Bruce Baker’s invention helped many with language disabilities
Bruce Baker, inventor of a pioneering system to help those with severe language disabilities to communicate — who brought his expertise and dedication to the students of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences — died May 7, 2020, at 77.
Katya Hill, a faculty member in the school’s Department of Communication Science and Disorders, was working as a speech-language pathologist in northwestern Pennsylvania when Baker spoke there about his device, which she was already using, and convinced her to come to Pitt for her Ph.D.
Hill points to the documentary made about Baker’s work and the individuals whom he has helped. “Only God Can Hear Me” shows “how speakers have been independent, have a higher quality of life and are participating more in the community” thanks to Baker’s invention, called Minspeak, made by his company, Semantic Compaction Systems.
“It’s an especially robust communications app,” Hill says, which allows users to pair icons representing words with buttons representing a part of speech, from noun and adjective to all the conjugations of verbs, to create sentences.
Baker had the idea for Minspeak while pursuing his Ph.D. and caring for someone with cerebral palsy, Hill said. Watching this person spell out every word in order to communicate inspired Baker to seek out a better method for allowing the reproduction of speech.
Coming to the school after his invention was on the market and successful, Hill says, “Bruce was a generous individual. He looked for people that he felt had talent and provided them with support,” including sponsoring hourly student workers in her laboratory.
“Bruce also knew individuals that used his device, and that’s what motivated him,” she adds. “I don’t think many manufacturers of products have close relationships with people who use their products.”
His influence on his field of augmentative and alternative communication made him “one of the founding fathers,” she says. In the classroom, “he was challenging. He always had a different twist to things.” She could attend a lecture on the same topic over and over, she recalls, “and I would always learn something new — he always had something different to share, something he would find in the literature.”
Patty Kummick, the school’s executive director of internal and external relations, lauds Baker’s creation of several awards, including the Semantic Compaction Systems Educational Travel Fund, a school-wide fund that supported students and junior faculty travel opportunities to conduct research, attend professional conferences, undertake service programs, study abroad or pursue other educational opportunities.
Baker attended the scholarship reception each year: “He loved the opportunity to engage with the students and learn about their travels and study. He was just a kind soul who loved to help students and see them excel in any way possible.”
He was an adjunct associate professor in two school departments, Rehabilitation Science and Technology (since 1993) and secondarily Communications Science and Disorders, and was still active at his death. He also served on the school’s advisory Board of Visitors.
“His whole life was his work and I think his goal in life was to help other people,” Kummick says. “He believed in the power of education and the power of travel to expand knowledge, and that was truly an opportunity he wanted to make sure the students had.”
— Marty Levine
Geology's Cassidy tripled the world’s meteorite collection
Emeritus Professor William A. Cassidy of the Department of Geology and Environmental Science in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences — creator of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program in 1976 and its primary investigator for nearly 20 years — died March 25, 2020.
Bruce Hapke, a department geophysicist who arrived with Cassidy in 1967 and retired in 2001, just a few years after him, had the office next door and spent many a lunch together. Hapke recalled Cassidy as “a very kind person and thoughtful. He was very considerate, and he had a kind of unique gift: If two people were discussing something and they started to argue, he would be able to come up with just the right sentence and diffuse the situation. It made him a good leader.
“He was a good friend and a good scientist,” Hapke added. “He was a meticulous observer and researcher and he mentored his students well.”
Cassidy’s greatest impact came with ANSMET, Hapke said. Learning that a Japanese team had discovered several meteorites on the Antarctic ice and theorizing that glacier movement and subsequent wind erosion of the ice was exposing meteorite falls from disparate times and locations, Cassidy received National Science Foundation funding over many years to explore the area. His own team recovered more than 22,000 meteorite samples, tripling the world's meteorite collection. Some of his finds were later discovered to be pieces from the moon and Mars.
In recognition of his work, Antarctica’s Cassidy Glacier was named for him, as well as the mineral Cassidyite and an asteroid, 3382 Cassidy. He recounted his work in a 2003 Cambridge University Press memoir, “Meteorites, Ice, and Antarctica: A Personal Account.”
