Faculty Profiles & Research News

Remembering Russell Rycheck, Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology

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Russell Rycheck, Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology, passed away on December 17, 2021. He will be remembered as a celebrated professor and respected colleague. Dr. Rycheck was a professor at Pitt Public Health for 42 years, where he received multiple awards for teaching, including Outstanding Teacher of the Year, Excellence in Teaching and the Margaret Gloninger award for teaching and service.  

Flu making a comeback, could strain hospitals filled with Covid patients

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NBC NEWS – HPM’s Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, said he’s concerned that regions of the country that currently don’t have mitigation measures for Covid will see a large increase in flu cases in the coming weeks. “What I think is worrisome now is that there are many states where they’re not doing much to try to prevent Covid,” Roberts said. “They’re getting rid of mask mandates, they’re letting people come indoor... 

Self-compassion can be good for the heart, Thurston finds

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - New research from secondary EPI faculty Rebecca Thurston sheds light on the ways that being kinder to yourself may be good for your heart. The study found that women who practice self-compassion overall have stronger cardiovascular health, further cementing the correlation between mind and body. “Self-compassion is a psychological construct that includes relating to oneself with kindness or compassion, particularly duri... 

Roberts: A poorly matched flu shot could mean a bad flu season on top of a Covid surge

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NBC – HPM’s Mark Roberts, said the data in the new preprint "is certainly consistent with what I know from the rest of the world right now.” The potential, he said, for a “really large influenza season this year is real. So much of the immunity that you get in a population comes from the people who had influenza the year before. There could be substantially bigger epidemics this year, especially if the strain that appears is different than the s... 

A Broken System: Health Care Inequity

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WQED - EPI’s Dara Mendez, BCHS’s Patricia Documet, and Diego Chaves-Gnecco (MMPH ’00) are featured in a 30-minute documentary showcasing widespread and troubling health disparities. Lack of access to affordable care, racism, marginalization and other factors have led to increased rates of cancer, diabetes, asthma, and fetal and maternal death in Pittsburgh’s African American, Latinx, LGBTQIA+ and disabilities communities.  

Wenzel, Kagan, Newman are Highly Cited Researchers for 2021

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Congratulations to EOH’s Sally Wenzel and Valerian Kagan and EPI’s Anne Newman for their inclusion in the 2021 list of Highly Cited Researchers. The list identifies researchers who have demonstrated significant influence in their chosen fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade. A total of 18 researchers from Pitt were included in this year's list.   

Tenant Cities: Unpaid housing health fines leave some Allegheny County tenants cold

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PUBLIC SOURCE - EPI’s Donald Burke wants the department to review what it’s doing now, get data from other jurisdictions and consider how it might better achieve the goal of safe and livable housing. “It’s an important function of the Health Department,” Burke said. “The environmental factors that are found in the housing inspections that deal with air quality, water quality [and] the social environment are all important determinants of health.”... 

COVID-19 could eventually be seasonal, scientists say

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CNN - "We need more research to disentangle all the factors that may link seasonality to COVID-19 cases," HPM’s Hawre Jalal said. "Since it has been doing it twice so predictably, it's highly likely that a winter wave will happen again. That doesn't mean that we should give up and say, 'It's seasonal, we just have to go with that.' I think a very important distinction to make is that we have some predictable pattern to it, so we can prepare for ... 

Stool Samples from the 1980s Hold Clues to Fighting HIV Today

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U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT - A groundbreaking analysis of decades-old stool and blood samples from the early AIDS epidemic suggests that men who had high levels of inflammation-causing bacteria in their intestinal tract may have had a greater risk for contracting HIV. "A healthy gut microbiome is essential for many bodily functions…" said IDM’s Yue Chen, lead author. “Scientists are increasingly learning that it has other wide-ranging impacts. ... 

Here's how you can benefit from the Affordable Care Act marketplace this year (and how it works)

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NEXT PITTSBURGH - Individuals enrolled in the newly subsidized, free Silver plans, in particular, could see a considerable rise in costs if the subsidies expire and they don’t go into the marketplace to change their plans, according to HPM’s Coleman Drake. “They’re going to have to actively log into their accounts and attach their credit card to their accounts so they can start making payments,” Drake said. “And I would be very worried that that... 

Data analysts proved what Black Pittsburgh knew about COVID's racial disparities

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NPR - The ferocity of the COVID-19 pandemic did what Black Pittsburgh communities, which make up a quarter of the city's population, thought impossible. It shook the norms. Black researchers, medical professionals and allies knew that people of color experienced bias in public health policy, even before the pandemic. As the deadly virus emerged, data anaylsts, foundation directors, epidemiologists including Tiffany Gary-Webb, pooled their talent... 

Experts Say Oz's medical expertise can be double-edged, especially amid pandemic

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WESA - HUGEN's Lisa Parker, director of the Center for Bioethics and Health Law, said many people look to authority figures like Dr. Oz for guidance. But Parker said [his] credentials can lead to what bioethicists call “a generalization of expertise,” in which people assume that because someone is an expert in one area, they also have expertise in another.  

