to be,” Borowitz explains, “but to have drugs that actually change the course of the disease is spectacular.” An expert in nutrition and the involvement of
Photo by Douglas Levere
Drucy S. Borowitz, MD
In 2015, she was presented the Stockton Kimball Award for outstanding scientific achievement and service, the highest honor conferred on a faculty member in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “I was truly honored to be a part of that illustrious group,” Borowitz says, referring to former recipients of the Stockton Kimball Award. “It wasn’t anything I ever thought of, or planned for, or expected. It was really amazing considering I have had an exceedingly unplanned career.” Borowitz remains on the research team at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo’s Cystic Fibrosis Center and also continues on faculty at UB, commuting to Bethesda, Md., three days a week for her work at the foundation. A New Opportunity to Improve Care “We are very fortunate to have Dr. Borowitz In her role as vice president of community among the faculty of the Jacobs School,” says Teresa partnerships at the Cystic Fibrosis Quattrin, MD, A. Conger Goodyear Professor and Foundation, Borowitz has an opportunity to chair of pediatrics at UB and pediatrician-in-chief at improve care for patients of all ages. Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. “She is “I have broad knowledge of cystic fibrosis a physician-scientist with the gift of humanism that and have seen what the disease can do, but makes her an excellent clinician, teacher and mentor.” I don’t have the same depth of knowledge Preston W. Campbell III, MD, president and as someone who has lived with the disease CEO of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, praises every day,” she says. “My primary job at the Borowitz for her multifaceted contributions. foundation is to develop programs for people “Drucy is not only an outstanding physician with cystic fibrosis and their families that who has helped transform cystic fibrosis care, she support them in their day-to-day lives in ways also is an inspiring leader of our efforts to listen determined by them.” closely to and learn from people with the disease. In 2014, Borowitz received the Cystic “She brings profound knowledge and compassion Fibrosis Foundation’s Richard C. Talamo to all she does. She is a treasure in our community and Distinguished Clinical Achievement Award —Preston W. Campbell III, MD, a force behind our search for a cure and better care for and UB’s Exceptional Scholar-Sustained president and CEO, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation all people with cystic fibrosis.” Achievement Award.
the intestines and lungs in cystic fibrosis, Borowitz also helped spearhead efforts to use enzyme replacement therapy to correct digestive abnormalities in cystic fibrosis patients and took a lead role in identifying the critical interplay of good nutrition and lung health. More recently, she led an evidence-based review, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, that resulted in new guidelines for managing infants with cystic fibrosis. While conducting this innovative research, Borowitz also served as chief of pediatric pulmonology at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and director of its Cystic Fibrosis Center.
“Drucy is not only an outstanding physician who has helped transform cystic fibrosis care, she also is an inspiring leader of our efforts to listen closely to and learn from people with the disease.”
UB MED DOCTOR VISITS
Photo by Douglas Levere
Photos by Sandra Kicman
“I’ve found many wonderful collaborators in the UB community. It’s a very collegial environment.”
