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Toast of the Times
Toast of the Times

A note from our Vice Dean
Dr. Ann Thompson

We live in a time when we must reflect on the immense capacity of our achievements in medicine to create a better future, but still struggle with making the health care professions welcoming to all who may contribute to them and assure that patients benefit equitably. We need to devote ourselves to the better future that will emerge from authentic and respectful dialogue, inclusive excellence, and the courage to recognize and address conditions that obstruct equitable care and professional opportunity. We have promised to love the science and art of medicine in service of our oath to heal, teach, discover, serve, and lead. In the world’s largest university affiliated medical community, we must remain committed to leading the way to a future of transformative opportunity and global impact. It is my hope that we will all aspire to be our best selves so that our collective efforts will have the greatest positive impact. 

Ann Thompson, MD, MCCM


50 Years of Pride, Progress, and Partnership

On January 15, 2019, students, faculty, staff, and other members of the Pitt community joined the Pitt African-American Alumni Council and Pitt Black Action Society to commemorate the 50th anniversary of an event that catalyzed change at Pitt. Through speakers, firsthand accounts, and a candlelight ceremony, we were able to celebrate decades of progress, pride, and partnership. This event launched 50 years of excellence in programming in educational equity. It is important to note that the Office of Diversity Programs in the School of Medicine has been a partner in the efforts to achieve educational equity for 40 of those 50 years!

Diversity Programs Turns 40

The Office of Special Student Projects, now called Diversity Programs was established
under the leadership of Dr. Carolyn Carter in April of 1979.
The Office will commemorate
“Forty Years of Commitment, Collaboration, and Scholarship" in April 2019.

Physician's Roundtable

The Physician's Roundtable was held on Thursday, November 29th! There were thirteen physicians, all of whom volunteered their time to share expertise in their field with our medical students. A wonderful exchange of ideas was experienced by all who attended.

Participating physicians:
Dr. Esa Davis, Department of Medicine
Dr. Eloho Ufomata, Department of Medicine
Dr. Richard Bowers, Sewickley Eye Group
Dr. Tracey Conti, Department of Family Medicine
Dr. Uzoma Iheagwara, Department of Radiation Oncology
Dr. Berthony Deslouches, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Dr. Unoma Akamagwuna, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Dr. Alexander Olawaiye, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Dr. Marsha Ritter Jones, Department of Anesthesiology
Dr. Conrad Smith, Department of Medicine Cardiology Division
Dr. Utibe Essien, Department of Medicine
Dr. Mary Ackenbom, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Dr. Honore Satcho, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology


Thank you again for your participation!

Spotlight on Diversity


Dr. Mark Gladwin, Chair of the Department of Medicine, announced the appointment of Naudia Jonassaint, M.D., M.H.S., to the newly created Vice Chair for Diversity
and Inclusion. Naudia will work closely with Dr. Chris O’Donnell (Executive
Vice Chair for Academic Affairs) and Dr. Ora Weisz (Vice Chair for Faculty Development) to develop new initiatives and programs to enhance diversity and inclusion across the department.

In the Vice Chair role, Naudia will be working with Drs. Alda Gonzaga and Eloho Ufomata to enhance residency and fellowship recruitment, retention, and advancement, and will focus on efforts to promote the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty into the Department of Medicine. Additionally, she will work with leaders across the wider institution on community building and engagement initiatives to create an environment of excellence that is both diverse and inclusive.

Naudia came to the University of Pittsburgh in 2014 to join the division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition as an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Surgery working as a transplant hepatologist. She completed a B.A. in Biology and Hispanic and Italian studies with Honors from Johns Hopkins University in 1999. She went on to attend Yale for medical school and completed a thesis focused on the Black-White achievement gap. Naudia spent the remainder of her training at Johns Hopkins where she completed internal medicine training, chief residency, GI, and Transplant Hepatology fellowships. During her time at Johns Hopkins, she served on the Diversity Council, the Residency Selection Committee, and the Council for Women in Medicine. Naudia completed an M.H.S. at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and was a T32 fellow, studying disparities in liver transplant outcomes. Her subsequent research continued a focus on transplant outcomes and post-transplant Hepatitis C treatment.
More recently, Naudia has taken on several leadership positions in the institution, including  Medical Director of the Section of Hepatology in 2017, playing a critical role in the opening of the new Hepatology service (5E/W), and leading initiatives to meet value metrics and quality outcomes in the Hepatology and transplant space. In addition to being the Medical Director of Hepatology, Naudia has served on the hospital clinical executive committee, functioning as the clinical lead on quality and safety initiatives in Hepatology, and serves on the residency and fellowship selection committees.

