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Angus named as associate vice chancellor for healthcare innovation

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Derek Angus (BCHS ’92) named as associate vice chancellor for healthcare innovation. ​This new role will complement his recent appointment as UPMC’s chief health care innovation officer, and foster strategic linkages between the two organizations. Dr. Angus will work to stimulate the fusion of multiple disciplines and skills, blending expertise in clinical care delivery with organization science, decision psychology, machine learning, Bayesian... 

Reed explains what airborne virus means for reopening

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THE CONVERSATION - Respiratory scientist Douglas Reed, IDM and Pitt Med, examined studies that have shown how the virus has spread, including at a call center in South Korea, a restaurant in China, and a choir practice in Washington state. “The evidence strongly suggests that airborne transmission happens easily and is likely a significant driver of this pandemic. It must be taken seriously as people begin to venture back out into the world.”  

Van Panhuis on new, secretive data system shaping federal pandemic response

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CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY - “It is a big leap forward,” said EPI's Wilbert van Panhuis, who is working to get access to the platform for a group of 600 researchers. “They are making major progress in this pandemic,” but much of the data was designed with federal government users in mind, not academic researchers or the public. “It’s a bit disappointing,” he said. “Currently we have to invent that part of the system.”  

COVID-19 & Secondary Impacts

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The stay-at-home and social distancing COVID-19 mitigation orders drastically restricted people’s physical movements and access to businesses, causing myriad secondary impacts on the public’s health. Dr. Andrea Gielen discusses how the pandemic has affected injury risks due to changes in lifestyles and transportation. Dr. Christina Mair and BCHS PhD student Jessica Frankebeger share Allegheny County results from a survey addressing resident’s ro... 

Hernandez says experimental medicines for COVID-19 could help someday, but home runs not guaranteed

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WBHM - This proof-of concept study suggests that the strategy of blocking virus with antibodies holds promise. Inmaculada “Inma” Hernandez (HPM ’16), Pitt School of Pharmacy, is hopeful, but she doubts that these drugs will be a game-changer. “These drugs are so complex to produce, probably we will not have antibodies available for treating everybody who gets coronavirus. They’re probably going to be considerably expensive.”  

Jalal research shows fatal overdoses in U.S. rebounded in 2019

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TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT – “We are concerned that policymakers may have interpreted the one-year downturn in 2018 as evidence for an especially effective national response or the start of a long-term trend,” said lead author Hawre Jalal, HPM. “Unfortunately, that isn’t supported by the data.” The data suggests there has been a 5.6 percent increase in fatal overdoses nationwide since 2018.  

Roberts on COVID-19 in Pittsburgh: A timeline of the first six months

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - "We had a pretty good early run," said HPM Chair Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab. "If you look at the graph of cases over time, back in April, we were doing pretty well with surprisingly few cases." The peak day of the early months of COVID-19 came with 73 new cases on April 3 - a number that would be considered an average day today.   

Mellors discusses potential COVID-19 drug

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CUMBERLAND TIMES-NEWS - IDM’s John Mellors, UPMC’s chief of infectious diseases, said the biological molecule “is small, which means it penetrates into areas of the body where a full-sized antibody may not. It’s fully human, meaning that there’s no foreign material that’s likely to be rejected by the host… and it appears to be safe.” But he added, it's too early to talk about pricing of a treatment when it’s not (tested) in humans yet.  

Hershey on how courts may reconsider temporary coronavirus restrictions as pandemic drags on

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WASHINGTON POST – HPM's Tina Batra Hershey agrees that there's a need for executive administrations to “provide clear and transparent communications about what they’re doing, to ensure that there is a tailored response.” That might mean articulating what steps will be taken to measure whether restrictions are working and when they can be lifted, she said. “I think the judiciary will require more from the executive.”  

Summer of 2020: Evolution of our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and ability to forecast COVID-19

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What we have learned during the summer of 2020 that puts SARS-CoV-2 into perspective with other emerging viruses and explores the current state of COVID-19 forecasting for the next few months. IDM's Amy Hartman talks what we know (and don't know) about SARS-CoV-2 and EPI's Donald Burke discusses the epidemiological and environmental factors that will shape the likely phases of the epidemic in our region.    

Using a harm-reduction framework to guide teacher-student interactions

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Teaching during this pandemic is hard. BCHS faculty and student co-authors—MPH student Shannon Mitchell (BCHS '21) and doctoral student Abisola Olaniyan (BCHS '21)—offer educators guidance on using harm-reduction principles to guide interactions with students while building compassionate, collectivist communities that allow people to learn and thrive. Check out the full article in the current edition of the journal Pedagogy in Health Promotion. ... 

Mendez receives national recognition for maternal and child health research

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PITTWIRE - The Coalition for Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and 15 national health organizations selected EPI's Dara Mendez as the recipient of the 2020 Award for Effective Practice at the Community Level. Mendez specializes in understanding and addressing racial and socioeconomic inequity in pregnancy, birth, and women's health. The award recognizes her significant work toward improving public health practice through effec... 