INJURIES TO THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM David Poulsen, PhD, is researching ways to improve care Stories
David Poulsen knows the sobering statistics all too well: each year more than 800,000 individuals suffer a stroke and more than 1.7 million experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the United States alone. Many of these patients also encounter subsequent behavioral and cognitive deficits such as post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE), which affects between 20 and 50 percent of those injured. The picture becomes even bleaker when one learns that as many as 70 percent of those afflicted with PTE are not helped by antiepileptic drugs, and the FDA has yet to approve drugs for treating or preventing the cascade of neuropathology caused by traumatic brain injury. Poulsen is committed to changing that. A professor of translational neuroscience in UB’s Department of Neurosurgery, Poulsen focuses his research on the development of two therapies to treat injuries to the central nervous system: low-dose methamphetamine and adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector-based gene therapy. He has successfully developed laboratory models that replicate symptoms seen in humans and is heartened by the results he’s seeing. “AAV has evolved over eons to be a very efficient gene delivery vehicle,” Poulsen explains. “It’s never been associated with a disease or pathology and doesn’t stimulate an immune response. Thus, we’re able to use the virus as a sterile mule: we gut it, insert the gene Lori Ferguson
material we want to express, and then the virus carries that genetic payload to a cell. This allows us to manipulate gene expression and use the vectors to alter the genes expressed during epileptic seizures.” Poulsen has also found small-molecule drugs like methamphetamine to be very promising in the treatment of PTE; since arriving in Buffalo he has concentrated much of his research on this and other neuroprotective agents. “We’re finding that methamphetamine can protect the brain from the cascade of pathological effects that often occur after a traumatic brain injury,” he says. Poulsen earned his PhD in molecular biology/virology at the University of Delaware and completed postdoctoral fellowships at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Rocky Mountain Labs and Thomas Jefferson University. In 2001 he joined the University of Montana’s Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, where he remained until coming to UB in 2015. “I’ve ping-ponged back and forth between the Rockies and the East Coast. My kids have come to believe that every vacation involves a yellow rental truck,” he says. It was the rich array of resources available in Buffalo that drew him east once more, Poulsen says. “I’ve got more tools available to me here in a four-block radius than I had in the entire state of Montana.” Not only is he pleased with the technical resources at his disposal, including a 9.4 tesla MRI scanner and two C-arm angio suites dedicated to research, but he is also appreciative of the community in which he now lives and works. “My family loves Buffalo, particularly the people, and I’ve found many wonderful collaborators in the UB community,” he says. “It’s a very collegial environment.”
Photo by Sandra Kicman
“The resurgence of both the city and the medical school is fantastic, and it’s wonderful to witness.”
NEUROLOGIST, TEACHER AND GRATEFUL ALUMNUS Nicholas J. Silvestri, MD ’04, educating the next generation As a clinical associate professor of neurology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Nicholas Silvestri, MD ’04, specializes in neuromuscular disorders such as diabetic neuropathy, myasthenia gravis and muscular dystrophy. “If it involves nerves, the neuromuscular junction, or the muscle itself, I’m interested,” he says. A dedicated clinician and passionate educator, Silvestri directs UB’s adult neurology residency training program and teaches medical students in both the pre-clinical and clinical years. “I come from a long line of teachers, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the field by educating the next generation,” he explains. “UB is recruiting really good students and residents, which both motivates and challenges me as a teacher and a clinician. Education is a two-way street: they’re teaching me as I’m teaching them.” Silvestri is active in UB’s Medical Alumni Association, chairing committees on student and resident engagement. “I was asked to be on the governing board of the association two years ago and was delighted to accept. It’s a nice way to support my alma mater as well as build a sense of pride in the medical school among students and residents,” he says. “I’m very grateful to UB for the education I received, and I want to give back.” Among the programs that Silvestri has helped to implement is a “specialty speed networking” initiative that connects first- and secondyear medical students with physicians from different disciplines so
they can learn the ins and outs of various specialties early on. Silvestri’s work as a neurologist dovetails with his strong interest in U.S. history. A few years ago, while reading a series of presidential biographies, he realized that there were several presidents who had experienced substantial neurological challenges. “Woodrow Wilson suffered a fairly significant stroke, which was largely concealed from public view, and FDR had polio, which led to a major disability that did not hold him back from accomplishing many great things,” Silvestri notes. Today, Silvestri lectures on presidents and their conditions. His presentations—which have taken place in such venues as the D.C. Newsroom and the Buffalo History Museum— have become quite popular with the community, as well as with UB alumni and students. A native of Buffalo, Silvestri completed his neurology residency as well as a fellowship in neuromuscular medicine at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center before returning to Western New York in 2009. “I was grateful for the training I received during my residency at Beth Israel Deaconess, but I really wanted to be back in Buffalo, where I could be a part of building a strong neurology program,” he says. “I was initially drawn back to the city by a desire to be with family and friends, but the growth and standard of excellence at the medical school are what have kept me here,” he adds. “The resurgence of both the city and the medical school is fantastic, and it’s wonderful to witness.” Pictured above, from left, former residents Deeya Gaindh, MD, and Karanbir Singh, MD, with Nicholas Silvestri, MD ’04. WINTER 2017
U B M E D PAT H WAY S