Throughout her career, Naudia has been committed to clinical and research excellence and has a passion for teaching and mentoring. She was awarded the GI fellowship teaching award in 2017 and nationally serves on the American Association of Liver Disease Diversity committee.


Congratulations, Dr. Jonassaint!

Making a Difference Here at Pitt

The Department of Medicine Diversity and Inclusion Committee, chaired by Dr. Alda Gonzaga, is an important partner in the Diversity and Inclusion efforts in the Medical Center. As one of their initiatives, they established a sub-committee to build an interconnected community of UPMC trainees from underrepresented backgrounds. Drs. Anjali Rao and Tomeka Suber are co-chairing this initiative. They are working with Drs. Eloho Ufomata and Naudia Jonassaint to make this initiative successful. We have other Department Diversity and Inclusion partners in Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Orthopedic Surgery, and Emergency Medicine. These partners are essential for making a difference.

Heather Bernard, MD

Dr. Heather Bernard is originally from Olney, Maryland. She received her undergraduate degree at Carnegie Mellon University and completed her medical school education here at The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She is currently the Chief of Residents in Pediatrics at UPMC Children's Hospital!

Image result for dr diego chaves gnecco
Diego Chaves-Gnecco MD, MPH, FAAP


Everyone has that one person who not only inspired them to become a physician, but become one you would want treating your family. In Pittsburgh, volunteers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC’s “Salud Para Niños” pediatric primary care clinic feel this way about Dr. Diego Chaves-Gnecco. Dr. Chaves-Gnecco is SALUD PARA NIÑOS' Program Director, a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician, and an Associate Professor at the School of Medicine Children's Hospital  of UPMC. Through Dr. Chaves-Gnecco's compassionate care, you learn what it means to be and exceptional physician.

Walk into the clinic on any Tuesday or Friday morning, Thursday evening, or the second Saturday of the month, and you’ll find Dr. Chaves hard at work going from one patient room to another. The thing that is remarkable about Dr. Chaves is his empathy towards his patients; he really takes the time to sit with the patients and their families to listen to their concerns. Any time he enters a patient’s room, he always asks about a patient’s home situation in terms of food or essentials. Whenever a patient expresses concerns, he has the resource’s phone number or a flyer on hand and sits with the parent to ensure that they understand what to do. In order to ensure accessible care, Dr. Chaves’s clinic often times has a social worker and/or law student readily available to ensure that all the patient’s needs are met.

At the weekend free clinics, Dr. Chaves accepts patients no matter their insurance coverage. The monumental impact of his work is evident the moment you see the look of relief on a parent’s face. Dr. Chaves is also popular among kids, who we know, may be timid around physicians. Up until the age of 5, patients of Dr. Chaves receive colorful and fun reading books at every well-visit. The book serves two purposes: to assess a child’s development and fosters a love of reading. With his comprehensive and empathetic approach to pediatric healthcare, Dr. Chaves-Gnecco is a model to the medical profession. His focus is on the whole patient. He wants to connect with them to be an active presence in their lives and the lives of their families. It’s no wonder that the name Dr. Diego Chaves-Gnecco is spoken with respect and affection among Pittsburgh’s Hispanic population.

Dr. Diego Chaves-Gnecco is Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Director and founder of SALUD Para Niños at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. He received the F. Edwards Rushton CATCH Award at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition. Named in honor of F. Edwards Rushton, Sr., this award honors pediatricians who collaborate within their communities to increase children’s access to healthcare and other needed services. Chaves-Gnecco is the first Latino pediatrician to receive this recognition as well as the first to be awarded for a resident CATCH grant.

In 2002, Chaves-Gnecco created the first bilingual pediatric clinic at Children’s Hospital. With funding from his 2004 resident CATCH grant, Chaves-Gnecco expanded the program to provide an option for uninsured Hispanic children, and then officially named the program SALUD (Students, Residents, Faculty, and Latinos United Against Health Disparities) Para Niños. Since then, the number of children enrolled has increased from 45 to over 1,000 children served, with more than 1,650 health visits a year.


University of Pittsburgh
Community Engagement Center


The University Community Engagement Center in Homewood is now open, and the School of Medicine is enthusiastically involved in numerous programs at the Center. Above, you will see several of our medical students (Calvin McMillan, Erica Hampton, Jennifer Mihalo, and Alex Harris) volunteering with a health fair at the Community Engagement Center!