Cassidy also spent years studying the impact craters left by meteorites, particularly in Argentina, where about 20 clustered craters were left from a large iron meteorite that had broken up in mid-air. Employing local people to help with the excavation, Cassidy received another NSF grant to uncover a 13-ton iron meteorite, one of the largest iron meteorites in the world, which the Argentine government subsequently turned into the center of a national park.
One meteorite, however, eluded Cassidy, Hapke said. Searching through the records of the original Spanish conquerors of what would become Argentina, Cassidy noticed their sighting of “a mountain of fire” that had fallen from the sky. It must have arrived during the same meteorite shower that produced the 20 craters, Cassidy surmised. But he could never find this other impact area. “He said, ‘How can you lose a meteorite that big?’” Hapke remembered. “But he never did find the ‘mountain of fire.’ He figured the Spaniards melted it down for weapons or something.”
Another departmental colleague, William Harbert, who joined Pitt in 1989, remembered Cassidy as “a world-class scientist” and instructor. “His teaching was really exceptional. He was a very popular teacher. Any time people saw him or his office door was open, people were welcome to walk in, and he was always focused on what they were talking about.
“He was just a voice of common sense, very good natured as a mentor for me and giving me advice” as a fellow faculty member, Harbert said. “He was someone who was extremely generous with his time, focusing on what needed to be done and what the path forward was – what was best collectively.
“He had a very wry sense of humor,” he added. “It’s the kind of sense of humor you see in field geologists who have spent a lot of time in remote field areas.”
According to a department memorial statement, Cassidy graduated from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor’s degree in geology and earned his Ph.D. in geochemistry from Penn State University, where he met his wife, Beverly, at Penn State. They had three children, Shauna, Laura and Brian.
— Marty Levine
Euba helped grow the African music program at Pitt
Akin Euba — Andrew W. Mellon professor emeritus in the Department of Music (1993-2011) and an influential teacher of intercultural and creative ethnomusicology courses — died April 14, 2020.
“Akin Euba was a big reason why I decided to come to Pitt as a grad student, for his understanding of composition and African music,” said Philip Thompson, the department’s concerts and communications coordinator, who first joined the department as a graduate student in composition and theory in 1996.
After taking Euba’s creative ethnomusicology course, “it’s not a stretch to call that a life-changing experience,” Thompson recalled. Euba’s teaching “broadened my mind in ways I’m still working at years later … It had a huge impact on how I think about music creatively and intellectually.
“The thing that was most influential was the way he encouraged us to explore freely regardless of our own usual cultural backgrounds,” Thompson added. “He wanted us to explore unusual cultures that we were unfamiliar with and incorporate it into our own work.” As an African scholar and artist, knowledgeable about African and European traditions, Euba “had this understanding that empires come and go, and you don’t let the empires define what you’re expressing. He just had this understanding: Culture is diverse and fluid.”
At Pitt, Euba also taught Music in Africa, Field and Lab Methods and World Music. As a memorial posted on the department’s website notes: “He was a leading composer of African Art Music and composed for a variety of mediums from solo piano to opera.” He was also “well known for his pioneering theory of African Pianism,” which uses the piano to translate African music for a worldwide audience.
The Guardian of Nigeria said that Euba was born in Lagos on April 28, 1935, and attended the Trinity College of Music, London, receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UCLA and a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Ghana. He received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1962.
Euba’s career had impact across the globe, from starting a department of music at the University of Ife in Nigeria to serving as a research scholar and artist in residence at IWALEWA House, the African studies center of the University of Bayreuth in Germany (1986-1992).
He was also the founder and director of the Centre for Intercultural Music Arts in London (1989) and director emeritus of the Centre for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill College, University of Cambridge.
After Euba had a stroke about a decade ago, Thompson recalled his continued vitality: “I remember from that time his tenacity,” as Thompson was recruited to aid Euba in organizing and running the International Conference on Musical Intersections in Practice at Cambridge soon after. “He was determined to accomplish everything that needed to be accomplished. That was very inspirational to me.”
Department chair Mathew Rosenblum remembered Euba as “a huge mentor to students,” as Euba and other faculty drew students to Pitt from Africa for study. “He was very warm and very energetic. He always had a smile – he would always bring a lot of positive energy to the room, wherever he was…. His legacy lives on through many students throughout the world.”