Teresa Quattrin, MD, A. Conger Goodyear Professor and chair of pediatrics, and Gale R. Burstein, MD ’90, MPH, clinical professor of pediatrics and Erie County Health Commissioner, have received Women of Influence awards from Buffalo Business First. Quattrin was recognized in the corporate executive category; and Burstein, in the Public Policy Leadership category. A UB Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and president of UBMD Pediatrics, Quattrin also is chief of pediatric endocrinology and diabetes and pediatrician-in-chief at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, a UB teaching affiliate. An internationally recognized expert on childhood diabetes and obesity, Quattrin currently is principal investigator on a $600,000 grant from the state Department of Health to explore obesity prevention in pediatric health care settings. In 2003, she was elected to the prestigious Society for Pediatric Research. Burstein, the sole awardee in the public policy category, received praise for making a difference in “government policies or laws that impact business and industries.” As county health commissioner, she oversees 250 employees and six divisions dedicated to promoting the health, safety and well-being of Erie County residents. A member of the UB Department of Pediatrics since 2009, Burstein also is a research professor in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions. Her research interests include evaluating strategies
Photo by Sandra Kicman
TWO FACULTY NAMED WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
Teresa Quattrin, MD (left), and Gale R. Burstein, MD, MPH
for improving confidential reproductive health care services and expanding access to naloxone and medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.
T H E “ H E R O O F F L I N T ” S P E A K S AT U B Marc Edwards, BS ’86, PhD Marc Edwards, widely known as the “Hero of Flint,” spoke at UB on October 20 as part of the university’s Research and Education in Energy, Environment and Water (RENEW) Distinguished Lecture Series. A native of Western New York, Edwards received his bachelor’s degree in biophysics from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 1986. Today he is the Charles Lunsford Professor of Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech. Edwards’ research group aspires to pursue science as a public good through laboratory work on such important but underfunded topics as corrosion in buildings and plumbing pathogens. Their work laid the groundwork for uncovering the D.C. lead crisis and the Flint water disaster. In 2004, Time Magazine dubbed Edwards “The Plumbing Professor” and listed him as one of the most important “Innovators” in water from around the world. The White House awarded him a Presidential Faculty Fellowship in 1996, and he received a MacArthur Fellowship from 2008 to 2012. In 2013 Edwards was the ninth recipient in a quarter century of the IEEE Barus Award for “courageously defending the public interest at great personal risk.” In 2016, Fortune and Time magazines named him one of the most influential people in the world.
ALUMNUS RECEIVES GIANTS IN ALLERGY-IMMUNOLOGY AWARD Joseph A. Bellanti, MD ’58 Joseph A. Bellanti, MD, a 1958 graduate of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and emeritus professor of pediatrics and microbiology-immunology at Georgetown University Medical Center, was named one of the Giants in Allergy-Immunology awardees in the July 2016 issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Over the course of his career, Bellanti has made seminal contributions to the field of allergy-immunology. These include the characterization of the IgM response of the newborn, the identification of the antiviral role of secretory IgA in respiratory secretions, and the cellular immune responses to viral infections following immunization or natural infection. His discoveries have had a profound impact on the development of viral vaccines delivered by the intranasal route and have formed the basis for several vaccines in use today, including the nasal live attenuated influenza vaccine (FluMist). A native of Buffalo, NY, Bellanti completed his residency at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and trained in developmental immunology at the University of Florida School of Medicine in Gainesville, Fla. After serving as a research virologist at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D.C., he joined the faculty of the Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1963. One of Bellanti’s most notable accomplishments was successfully advocating for the interdisciplinary model for research, long before the concept of translational research was popular. In 1975, he brought this concept to fruition by becoming the founding director of the International Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Immunology at Georgetown University Medical Center and, later, director of the Division of Allergy-Immunology in the Department of Pediatrics and the Division of Virology and Immunology in the Department of Laboratory Medicine of Georgetown University Hospital, positions he currently holds as consultant. In 1978, Bellanti and his colleague Vijaya Melnick, PhD, presented their vision for interdisciplinary research and
community outreach to members of Congress. Their testimony was instrumental in the creation of the Centers for Interdisciplinary Research of Immunologic Diseases (CIRID) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Their efforts also played a role in the CIRID focusing its studies on inner-city asthma, which in turn Bellanti led to the NIAID’s highly successful Inner-City Asthma Consortium program. Today, Bellanti and his colleagues are directing their research efforts to the epigenetic study of the role of methylated DNA in T-regulatory cell activity. Bellanti has published more than 500 scientific articles and abstracts, as well as numerous textbook chapters. His widely acclaimed textbook in immunology, Immunology IV: Clinical Applications in Health and Disease, first published in 2012, is in its 4th edition. The recipient of numerous awards and honors—including the UB Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award in 1998—Bellanti is looking forward to returning to Buffalo in 2018 to celebrate his 60-year reunion. “I love Buffalo,” he says. “It’s the city of my birth and home to the university that provided opportunities for me to succeed. I look forward to returning and renewing friendships with my medical school classmates while also celebrating my 60th wedding anniversary with my wife, Jacqueline, and our seven children, 22 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.”
