Faculty Profiles & Research News

Shaffer selected for the 2020 Craig Award for Excellence in Teaching

image
Congratulations to Dr. John Shaffer (HUGEN '08), assistant professor of human genetics and oral biology, on being selected for the 2020 James L. Craig Award for Teaching Excellence. Craig awardees are nominated annually by students and selected by a committee of students and past awardees.   

Wenzel explains how to handle package deliveries

image
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE – EOH Chair Sally Wenzel says, “The easiest way to make sure that you aren’t bringing the virus in with your packages is to treat the package as though a COVID-19 positive person last handled it: Wipe off all items before putting them away, throw out your packaging and wash your hands.” Another tip: Plastic gloves might be hard to come by these days, but sandwich bags can protect in a pinch.  

Roberts says social distancing is our best tool in fighting COVID-19

image
90.5 WESA - “If nobody ever went out and nobody ever touched anybody else, this disease could not pass at all,” said HPM's Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory. He thinks the current restrictions on daily life need to continue for the time being. “If people went about their lives as normal, there would be tens of thousands of cases requiring hospitalization in western Pennsylvania alone.”  

BCHS alum Arnold on harm-reduction during the coronavirus shutdown

image
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER/SPOTLIGHT PA - At Prevention Point Pittsburgh, staff have been trying to raise awareness of COVID-19 for weeks. “If someone shows symptoms, they’re given gloves, a face mask, and extra harm reduction supplies so they can self-quarantine,” said executive director Aaron Arnold (BCHS '13). If the person wants medical help, the staff can arrange that, too. Since early March, they've been including a tip sheet in supply bags tha... 

Angus comments on top 10 ICU must-dos for COVID-19

image
MEDSCAPE - In an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association issued just days after these new guidelines, Derek C. Angus, HPM distinguished professor and associate editor with JAMA, and his colleague Lamontagne of Canada say these "represent an excellent first step toward optimal, evidence-informed care for patients with COVID-19.”  

Wenzel on the burning problem of America’s sugar cane growers

image
BLOOMBERG QUINT - Sally Wenzel, EOH professor and director of Pitt Medical Center's Asthma Institute, says that “The only way to answer the question” as to whether sugarcane burning is the direct cause of the respiratory issues that residents experience “is with a better level of granularity—to do a person-based study, as opposed to a population-based study” such as the ones published so far.  

Pitt Public Health is part of Wolf’s “army of medical professionals” to address COVID-19 crisis

image
PUBLICSOURCE - Gov. Wolf said the state is ramping up efforts to expand capacity in the state’s healthcare system in anticipation of a spike in COVID-19 cases. He added that the state has enough capacity to handle all of its COVID-19 cases if the state’s efforts to socially isolate individuals are successful. All of the models they have looked at, including one from Pitt Public Health' FRED program, depend on effective social distancing.  

State reaches out to Pitt health modeling to help COVID-19 response

image
PITTSBURGH BUSINESS TIMES - Health Secretary Rachel Levine specifically singled out Pitt's Framework for Epidemiological Dynamics (FRED) for help with complex population-health modeling. The program was developed to model outbreaks of communicable diseases like influenza, dengue fever, and measles, and help local and state decision makers know what interventions to take. Pennsylvania's Department of Health doesn't do that type of modeling.  

Newman finds daily aspirin does not lower Alzheimer’s risk

image
NEW YORK TIMES - “If you’re 70 or older and healthy, without evidence of cardiovascular disease, it’s very difficult to improve on your success. The relatively low risk of dementia in this study was not further lowered with aspirin,” said Anne Newman, study co-author . Nor did they find effect in various subgroups either—people with hypertension or diabetes, smokers, people with high cholesterol, or those who were overweight or obese.  

Newman encourages researchers to adapt clinical studies to alleviate impact of pandemic

image
NEURO NEWS – To minimize disruption and preserve integrity while still ensuring participant health and safety, EPI chair Anne Newman tells JAMA that sustaining ongoing trials could help millions of people realize substantial, durable health benefits that will be important post-pandemic. Therefore, efforts and resources should be dedicated to support continuing randomized trials using creative and thoughtful methods and proactive planning.  

Mellors says natural remedies haven’t been shown to help you fight the coronavirus

image
DISCOVER - As COVID-19 blasts across the globe, viral wellness videos and posts are springing up in its wake. But so far, says John Mellors, IDM professor and chief of infectious diseases at Pitt, no randomized clinical trials have shown vitamins or natural remedies to be effective in treating or preventing COVID-19.  He adds, if you're already eating a balanced diet, suppliments probably aren’t going to juice your COVID-19 immunity.  

Could Pennsylvania’s vacant hotels be turned into coronavirus field hospitals?

image
PENN LIVE - “There’s a substantial likelihood we are going to see a surge that might reflect the worst-case scenario,” said HPM's Jeremy Kahn, also professor of critical care medicine. “I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything as too extreme.... I'm a little skeptical this is the most efficient solution." It would be best to move less severe cases before putting critically ill patients “in an ad-hoc ICU at a dorm or hotel.”  

FRED modeling platform predicts high COVID-19 hospitalizations

image
FRED offers frightening predictions about what Pennsylvania residents could face with COVID-19. “These are very scary numbers, and one thing I hope to impress upon people is that this is serious,” said Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab and chair of health policy and management. “Social distancing is seriously important…. There’s hope that further action can drive that prediction downward.”  

An epidemiological forecast model and software assessing interventions on COVID-19 epidemic in China

image
MEDRXIV (2/29/20) -  Pitt Biostats' Lu Tang and collaborators from Michigan develop a health informatics toolbox that enables public health workers to timely analyze and evaluate the time-course dynamics of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection using the publicly available data from the China CDC. This toolbox is built upon a hierarchical epidemiological model in which two observed time series of daily proportions of infected and removed ca... 