— Marty Levine
LaValley kept Human Genetics department running
Michele LaValley, long-time administrator of the Department of Human Genetics in the Graduate School of Public Health, died March 23, 2020 at 62.
LaValley joined Pitt in August 1976 and retired in May 2014.
“She was the person who kept the department running as chairs came and went,” recalls Eleanor Feingold, the department’s interim chair and a faculty member who arrived in 1997. “She was the steady state that kept the department going.”
LaValley helped to bring new faculty onboard and to keep faculty research running smoothly, Feingold says. She also tackled issues that were new and difficult, such as a new formula for giving a portion of tuition money back to schools, based on enrollment.
“No one knew what to do with it at first,” Feingold says. “She made sure we knew how this new thing worked and that we knew what to do. (LaValley) really dug into all the financial stuff and really figured it out.
“She was a lot of fun to sit around and talk with,” Feingold adds. “Working with her was just a pleasure. She was supportive of everyone. … She was really the heartbeat of the department, both functionally and socially. She taught me everything I needed to know about crazy administrative stuff, and that has been valuable throughout my career.”
Matt Weaver, administrator of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the school, began his Pitt career 25 years ago working for LaValley on grants and contracts. “She was a stickler for detail, and she preached that all the time,” Weaver says. “For her it wasn’t how long it took you to get it done, it was that when it was done it was a good product.
“She was always available,” he adds. “She was a very good mentor,” teaching him how to deal with people and how to be customer-service oriented administrator. “She was one of the nicest people and most trusting people you’d ever meet. She was a wonderful person.”
She is survived by siblings Robert DeMauro and Debra Williams, as well as nieces Autumn and Sarah Williams.
— Marty Levine
Colclaser was chair and associate dean in electrical engineering
Robert Gerald “Jerry” Colclaser Jr., former chair of electrical engineering and associate dean for research in electrical engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, died March 4, 2020, at 86.
He will be remembered both for bringing the lessons of industry to Pitt classrooms, says his former doctoral degree advisee, Swanson faculty member Gregory Reed, and for inventing, with a partner, technology that is still used by the electrical utility industry.
In 1992, Reed was in New York City, working for the city’s electrical utility, Consolidated Edison, and contemplating his Ph.D. Jerry Colclaser was tops on his list as potential advisors, Reed recalls, since Colclaser was already famed for his work and had his name on many research publications, as “one of the world’s foremost authorities on electromagnetic transient analysis.”
Reed’s campus visit with Colclaser cemented the decision to come to Pitt, he recalls: “That was a wonderful five years. He was such a pleasant person. He was always upbeat, made you laugh, made you smile. He was just a delightful person to have as a mentor.”
Colclaser had joined Pitt after working for Westinghouse Electric Corp., and still did work for them. He was thus able to bring many practical experiences into his courses, focusing his class assignments on those with applications to real-world projects.
“As a professor, better than anybody, he brought industry into the classroom,” Reed says. “He meant a lot to his students. He had a lot of influence on what I did next,” first working in industry for another dozen years, then joining Pitt as a faculty member.
However, Reed adds, “First and foremost, his biggest contribution to industry was as one of the original developers of the gas-current breaker. To this day, it is the technology of choice for utilities worldwide for how they apply current breakers for the protection of their networks.” In a memorial remembrance sent to colleagues, Reed labeled the invention “one of the most important elements of power system protection, operation, safety and reliability to this day.”
He and many other students stayed in touch with Colchester after his retirement. “It’s a special bond, when someone like Jerry, who has had so much impact on people, passes,” Reed says.
Colclaser was born on Sept. 21, 1933, in Wilkinsburg and received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 1956 and his doctoral degree in the same subject from Pitt.
He was a life fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and won 21 patents for his inventions in electrical power generation and distribution.
He is survived by his wife, Helen; children, Jan M. Hanks (Dale), Robert G. Colclaser III (Alison) and Linda S. Parshook (Bruce); his stepchildren, Michael M. Heck (Debbie), Matthew J. Heck (Theresa) and Michele M. Heck; his brother, Roy A. Colclaser (Judi); and grandchildren Jessica Nicklos, Alexis and Nikolas Parshook, Lara De La Vega and Chase Heck.