U B M E D PAT H WAY S
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Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
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IN MEMORIAM JAMES MEZHIR, MD ’01, SURGICAL ONCOLOGIST James J. Mezhir, MD ’01, assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Surgical Oncology and Endocrine Surgery at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine, died Feb. 3, 2016, after a nearly two-year battle with gastric cancer. He was 42. Mezhir, a native of Niagara Falls, N.Y., devoted his life to cancer care and research. At age 15, while attending Grand Island High School, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He underwent 17 hours of surgery and 12 months of chemotherapy and remained cancer-free for 25 years. Being cured of cancer as a teenager inspired Mezhir to enter medicine, something he wrote about in the spring 1999 issue of Buffalo Physician magazine. “It helps me realize that there’s a big difference between reading a journal about survival rates for a disease and having to face the statistic yourself,” he wrote. Mezhir earned a dual bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from Canisius College and a master’s degree in psychology from UB. After earning his medical degree at UB, he completed his residency at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was senior resident and administrative chief resident.
the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine. The college’s surgical oncology laboratory, which specializes in pancreatic cancer research, his area of expertise, has been named in his honor. Always in search of new ways to help patients, Mezhir published prolifically. Colleagues credited his research with “novel discoveries in the biology of pancreatic and gastric cancer.” Mezhir was named one of Castle Connelly’s America’s Top Doctors in 2015 and received Teacher of the Year awards from the general surgery residents and the general surgery medical students at the University of Iowa in 2012. Survivors include his wife of 10 years, the former Elizabeth “Priya” George; two daughters, Malinee Grace and Anjali Mary; his mother, Virginia Nanula; his father, James; three brothers, John, Timothy and Daniel; a sister, Brittany; and four stepbrothers, Philip Nanula, Steven Nanula, Paul Nanula and Anthony Nanula.
He then served a fellowship in surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and in 2012 was recruited to
BERTRAND M. BELL, MD ’55
consecutively and proposed that more on-site supervision by senior physicians be required.
Bertrand M. Bell, MD ’55, who was instrumental in reducing the long work hours of interns and residents being trained in U.S. hospitals, died October 4, 2016 at his home in Manhattan. He was 86.
Despite the roiling controversy that ensued, the recommendations were adopted in 1989 by the state’s Health Department and were later largely embraced by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
At his death he was a professor emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In 1984, the death of 18-year-old Libby Zion at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center was attributed to overworked and overextended residents. Convinced that the conditions that led to the woman’s death were not unique to the hospital, a Manhattan grand jury called for sweeping reforms to graduate medical education with the goal of ensuring that residents and interns were more closely supervised and worked fewer grueling hours. David Axelrod, the New York State health commissioner at the time, appointed Bell to head an advisory panel charged with investigating hospital staffing practices and recommending reforms. In 1987, the findings of the New York State Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Emergency Services—which came to be known as the Bell Commission— were controversial because they recommended that the training schedule of medical school graduates be limited to 80 hours a week and 24 hours
Bertrand Monroe Bell was born on Dec. 19, 1929, in the Bronx. His father, Samuel Harry Bell, was a dentist and immigrant from what is now Belarus. His mother was the former Edith Yudell, who sang in the Metropolitan Opera chorus. Bell earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, and his medical degree from UB. He served in the Air Force as a pilot, did his residency at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx and was chief of staff at Calvary Hospital. Returning to Jacobi, Bell became director of ambulatory care and also taught at Albert Einstein. He introduced training programs for paramedics, in both primary care and emergency medicine, and for adult and pediatric nurse practitioners. He also began a nurse and doctor home-visit service.