Mark Roberts appointed to the rank of distinguished professor

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HPM's Mark Roberts has been appointed to the rank of Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Roberts is Chair, Department of Health Policy and Management and Director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory (PHDL). In addition to his academic appointments, Dr. Roberts has held many administrative appointments, such as Director of the Institute of Clinical Research Education (ICRE) from 2007 to 2010, Senior Medical Dir... 

Steroids can save lives among COVID-19 patients, UPMC and Pitt researchers say

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NPR – Pitt Medical Center’s Derek Angus (BCHS ’92) said that while some worried that steroids could also prevent the body from fighting off the coronavirus, all the coordinated studies reached the same conclusion, which is, I guess we have to stop our trials. It is reassuring that we can get randomized trials executed successfully and rapidly in the face of a pandemic, and it definitely puts us on a sure footing.  

Angus says large antibody study offers hope for virus vaccine efforts

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LOS ANGELES TIMES – A comprehensive study from Iceland revealed that natural antibodies remained stable for four months, longer than was first thought. HPM’s Derek Angus (BCHS ’92), UPMC’s critical care chief, said that “will be encouraging for people working on vaccines.” He added that the infection fatality rate of 0.3 percent is in keeping with recent estimates here in the U.S.  

Bodnar on sending her kids back to school

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TIME - EPI's Lisa Bodnar said her children's schools will begin the year all-remote. While spring “was not a good learning experience,” she feels encouraged by efforts to add more structure to the digital school day this fall. “I’m much more hopeful that it will be closer to what it could be in school. I know that they will be safer,” but she's not fully convinced that all of their needs will be met.  

Is pharma’s counteroffer enough? Gellad questions the proposal.

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POLITICO - The feedback: “Not only do voluntary discounts not last long, but discounts do nothing to address the prices of drugs that come out after any discount goes into place,” tweeted HPM’s Walid Gellad, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh. “Also, what is a 10 percent discount when list prices increases by 9.9 percent a year?”  

Baumann and Burke create community with shared art space to combat negative effects of physical distancing

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, how have you stayed connected and maintained community connections? BCHS' Jessie Burke and Sara Baumann asked the Pitt community to respond with art projects, which are now available for viewing in a new virtual gallery featured on Pitt Public Health's website. "[A]rt space interventions like this project can be powerful approaches for reducing adverse physiological and psychological health outcomes," said Baumann. ... 

Gellad says the FDA ‘grossly misrepresented’ plasma data

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NEW YORK TIMES – Many experts were bewildered about where a key statistic came from. HPM's Walid Gellad, who leads Pitt’s Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing, said, “For the first time ever, I feel like official people in communications and people at the F.D.A. grossly misrepresented data about a therapy.” Millions will rely on the FDA' judgement. “That’s a problem if they’re starting to exaggerate data.”  

Innovation Institute reports record number of invention disclosures, despite pandemic

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PITTWIRE - From swimming devices to rare disease gene therapies, Pitt inventors never stop: The Innovation Institute reported a record 394 invention disclosures for last fiscal year, and Director Evan Facher (HUGEN '97) says another robust year is ahead.  

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Research Aims to Understand, Curb Misinformation on COVID-19 Vaccines 

Research Aims to Understand, Curb Misinformation on COVID-19 Vaccines

PITTWIRE - Fueled by a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Pitt researchers are studying and combating false online information about vaccines. “Vaccines are often the victim of their own success,” said BCHS doctoral student Beth Hoffman, a research assistant at the Center for Research o... (01/20/2021)
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Albert among 3 Pitt Experts on Reasons for Optimism in 2021 

Albert among 3 Pitt Experts on Reasons for Optimism in 2021

PITTWIRE — Optimism is hardwired in most humans, says public health professor Steve Albert. If you don’t feel like you’re one of them right now, here are three perspectives on why, despite all that 2020 brought us, things are looking brighter. (12/16/2020)
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Researchers scan DNA to learn how facial features form 

Researchers scan DNA to learn how facial features form

THE CONVERSATION - Until very recently, geneticists had virtually no understanding of which parts of our DNA were linked to even the most basic aspects of facial appearance. HUGEN's John R. Shaffer and Pitt’s Seth M. Weinberg explore questions like: Can we reliably predict a person’s face from thei... (12/11/2020)


Featuring the latest research, opportunities, and groundbreaking developments from CEPH-accredited schools and programs of public health. Review theFriday Letter submission guidelines then share your story ideas via publichealth.pitt.edu/share-news or contact phcomm@pitt.edu. 
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From polio to the COVID vaccine, IDM's Peter Salk sees great progress 

From polio to the COVID vaccine, IDM's Peter Salk sees great progress

NPR - IDM's Peter Salk was just 9 when he got one of the first polio vaccine shots in 1953 at the family home outside Pittsburgh. Today, he has been hugely impressed by the development of a vaccine in less than a year. Dr. Salk is a bit concerned about the number of people who are reluctant, or out... (12/30/2020)