Memorial gifts are suggested to the Delmont Public Library, 77 Greensburg Street, Delmont, PA 15626. Please write "R. Colclaser" on check memo line.
— Marty Levine
Lombardi was leading scholar on liver cancer research
Benito Lombardi, called “one of the pillars of research on liver cancer” by his former colleague and current chair of pathology in the School of Medicine, George K. Michalopoulos, died Jan. 24, 2020, at 91.
Lombardi joined the department in the early 1970s and retired in 1995 but continued to attend pathology seminars at the school for years, Michalopoulos recalled. “He’s been extremely well recognized as an outstanding researcher,” Michalopoulos said.
Lombardi researched characteristics of the early forms of liver cancer, using pre-cancerous indicators in mice and rats to chart the stages of cancer development.
“He had a defining role in the whole direction of liver cancer research at that time,” Michalopoulos said. “He carved a pathway for many other investigators to follow in this area.”
When Michalopoulos began as chair in 1991, he didn’t have administrative experience. But he remembered the help he received from Lombardi: “He was always guiding me, giving advice.” In fact, Lombardi mentored many faculty through the years, the chair added.
Born near Venice, Italy, Lombardi received his medical degree from the University of Padua. His academic career included stints at institutions in Toronto in the mid-1950s, and in Cleveland.
While at Pitt, he was a member of the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. In 2008, his department created the Lombardi and Shinozuka Experimental Pathology Research Chair in recognition of contributions that he and his long-time research collaborator, Hisashi Shinozuka, made to the field of experimental pathology.
Lombardi is survived by his daughters, Gabriella (Lella) and Laura, brother Mariano and an extended family of nieces, nephews and their children in Italy. Memorial donations are suggested to the Alzheimer’s Association.
— Marty Levine
Classics Department’s Mae Smethurst was noted noh scholar
Mae Elizabeth Johnson Smethurst, who spent her entire career in Pitt’s Classics Department, died Dec. 15, 2019 at 84 at home.
Smethurst was born May 28, 1935, in Hancock, Mich. The granddaughter of Finnish immigrants, she spoke Finnish before English. At age 7, Mae’s father took a job in the defense industry and her family moved to Philadelphia, where she grew up playing the violin in the Lower Merion High School orchestra and excelling academically.
Her scholarly achievements continued at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she majored in Classics and French. While a freshman at Dickinson, she met Richard Smethurst, who would become her husband, intellectual partner and best friend. She passed away one week before she and Dick would have celebrated their 63rd anniversary. After getting married in 1956, Dick went to Japan to serve in the U.S. Army. Mae joined him after her graduation in 1957. During this first stay in Japan, she taught Classics at the American School, and, with Dick, developed a connection to Japan that would last for her entire life.
Peter Grilli, a student she taught at the American School, took Mae and Dick to see Benkei’s famous roppō on the hanamichi in “Kanjinchō” at the old Kabukiza; this was their introduction to Japanese theater. They first saw noh at a “Noh for Foreigners” production of “Dōjōji” in Tokyo.
Mae took her Ph.D. in Classics at the University of Michigan in 1968, a year after she began working in the Classics department at the University of Pittsburgh. She was appointed assistant professor at Pitt in 1968. She chaired the department from 1988-94 and retired in 2013. She also held a courtesy appointment in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures from 1989 until her retirement.
Mae’s prolific body of work in Classics was recognized by a number of awards. She was named Junior Fellow of the Harvard University Center for Hellenic Studies in Dumbarton Oaks 1979-80. She received the Distinguished Classicist Award by the Classical Association of the Atlantic States in 1993, and was University of Pennsylvania FEW Lecturer/Scholar of Asia and the Classics in 2004-05.
From early on, Mae actively engaged with scholars of Japanese literature and theater. In a series of conferences at Yale beginning in 1976 examining “Time and Space in Japanese Culture,” she was brought in to offer an “outsider,” comparative view.