What is epidemiology? Kuller explains.

image
LIVE SCIENCE – Epidemiologists are disease detectives who save lives by studying and preventing the spread of the worst diseases. EPI’s professor emeritus Lewis Kuller was asked to clarify: “Epidemiology is a tool to understand the distribution of disease in populations, and the factors that lead to higher or lower rates of disease and ways of effectively preventing disease.”  

Van Panhuis turns rapid Coronavirus data sharing into sustainable research infrastructure

image
Many of the 300 MIDAS members are conducting modeling research on COVID-19 and are contributing to an extraordinary international collection of data and information regarding the outbreak. “It’s exciting and gratifying to be able to do something useful to help with this pandemic,” said EPI's Wilbert van Panhuis. “We’re playing a crucial role in bringing the infectious disease modeling research community together to efficiently share information.... 

Burke on how contagious the new coronavirus is compared to flu and SARS

image
NEWSWEEK - Donald Burke, professor of health science and policy, said he was concerned that the reproduction number (RO) may be higher than originally estimated. The U.S. case count has been increasing exponentially. If the time between successive cases in the chain of transmission is four days, then the RO would have to be 3 to 4 to sustain this rate. “But the case count is confounded because case testing and reporting are increasing, and that ... 

Burke on what we can learn about coronavirus from National Geographic author David Quammen’s brilliant book ‘Spillover’

image
THE HILL - Epidemiologist Donald Burke emphasized the need to improve the scientific basis to improve readiness: the understanding of which virus groups to watch, the field capabilities to detect spillovers in remote places before they become regional outbreaks, the organizational capacities to control outbreaks before they become pandemics, plus the laboratory tools and skills to recognize known viruses speedily, to characterize new viruses alm... 

Albert on how Pittsburgh’s paid sick leave policy might help slow the spread of coronavirus

image
90.5 WESA - A 2013 Pitt study simulating flu transmissions found that universal access to paid sick leave reduced workplace flu infections by 6 percent. BCHS’ Steven Albert estimated that about 12 percent of flu transmissions occur in the workplace, largely when people come to work feeling sick. He said the coronavirus pandemic highlights the importance of having stronger public health policies that include paid sick leave.  

Burke responds: Can you get coronavirus twice?

image
NEWSWEEK - Experts said that they can’t be certain, based on the limited data there is on SARS-CoV-2 (the germ which causes COVID-19 and shouldn’t be confused with the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus). Donald Burke, professor of health science and policy, said he wasn’t sure, but as SARS-CoV-2 has the same kind of error correction molecular machinery as the virus that causes SARS, “its mutation rate will be slower.”  

Share News

Simply click to share news of your achievements—and those of classmates or colleagues. We’re eager to hear about and share stories of student, faculty, and alumni accomplishments. Email questions to phcomm@pitt.edu
or visit publichealth.pitt.edu/sharenews.

Share news

Research Videos

image

Roberts and Hoffman featured in Hulu documentary on anti-vaccine movement 

Roberts and Hoffman featured in Hulu documentary on anti-vaccine movement

HULU - Available now on the streaming service, Vice Investigates “Anti-Vaxx Fever” explores the growing anti-vaccine movement. The documentary features in-depth looks at the varied work of professor Mark Roberts and of student Beth Hoffman (BCHS ’19 ’23). Each uses system science methods to investi... (02/26/2020)
image

Rinaldo remembers unsung heroes: Pittsburgh men, decades-long study impact HIV/AIDS research 

Rinaldo remembers unsung heroes: Pittsburgh men, decades-long study impact HIV/AIDS research

U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT - For more than three decades, Pitt Men’s Study leaders have gathered with Pittsburgh men and women to remember those who have died and give thanks for the 1,743 men who have participated in the nation’s longest-running HIV/AIDS research project. IDM's Charles Rinaldo has l... (12/21/2019)
image

Brent using MRI scans to reveal the physical makeup of thoughts and feelings 

Brent using MRI scans to reveal the physical makeup of thoughts and feelings

CBS - Who among us hasn't wished we could read someone else's mind, know exactly what they're thinking? Well that's impossible, or at least that's what we've always, well, thought. EPI’s David Brent runs a clinic for suicidal adolescents. He happened to attend a talk Marcel Just was giving about hi... (12/09/2019)
image

Baumann's latest documentary examines transgender identities and reproductive health 

Baumann's latest documentary examines transgender identities and reproductive health

WESA-FM -- A documentary about a local transgender musician’s reproductive health offers a new way to think about public health research: through the visual medium of film. Produced by Pitt Public Health postdoctoral associate Sara Baumann  (BCHS '19), the film focuses on Jude Benedict, who identif... (10/25/2019)
image

Computer simulation just predicted a huge measles outbreak in texas, with 4,000 percent increase predicted in some communities 

Computer simulation just predicted a huge measles outbreak in texas, with 4,000 percent increase predicted in some communities

NEWSWEEK - David Sinclair, a postdoctoral researcher in Pitt's Public Health Dynamics Laboratory and lead author of the study said, "I was surprised at how large measles outbreaks could be in Texas at current vaccination rates, according to our forecasts. The clustering of unvaccinated children in ... (08/25/2019)
image

As the U.S. measles count surpasses 25-year-old record, Roberts says: vaccinate 

As the U.S. measles count surpasses 25-year-old record, Roberts says: vaccinate

WDAM - U.S. health officials have reported 971 measles cases so far this year, the highest tally in 27 years, and experts say it's not clear when the wave of illnesses will stop. "What's causing these outbreaks is lack of vaccination," said HPM Chair Mark Roberts.  (05/31/2019)
View more research videos