Social Medicine Fellows Program


Social Medicine seeks to understand and influence the social, political, and economic factors that profoundly affect the health of individuals and communities. Given that up to 90% of health outcomes are determined by social factors, the importance of the social determinants of health in shaping the course of illness cannot be overstated. Health disparities are a major public health concern along with injustice in both the United States and globally. The medical profession, in particular, has a responsibility to work to eliminate social inequities. The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s (UPSOM) Social Medicine Fellows Program (SMFP) is a new initiative that trains medical students for careers as leaders who bridge academic medical institutions and traditionally underserved communities. Medical students selected in their first year partner for the duration of their medical school training with an underserved community, where they participate in service learning, research, and advocacy in accordance with community needs and assets. Through their membership on the SMFP Advisory Board, representatives of UPSOM and community partners share stewardship of the educational process, which is guided by the principles of community-based participatory research, and grounded in structural competency theory.

Social Medicine Fellows Program Advisory Board
Thuy Bui, MD
 Director, Social Medicine Fellows Program
 University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
 Ann Thompson, MD, MCCM
 Vice Dean
 University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Joan Harvey, MD
 Associate Dean of Student Affairs
 University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Chenits Pettigrew, EdD
 Assistant Dean of Student Affairs
 Director of Diversity Programs
 University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Steven Albert, PhD, MS
 Professor and Chair
 Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
 University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
 Michael Yonas, DrPH
  Sr. Program Officer, Research & Special Initiatives
  The Pittsburgh Foundation
Fred Brown, PhD
 President  & CEO
 The Forbes Fund
Karen Hacker, MD, MPH

Current Fellows
Rafa Ifthikhar, MS2
Arthi Narayanan, MS2
Lauren Auster, MS2

Incoming Fellows 
Ayanna Garland, MS1
Martine Madill, MS1
Jad Hilal, MS1

News From Our Collaborating Groups

Physician Inclusion Council of UPMC and Pitt (PICUP)

The Employee Resource Group (ERG), the Minority House Staff Association, currently known as the Coalition of Residents and Fellows of Color (C-ROC), met to develop a charter and agenda for the year. Their mission is to positively influence the learning environment and to increase recruitment and engagement of all residents and fellows of color. The C-ROC calendar of events includes: community service opportunities, networking events, and opportunities to support ongoing recruitment efforts. Let's support their efforts.

CROC Governing Council
Stacy Bartlett, Family Medicine
Piper Carroll, Psychiatry
Hodan Ismail, Family Medicine
Daniel Salahuddin, Psychiatry and Family Medicine

David Bubas, Center for Engagement and Inclusion
Evan Loundas, Center for Engagement and Inclusion
Rebecca Orenstein, Center for Engagement and Inclusion
Eloho Ufomata, Internal Medicine and School of Medicine


The PICUP Networking Subcommittee
Under the guidance of Dr. Rickquel Tripp, several events have been held.  They include: the Sip for Success gatherings in May and August and the Mentor Matching Mixer in July to connect mentee residents, fellows, and medical students with their mentors, and a restorative yoga session  in early February.

The School of Medicine Diversity Advisors Council
The Advisory Council ( met on February 14, 2019 to discuss a wide range of topics related to diversity and inclusion.  The topics included an update on pipeline programs, our Common Grounds Discussions, the Jeannette South-Paul Visiting Clerkship, ongoing unconscious bias training, school-wide Title IX training, and the New Vice-Chair for Diversity and Inclusion in the Department of Medicine. 

UPSOM Common Ground Conversations are inclusive multi-perspective conversations that provide a forum for all colleagues to explore ideas that are at intersections of our experiences across the continuum of education, training, and
practice. Recently, conversations regarding the below topics were discussed:


Must We Work to Change the Things We Cannot Accept?
Medical Student Advocacy in Challenging Times

Sexual Harassment Awareness: A Conversation About Affirmative Consent


The next conversation is titled: American Privilege

The student leaders are preparing to attend the following National Conferences:
SNMA April 17-21 in Philadelphia PA
LMSA March 22-24 in Lubbock TX


Suggested Reading
An American Crisis: The Growing Absence of Black Men in Medicine and Science

Creating a Culture of Health in the Latinx Community

Diversity Champions who have been recognized for their leadership, clinical excellence and research

Ann Thompson, MD, MCCM
Wins Leadership Award

Ann Thompson, Vice Dean at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was recently announced as a winner of the 2018 Leadership Award for an Individual from the Group on Women in Medicine and Science.
The award is given to people and organizations that demonstrate “a significant impact for the advancement of women's roles in academic medicine and science.”
Thompson, who is also a Professor of Critical Care Medicine and Pediatrics in the School of Medicine, will receive the award at Learn Serve Lead 2018 in Austin, Texas, Nov. 2-6. The annual event is held by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

 Beth Piraino, MD
Kidney Foundation's Lazarus Award Recepient

Beth Piraino, Professor of medicine and Associate Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the School of Medicine, will receive the
J. Michael Lazarus Award by the National Kidney Foundation.