Her comparative engagement with noh and Greek tragedy was the focus of numerous articles and books. “The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami: A Comparative Study of Greek Tragedy and Noh,” published by Princeton University Press in 1989, received the Hiromi Arisawa Memorial Award from the Association of American University Presses and was hailed as one of the first monographs to offer a cross-cultural examination of a Japanese literary genre.
“The Artistry of Aeschylus and Zeami” was translated into Japanese in 1994 by Professor Kiso Akiko, carving a place for English-language scholars working on premodern Japanese literature and culture. Mae’s publications on noh continued in 2000, with “Dramatic Representations of Filial Piety: Five Noh in Translation” with the East Asia Series at Cornell University, which was awarded a Japan-United States Friendship Commission Translation Prize by the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University. In 2013, she used Aristotle’s “Poetics” to approach realistic noh (genzai nō) in “Dramatic Action in Greek Tragedy and Noh: Reading with and beyond Aristotle” (Lexington Books), which was then translated into Japanese and published by the Nogami Memorial Noh Theatre Research Institute at Hosei University.
Mae’s career brought her into contact with prominent artists as well as scholars. She and Dick regularly hosted noh and kyōgen troupes for performances and workshops at Pitt, including Uzawa Hisa, Uzawa Hikaru, and Nomura Mansai. In conjunction with these events, she and Dick created outreach opportunities in the Pittsburgh community and forged a strong link with Pittsburgh’s Creative and Performing Arts High School, which helped co-host events.
Along with Dick and colleagues at Pitt, she helped create an exhibit and digital database of the noh prints of Tsukioka Kōgyo. Throughout her life, she continued to find ways to make the arts she loved accessible to colleagues, students, and the community.
Benjamin Haller, associate professor of Classics at Virginia Wesleyan University, remembers her as an amazing teacher and equally amazing human being. Sachiko Takabatake Howard and Yuko Eguchi Wright, who participated in a seminar in noh Mae co-taught with Dick, recall her passion for noh and for teaching, as well as her respect for her students, a trait both of them try to emulate in their own teaching careers.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. March 27 in Heinz Memorial Chapel.
Ertel excelled at bionucleonics at School of Pharmacy
Robert J. Ertel, who had a long career as a professor of pharmacology in the School of Pharmacy, died Dec. 10, 2019 at 87.
Ertel was already a Pitt faculty member when Rege Vollmer became his student in 1972; they became faculty colleagues in 1977. Ertel taught some of the school’s core courses in pharmacology and physiology, as well as a very popular course in bionucleonics — the use of radioactive materials in research — as Vollmer recalls. The latter course was one “that everyone loved to take. He was the only one who had the expertise. It was very important.” The course was highly valued for its real-world, practical lessons even by those from other schools, such as students from the School of Medicine and from the biology department in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, Vollmer says.
Ertel collaborated with Vollmer on several cardiovascular research projects, and with many other faculty members conducting studies that dovetailed with his expertise. Even after Ertel retired, he continued to work with student members of the professional pharmacy fraternity, Kappa Psi, since he was their long-time faculty director, Vollmer says. “They really enjoyed him being their faculty guy,” he adds.
Ertel was also active in the University Senate, serving several terms as vice president in the late 1980s.
Vollmer remembers him as “a person that you could really get close to. He’s one of those people who had no airs about him — he was very approachable.” Ertel was also an avid hunter and very active in Saint Winifred Church in Mt. Lebanon.
— Marty Levine
Grace Lazovik led the way on teaching evaluation methods
Grace French Lazovik, a pioneer in the measurement of teaching effectiveness whose work as a faculty member in the Department of Psychology led to regular teaching evaluations at Pitt, died Nov. 17, 2019 at 97.
Nancy Reilly, director of the Office of Measurement and Evaluation of Teaching, said Lazovik’s leadership of the Center for the Improvement of Teaching in the psychology department beginning in 1971 was the foundation for OMET.
Lazovik had already begun studying teacher evaluation methods as a graduate student at the University of Washington. The center’s mission at Pitt was to explore the reliability of student evaluations and what factors influenced them, in order to better develop the evaluation process. By 1972, Lazovik had created a Student Opinion Teaching Survey, using it at first in her department and then more broadly in other departments and schools.