UB MED Q&A UPDATE ON CONSTRUCTION OF NEW MEDICAL SCHOOL Construction of the new home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is progressing rapidly. The eight-story structure—built over a Niagara Frontier Transit Authority (NFTA) Metrorail station—is being constructed at the same time as the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital and the Conventus office building. Jennifer A. Kuhn, who has been overseeing the project for the university, spoke to UBNow in early November about how the work is progressing. Q: Where does the construction stand now? A: We are at the start of drywall installation, priming of drywall, atrium glass installation, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing system installations. We hope to start floor finishing soon. When the floors are done, building out the laboratories will begin. Installing ceilings should start on some floors within a month. They should be done with the inner atrium by the end of the year, but it may be early 2017. We’re weather-tight, which means the building is sealed up, and the exterior facade will be completed by the spring of 2017. Q: Is it on schedule? A: We are on schedule to open in the fall of 2017. Q: When will people be moving in? A: We plan to start moving in in early fall of 2017. The dean and the class-related faculty and staff will be first. The bulk of the researchers will move in after the semester starts in January 2018.
“We had to adjust the design of the building to make sure we were not interfering with the train tunnel and to ensure vibrations from the train were mitigated.”
Q: How will the move be done? A: They did an inventory of all the lab equipment, and we placed all of the larger equipment on the drawings to make sure everything fit and that we have the proper infrastructure for it. The move contract will be out to bid before the end of 2016.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges? A: Definitely building up against the NFTA station and encompassing it into our building. We had to adjust the design of the building to make sure we were not interfering with the train tunnel and to ensure vibrations from the train were mitigated. We had to provide a fire separation between the station and the building. We also had to demolish part of the station and modify part of it and finally build the new station with minimal closings and interference with ridership. Q: Is building a facility for a medical school different from building another type of facility? A: Yes. I think with most buildings you are either building all offices or all labs. In this building we are building both. In this one we have different air-flow and exhaust requirements, depending on if it’s a lab or office. Q: Have the two neighboring construction projects—Conventus and Children’s Hospital—created unexpected challenges? A: Not unexpected, but coordination of road closures for deliveries and crane locations has been a challenge. We’re all building curb to curb, so there is no room for staging. Deliveries are constant and they have to be coordinated. We always have to keep ambulance access. Based on the projects, that access changes. We have twice-amonth meetings to schedule all the deliveries. They once had to reroute Mercy Flight because of the cranes. Kuhn
Count me in.
“I want to have my name associated with the new medical school. I think it’s a terrific thing that’s being done.” Sol Messinger, MD ’57, associate clinical professor of pathology emeritus in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Member, Circle of Visionaries.
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SOL MESSINGER, MD ’57, ACTIVE LEARNING CENTER, TO BE LOCATED ON THE FIRST FLOOR OF THE NEW JACOBS SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES.
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Andrew Pasquale CLASS OF 2019 JACOBS SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES
Andrew Pasquale grew up in Lockport, NY, just down the road from UB, so he knew “firsthand what an amazing city Buffalo is,” he says. He liked that the UB medical school emphasizes teamwork among its students, and chose to attend because “it is an exciting time to be in Buffalo during the city’s renaissance, anchored by the new medical school and campus.” A scholarship helped him decide: “Being buried in student loans is a feeling I know all too well,” he says. “The scholarship helps alleviate this burden and I am truly grateful for it every day.” Andrew is most interested in cardiology and surgery, and hopes to work in a hospital setting or private practice after he graduates. Gifts to the UB Fund have an immediate impact on students.
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