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​Dedicated Alumni Honored on Pitt Public Health’s 70th Anniversary

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Allison Hydzik
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PITTSBURGH– Six University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health alumni will be recognized for their outstanding service to the field of public health during a special ceremony today at the school’s two-day 70th Anniversary Celebration.
The anniversary marks the second-ever all-classes alumni reunion and, in addition to the Distinguished Alumni Awards, will include numerous events showcasing the ongoing research and impact that Pitt Public Health’s faculty, students and alumni have on the field of public health regionally, nationally and globally.
“It is wonderful to welcome so many of our graduates back to Pitt Public Health to celebrate 70 years of public health research, education and service in Pittsburgh,” said Donald S. Burke, M.D., Pitt Public Health dean and UPMC-Jonas Salk chair of global health. “I am sure that the accomplishments of these distinguished alumni will be an inspiration to our current students and recent graduates.”
The awards will be given tonight, following a keynote address by David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., who served as the 16th U.S. Surgeon General and 10th Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is the founding director and senior advisor for the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and received an honorary doctorate of public health from Pitt when he was the featured speaker at the university’s 2001 commencement ceremony.
  • Ruth Modzelewski, Ph.D., Class of 1996, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award for Practice in recognition of her extensive contributions to improving the application of research to public health practice. A two-time breast cancer survivor, Modzelewski has served as mission coordinator for Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh since 2009. She advocates for women’s breast health throughout the region and was involved in the formation of the Allegheny County Breast Collaborative, which seeks to identify and reduce breast health disparities through collaboration and research. She previously spent two decades as research assistant professor at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Pitt School of Medicine.
  • Jill Norris, M.P.H., Ph.D., Classes of 1988 and 1990, respectively, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award for Research in recognition of her work focusing on the relationship of environment in the development of autoimmune diseases—including type I diabetes, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus—in genetically susceptible people. Norris is professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. She and her colleagues are conducting several large-scale, multicenter studies that may shed light on the longstanding issue of the interplay between genes and environment in the development of autoimmune diseases.
  •  Frederick Murphy, M.S.P.Hyg., M.P.I.A., Class of 1977, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award for Teaching and Dissemination in recognition of his work using research as a means to engage students, enhance his teaching, add to the body of knowledge in his field and provide service to the local community. Murphy is executive director of Atlanta-based Lifelong Health Inc., a nonprofit serving inner-city communities around public health and social justice issues. His research focuses on the development and evaluation of complex community-based public health programs related to health disparities among low-income populations. He served for more than 28 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service.
  • Bernadine Peter, M.P.H., Class of 1988, will receive the Margaret F. Gloninger Service Award for her significant service to her community. Now population health coordinator and registered dietitian at Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Del Rio, Texas, Peter previously served at Franklin Primary Health Center Inc. in Mobile, Ala., where she educated patients with diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Before that, she worked for more than 15 years at her husband’s pediatric practice in Crestview, Fla., where they provided care for thousands of uninsured and underserved children. The Peters fundraise for, organize and lead annual medical and dental mission trips to Belize, providing free care and frequently arranging for transportation back to the U.S. for the most critical patients.
  • Christina Farmartino, M.P.H., Class of 2013, and Michael Talkowski, Ph.D., Class of 2008, will both receive the Early Career Excellence Award. Farmartino will receive the award for her work as executive director of The Open Door Inc., which provides supportive housing and representative payee services to individuals living with HIV/AIDS to improve their health and housing stability. She previously served as interim executive director and is now board member of Prevention Point Pittsburgh, which provides health empowerment services, including needle exchange, to prevent overdose and disease transmission. Talkowski will receive the award for his seminal discoveries in chromosome structure, autism genetics and diagnostics while serving as associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and the Center for Genomic Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. His discoveries have led to new and fundamental classes of genomic variation. The importance of his work is reflected in the current curriculum at Pitt Public Health, where students are being prepared for a near future when prenatal whole-genome sequencing will be a routine component of clinical practice.
Four alumni—Todd Bear, M.P.H., Ph.D., Classes of 2012 and 2015, respectively; Janine Buchanich, M.P.H., Ph.D., Classes of 1998 and 2007, respectively; Didier Chaloub, M.P.H., Ph.D., Classes of 2012 and 2015, respectively; and Elizabeth Felter, Dr.P.H., Class of 2009—will be inducted into Delta Omega, an honorary society that recognizes merit and encourages further excellence in, and devotion to, public health work.

Credit: Pitt Public Health   'Man,' a statue by late Pittsburgh sculptor Virgil Cantini, graces Pitt Public Health's new lab pavilion.

Credit: Pitt Public Health

"Man," a statue by late Pittsburgh sculptor Virgil Cantini, graces Pitt Public Health's new lab pavilion.
(click image for high-res version)