By 1976, the provost had formed a committee to examine possible survey use throughout the whole of Pitt. Lazovik then directed the University-wide Office for the Evaluation of Teaching. In 1987, OMET was established, and Lazovik retired as an emerita professor shortly afterward.
These early surveys proved effective, Reilly said, and Lazovik wrote important papers in the field about her work, publishing several books about teacher evaluation.
“She was the driving force” for getting these surveys across campus, Reilly noted. “She really laid the groundwork to establish all of this. She was always proud that she developed this standardized system.”
Lazovik also saw the need to develop effective peer evaluation instruments for faculty, which remains important today, Reilly said.
“We have changed the surveys” in the ensuing years, added Reilly, but “without her foundation for making sure it was a reliable, valuable instrument, I don’t know what would have been done.”
When Susan Campbell joined the psychology department in 1976, Grace Lazovik’s husband David was chair, but Grace was one of the few female faculty members there and certainly the most senior, Campbell recalled: “She was very helpful to junior faculty in the department, and she was helpful to women — she certainly supported women faculty just by being there for us. When you’re a female faculty member in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, in a very big department, you have to have other women around or you feel very alone.”
After David Lazovik died in 2000, Grace Lazovik created an endowed fund in his memory. Each year it supports graduate students in clinical psychology, awarding three student research grants for dissertation aid and internships for career help and professional development as well as receptions for new students and those graduating each spring.
She is survived by children A. David Lazovik Jr. (Dee), Deborah Shaw Lazovik (Harold Shaw), and Marc Lazovik; nephew Steven Wright (Mary Beth Wright); six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. A memorial is being planned for the spring in Homewood Cemetery, with details to come. Donations are suggested to the Lazovik fund in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology.
— Marty Levine
Welsh made life easier in Financial Information Systems
Richard S. Welsh, a staff member with more than 25 years at Pitt – for the last 17 years as development manager in the Financial Information Systems department of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer – died Nov. 19, 2019.
Rich Welsh was born on March 1, 1963. After studying computer science at Pitt, Welsh’s first University job was student programmer in the housing services department in 1993. He was hired as a full-time programmer analyst there the next year, then joined Financial Information Systems in 2002, where he worked as a developer and manager. A statement from his department called Welsh “a well-respected, excellent leader and an innovative developer.”
Welsh’s work involved creating websites, including his department’s own website, and smaller applications, such as forms. His supervisor for most of his time in Financial Information Systems was Carol Zielinski, applications director.
“He always worked extra hard,” Zielinski recalled. “He would work at home to get things done. All his staff had respect for him, and he knew how to motivate people. There wasn’t anything he thought was beneath him.”
Approached to work on new technology, “whatever it was, he would figure it out,” she said of Welsh. “He worked day and night to figure it out. He was there for me, and he made my life easier as a manager.”
He is survived by his son, Richard H. Welsh; long-time companion Tina M. Stone; parents Richard K. and Laverne Welsh; siblings Shawn, Steven (Dana) and Lori McDonald (Larry); stepchildren David J., Brittney E. and Victoria A.; and many aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.
Former med school associate dean Levey was an advocate for women faculty
Barbara Levey, a former associate dean and director of admissions and assistant dean for curriculum at the School of Medicine, who is remembered for helping to increase female medical student admissions and serving as a role model for female medical faculty, died Oct. 29, 2019, at 84.
Barbara Ann Cohen, born March 7, 1935 in Newburgh, N.Y., graduated from Cornell University in 1957 and in 1961 she earned an M.D. from the State University of New York at Syracuse — the only woman in her graduating class of 120. She joined Pitt, 1979-91, as a professor of pharmacology and of medicine, serving on Association of American Medical Colleges committees supporting women in medicine.
Alan Robinson, a former endocrinology Pitt faculty member and vice chair of medicine, recalled Levey as “a real proponent of equality of admissions for women. That was the stand-out achievement of her time there at Pittsburgh.”