The award was established to honor Dr. J. Michael Lazarus for his contributions to the clinical science and care of dialysis patients, as well as to recognize individuals whose research has yielded novel insights related to renal replacement therapy.


Piraino will receive the award at the National Kidney Foundation’s Spring Clinical Meetings in May 2019.


Piraino is a pioneer in peritoneal dialysis (PD) clinical research, with particular focus on prevention of PD-related infections and improving outcomes for patients treated with home dialysis.


Utibe Essien, MD
Lead Author Of Study On Blood Thinner Use By Race

Utibe R. Essien, Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine’s Division of General Medicine, was the lead author for a study published in JAMA Cardiology that found striking differences in the use of blood thinners for stroke prevention by race, especially in the newer class of these medications. Black patients were far less likely to receive blood thinners, even after controlling for socioeconomic status.
The study used the Outcomes Registry for Better Informed Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation II (ORBIT-AF II) to source patient data for the study. He conducted the research during a fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Many factors, including limited access to specialists, out-of-pocket costs, medication adherence, and implicit bias, have been suggested as possible reasons for the disparities in care for patients with atrial fibrillation, but further research is needed to address and correct these issues, according to a UPMC news release.
Utibe, who came to Pitt in September 2018, and is a core investigator for the VA Pittsburgh Center for Health Equity and Research Promotion. He co-authored the study along with physicians and academics from Harvard, Duke, Yale, and UCLA.


Recipients of the 2018 Gateway Medical Society Scholarships presented at the Annual Physician of the Year Banquet


Eve Bowers is a Pittsburgh, PA area native and grew up in Sewickley, PA. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. Eve is currently a second year medical student.

Victoria Humphrey is from Florida. She graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science and Departmental Honors in Religious Studies and Biology, as well as a minor in Chemistry. Victoria is currently a second year medical student.

Camille Davis graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science degree in Bioengineering. Camille is currently a second year medical student.

Vivianne Oyefusi is originally from the DC metro area. She graduated with her Bachelors of Arts and Science in English Writing and Biological Sciences with certificates in Women's Studies, Latin American Studies, and a minor in Chemistry. Vivianne is currently a second year medical student.

Casey Tompkins-Rhoades is originally from Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated from The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering with a Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering with a minor in Chemistry. Casey is currently a second year medical student.


Pitt Med Students Named Finalists in American Medical Association's Global Health Challenge


A group of students and alumni at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have been chosen as finalists for the American Medical Association’s
Global Health Challenge.


The students are members of the Pitt Med Latino Medical Student Association and part of Students and Latinos United Against Disparities, which provides Spanish volunteer interpreters for the Birmingham free clinic, serving uninsured Latino patients. The group, Latinos Unidos, includes Angélica María Escobar, Daniela Ines Alarcón, Simon Edber, Vivianne Oyefusi and José Miguel Juarez .


If they win, the group will have the opportunity to travel to a Latin American country with the AMA to help areas in need and to further their commitment and passion for global health and underserved medicine.

Dr. Mark Gladwin, Chair of the Department of Medicine,
reports the torch has been passed


Dr. Kaleab Abebe and Dr. Natalia Morone have been Co-Director of the Career Education and Enhancement for Health Care Research Diversity Program (CEED) Program for the past six years. CEED provides underrepresented minorities in academic medicine or the health sciences with mentored career development training and education in clinical research, and is one of the ICRE’s most well established training programs for investigators.  Drs. Abebe and Morone have devoted considerable time and energy to sustain and build the program. 

They have passed the torch to Esa Davis, MD, MPH, FAAFP. Dr. Davis will be the next visionary to lead CEED. She is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Clinical and Translational Science. She is also an accomplished investigator in the area of maternal and childhood obesity related health outcomes and comparative effectiveness research in obesity and tobacco. She is also Director of UPMC Tobacco Treatment Service.  CEED is in excellent hands.

Please join me in thanking Kaleab and Natalia for their work
and in congratulating Esa on her new role. 

Upcoming Events

Saturday, March 23, 2019
Man to Man Breakfast in 1105A Scaife Hall - 10:00am


Thursday, April 25 to Friday, April 26, 2019
School of Medicine: Second Look


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Carolyn Carter Luncheon in 1105 Scaife Hall-12:00pm


Wednesday, May 29th - Friday, July 21st

Summer Premedical Academic Enrichment Program


Monday, June 10th to Friday, July 12th

Prologue to Medicine

Friday, September 6, 2019

Toast to Diversity at Phipps Conservatory-7:00pm

If you have any questions, concerns, or contributions please contact:
Dr. Chenits Pettigrew
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Director of Diversity Programs