Mendez and colleagues publish paper on association of residence in high-police contact neighborhoods with preterm birth

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JAMA NETWORK OPEN - In this cross-sectional study of 1059 Minneapolis residents who gave birth to a live singleton in 2016, the odds of preterm birth for pregnant people living in a neighborhood with high police presence was significantly higher compared with the odds of their racial counterparts in a low-presence neighborhood (90% increase for White individuals, 100% increase for US-born Black individuals, and 10% for Black individuals born out... 

Interventions for Teen Dating Violence Do Hold Water

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MEDPAGE TODAY - …”Historically, [teen dating violence] prevention interventions have not included families,” Pitt Medicine’s Maya Ragavan and Elizabeth Miller wrote in a corresponding editorial. Miller also holds a secondary appointment with BCHS.  

Harrison and other Medical Experts are Working to Detect the Omicron Variant

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WTAE - "The big question is when will we detect it and also how rapidly will it spread? There have been other variants that look scary that didn't spread very well in the U.S. and other parts of the world, so I expect that we will see it sometime soon but exactly what it will do when it gets here - we are not really clear," said EPI's Lee Harrison.   

Another wave of COVID is sweeping through Allegheny County, but this time it's different

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WESA - Part of the reason for the continued rise in cases is due to what's called seasonal forcing, or seasonal variation. "The weather is getting colder and that allows the [viral] droplets to hang around in the air longer. So what used to be safe is no longer safe," said HPM's Mark Roberts of the Public Health Dynamics Lab.   

Two community-created Collaborative Filmmaking films from Burke and Baumann to debut at Nepalese film festivals

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As a part of an ongoing research collaboration with Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, with funding from the British Academy, BCHS’s Sara Baumann and Jessie Burke have two new community-created films from applying the Collaborative Filmmaking method in Nepal being aired at the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival, and the Pame Film Festival in Nepal this December.  

Wenzel talks about endotypes and precision medicine in podcast

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PHYSIOL REV - EOH Chair Sally Wenzel is a world authority on the diagnosis and treatment of asthma, a chronic disease with significant implications to public health. She talks about her paper “Are we meeting the promise of endotypes and precision medicine in asthma?” on a recent episode of the Physiological Reviews podcast.  

Higher Risk of Liver Cancer in People with NAFLD Linked to High Blood Iron Levels

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CANCER HEALTH - “NAFLD may contribute to the rising incidence of HCC in the U.S. However, only a small fraction of NAFLD patients eventually develop HCC. The liver is the primary reservoir of body iron. The iron overload can cause hepatotoxicity and liver damage,” said EPI’s Jian-Min Yuan, senior author and chair of cancer prevention at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “A direct link between serum iron level and HCC risk would support a harmful role ... 

CDC Confirms That a Case of Monkeypox Has Made It to the US—Here's Why Experts Say Not to Worry

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HEALTH MAGAZINE - Monkeypox is a "rare but potentially serious viral illness," per the CDC. The disease itself is caused by infection with monkeypox virus, which is a "distant cousin" of the deadly and now-eradicated smallpox disease, according to EPI's Donald S. Burke, dean emeritus. "It has a low mortality rate compared to smallpox, but it looks the same."   

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Research Videos

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Garland Examines Rise in Young People's Involvement in Local Violence on Hayes-Freeland show (video) 

Garland Examines Rise in Young People's Involvement in Local Violence on Hayes-Freeland show (video)

KDKA - BCHS' Richard Garland spoke with KDKA's Lynne Hayes-Freeland about the factors that are contributing to a rise in violence among youth in Pittsburgh. (08/03/2021)
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Baumann's talk during TEDxUniversity: Leaders, Innovators, and Neighbors (video) 

Baumann's talk during TEDxUniversity: Leaders, Innovators, and Neighbors (video)

BCHS' Sara Baumann is a mixed-methods researcher harnessing participatory, arts-based tools to study mental health and reproductive health issues. She was living in Nepal in 2015 when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck, killing close to 9,000 people and displacing half a million. Watch the recording... (07/26/2021)
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Gary-Webb featured in PHRESH: Communities Thrive When Residents are Involved in Decisions That Affect Their Neighborhoods 

Gary-Webb featured in PHRESH: Communities Thrive When Residents are Involved in Decisions That Affect Their Neighborhoods

"The Hill District and Homewood are similar and different in various ways. They're similar in the sense that they've been relatively stable over time and they have predominantly Black populations but they have very different histories overtime," explains EPI's TIffany Gary-Webb, assocaite dean for ... (07/23/2021)
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Hill and colleagues find that coke works fire made asthma worse for sufferers nearby 

Hill and colleagues find that coke works fire made asthma worse for sufferers nearby

WTAE - Brandy Bywra-Hill (EOH '22) was lead author on a recent study in collaboration with ACHD that recounts the impact of the Christmas Eve 2018 fire that destroyed the pollution controls of the U.S. Clairton Coke Works. "This is the type of data that helps shape policy about air emissions, facto... (05/06/2021)
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