For School of Pharmacy Dean Patricia Kroboth — a clinical pharmacist — Levey’s work as a clinical pharmacologist was most impressive. Kroboth recalls her division and Levey’s department cooperating in new ways: “We established a wonderful relationship where pharmacy students and medical students could see patients with interesting pharmacological challenges.” The pairing also created the first grand rounds for pharmacy and medical students to examine medically complicated cases related to medications.
“I remember Barbara’s enthusiasm for the interaction and for educating students.” She also recalled Barbara and her husband, Gerald Levey, who was chair of the department of medicine at the Pitt School of Medicine from 1979-1991, as “gracious hosts who often had groups of people to dinner at their home. It was a wonderful time.”
Mary Korytkowski, a medicine faculty member who joined Pitt in 1989, recalls the Leveys as both very welcoming: “As a junior faculty member, I felt very supported by her husband, but I held her in particularly high regard. She was certainly a role model for women who were junior faculty at the time. I remember talking about having a family, because my children were very young when I came here. … She was very supportive of having a family and a career together.”
Patricia Bononi, an endocrinologist with Partners in Nephrology and Endocrinology who graduated from the School of Medicine in 1985, said: “She was a tremendous role model for me, especially during medical school. I remember someone telling us the first day of medical school that our class was 30 percent female — the highest percentage of enrolled women at the time. I am certain that was entirely due to her efforts.”
Barbara Levey left Pitt with her husband in 1991 and in 1994 joined the UCLA faculty as assistant vice chancellor for biomedical affairs and adjunct professor of medicine and of molecular and medical pharmacology. There, she received National Institutes of Health grants to support training and research in clinical pharmacology — in particular, patient-oriented research training that focused on medical issues affecting minority populations. She was president of the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and on numerous academic committees to support clinical pharmacology.
Barbara Levey is survived by her husband of 58 years, son John Levey and daughter in-law Michele Kersman; daughter, Robin (Levey) Burkhardt; three grandchildren, Lia, Jaden and Simon Burkhardt; sister-in-law Beverly Cohen; brother and sister-in-law Robert and Paula Westerman; four nephews, a niece, and 10 grandnieces and nephews.
Memorial gifts are suggested to the Barbara A. Levey, M.D., and Gerald S. Levey, M.D., Scholarship at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Checks to the UCLA Foundation, with Levey Scholarship in the memo, may be sent c/o Emily McLaughlin, UCLA Health Sciences Development, 10889 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90024, email@example.com, 310-794-4763.
— Marty Levine
Bernard Fisher advanced breast cancer research while serving in School of Medicine
Bernard Fisher, pioneering breast cancer researcher and a distinguished service professor in the School of Medicine, died on Oct. 16, 2019, at 101.
Fisher advanced the understanding of the clinical biology of breast cancer and pioneered the design and implementation of large-scale multi-institutional randomized clinical trials.
He earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees at Pitt in 1940 and 1943, respectively, joining Pitt shortly after as the medical school’s first full-time Department of Surgery faculty member. In 1953, he established the University’s first Laboratory of Surgical Research and contributed to the development of transplantation and vascular surgery. He performed the first kidney transplant in Pittsburgh in 1964 and directed surgical research here in liver regeneration, transplant rejection and hypothermia.
In 1958, Fisher began to focus on cancer research, becoming a founding member (1958) and later chairman (1967-1994) of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP). His subsequent research led him to challenge breast cancer treatment dogma that had prevailed since the 19th century — that patients were best treated with radical mastectomy. His studies in the 1970s proved that less extensive procedures — lumpectomies — had similar survival rates.
Fisher’s research also showed the value of adding systemic, adjuvant chemotherapy or hormonal therapy and of employing tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention. “No clinical therapy should be determined by emotion or conviction — the determinant must be the scientific method,” Fisher said in a 2009 video interview shown at that year’s annual Pitt lecture named in his honor.
“Bernard Fisher was one of the great medical pioneers of our time,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher in remarks released by Pitt. “His research at the University of Pittsburgh fundamentally changed how clinicians treat breast cancer — and saved an untold number of lives along the way.”
Arthur S. Levine, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, called Fisher “a titan. His research improved and extended the lives of untold numbers of women who suffered the scourge of breast cancer. His work overturned the dominant paradigm of cancer progression and, to the benefit of all, demonstrated the systemic nature of metastasis. This work offered us great insight into the biology of all cancer.”
