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New Environmental and Occupational Health Chair Named at University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

PITTSBURGH, March 16, 2001 — Bruce R. Pitt, Ph.D., has been named chair of the department of environmental and occupational health (EOH) in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH).

In addition to serving as EOH chair and professor, Dr. Pitt retains his position of professor of pharmacology in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, which he has held since 1991. He had been vice chair of the department of pharmacology since 1987. In assuming the chairmanship of EOH, Dr. Pitt replaces Herbert Rosenkranz, Ph.D., who is serving as interim dean of the GSPH.

“I am proud to accept the chairmanship of the GSPH department of environmental and occupational health,” said Dr. Pitt. “This department is one of the nation’s leading centers for the study of health risks associated with exposure to toxins and has made seminal contributions in the areas of radiation health science, molecular dosimetry and risk assessment, computational toxicology and occupational medicine.”

Dr. Pitt’s research focus is on the molecular physiology of pulmonary circulation, particularly the ways in which oxygen and nitric oxide affect the endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells in the lungs. He also directs research aimed at clarifying the basic mechanisms by which zinc, copper and other metal ions participate in vascular homeostasis, and how these relationships are changed in pathophysiological states associated with acute lung injury and hemorrhagic shock. This work opens doors to various potential therapies for toxin-related lung diseases and multiorgan failure. Dr. Pitt recently received a prestigious Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for these projects.

In 1995, Dr. Pitt was involved in the first successful fetal lung gene transfer using a retrovirus. This procedure, in which a virus – altered so that it could not replicate – delivered a gene into the lungs of fetal sheep, was a significant step toward developing clinical trials to treat inherited human lung disorders in utero.

“The Graduate School of Public Health named Bruce Pitt to the EOH department chair after a national search. His credentials and reputation are stellar,” said Dean Rosenkranz, who also is professor in the department of environmental and occupational health. “He brings to the school and to the department internationally recognized expertise, which is crucial to understanding an important cause of morbidity and mortality – air pollution.”

“The connections have never been stronger between the basic research being conducted in pulmonary pharmacology and the applied research taking place in environmental health,” said Dr. Pitt. “There are extraordinary advances taking place in this field now, and the strong relationship that exists between the GSPH department of EOH and School of Medicine will continue to grow as a result.”

Dr. Pitt is chairman of the National Institutes of Health’s Lung Biology Pathology Study Section, associate editor of the American Journal of Physiology: Lung Cell Molecular Physiology, chairman-elect of the American Physiological Society – Respiration Section.

Before coming to the University of Pittsburgh in 1987 as associate professor of pharmacology and anesthesiology in the School of Medicine, Dr. Pitt held appointments in the departments of anesthesiology, pediatrics and surgery at the Yale University School of Medicine.

A native of New York City, Dr. Pitt earned his B.A. in human biology from Brown University, then he went on to Johns Hopkins University to receive an M.H.S. in environmental health science and a Ph.D. in environmental physiology. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at the New York University Medical Center’s Institute of Environmental Medicine.

The mission of the department of environmental and occupational health at the GSPH is to reduce the health risks associated with exposure to chemical, physical and biological agents found in industry and nature. Research focuses on reducing the uncertainty in estimating human health risks associated with exposure to potentially harmful agents. To this end, EOH is spearheading research efforts on molecular dosimetry and toxicology.

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