Fisher received numerous honors throughout his career, including the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research, the American Association for Cancer Research Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research and an honorary doctorate from Pitt. A member of the National Academy of Medicine, he was appointed to the President’s Cancer Panel and the National Cancer Advisory Board and was the first surgeon to serve as president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
He is survived by his three children — Beth Fisher (Dr. Harvey Himel), Joseph Fisher (Debra) and Louisa Rudolph (James) — five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Jan Smith was the ‘conscience and soul’ of anesthesiology department
Jan Smith — likely the longest-serving faculty member in the School of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, who worked in the greatest number of Pitt and UPMC medical facilities locally and worldwide — died Sept. 6, 2019.
His departmental colleague Mark Hudson says Smith “was always considered the conscience and soul of the department.”
Jan Daniel Smith was born on Feb. 6, 1939 in Pretoria, South Africa. He earned his medical degree from the University of Pretoria School of Medicine in 1961. He interned at McCord Hospital, Durban (an American mission hospital) and took additional training in pediatrics, internal medicine and anesthesia in Durban’s Addington and King Edward VIII Hospitals
In 1964, Smith joined the anesthesiology residency program at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, then completed both a critical care and a pulmonary fellowship at Pitt.
In 1969, he began internal medicine training at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa, then returned to Pitt in 1971 to finish this training and join the University faculty.
Smith moved to the University of Iowa College of Medicine’s pulmonary division in 1974; to the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio in 1976 as a pulmonologist and then in both anesthesiology and internal medicine; to the chairmanship in anesthesiology at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in 1983; and to the Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine in 1985.
In 1987, he returned to Pitt and was appointed chief of anesthesiology at UPMC Presbyterian, 1988-1996. During his sabbatical year of 1994, he earned a diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene from the Royal College of Physicians.
In the years that followed, Smith’s roles shifted with the expansion of UPMC. He became chief of anesthesiology and medical director at UPMC Beaver Valley until 2000, when he moved to help develop ISMETT, the UPMC transplant and major surgical center in Sicily. He returned to the Pitt campus in 2002 as vice chair for clinical operations until his retirement in 2006 as professor of anesthesiology, internal medicine and critical care medicine.
As an emeritus, Smith continued his association with the department as a volunteer teacher and, in 2009, assisted with the development of UPMC Beacon Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, as its associate medical director. Volunteering as a teacher in sub-Saharan Africa, he also was appointed an Extraordinary Professor of Medicine at the University Pretoria School of Medicine.
In 2011, the Allegheny County Medical Society recognized his 50 years of service with its Award for Volunteer Work, and in 2013, his department’s Education Office named a classroom in his honor.
“Jan has been a presence in the department and participated even after his retirement with mentoring,” recalled Hudson, who first joined UPMC under Smith’s leadership and eventually took over for Smith as vice chair for clinical operations in 2006.
At ISMETT, Hudson said, “Jan was instrumental in the creation of the academic environment for the institution,” while Hudson aided with the clinical staff. Smith used his love of travel for good, Hudson said, “helping to improve the medical care in many places. He was a remarkable gentleman anesthesiologist” who excelled at “establishing relationships in a very thoughtful way.” He called Hudson’s group of Pitt anesthesiologists “the generation that really established the anesthesiology department.”
Smith’s expertise was centered on pulmonary medicine, lung injury, patient safety issues and critical care medicine applications. The departmental classroom was named in his honor, Hudson explained, because Smith “really influenced the educational program for our residents.”
“He and his wife were some of the most generous, genuine people I have known,” Hudson added. “He was just a genuinely friendly, thoughtful person. Everyone loved him.”
Jennifer Branik, executive assistant to the chair and vice chair of the anesthesiology department and Smith’s right-hand person for the past 17 years, recalled him as “the historian for the department … doing essentially anything that was asked of him.
“He was absolutely one of a kind,” she continued. “He was a class act and in my personal opinion he was thoughtful, caring, and probably the most generous man you’d meet in your life. He made an appreciable difference in people’s lives, both personally and professionally. He was the consummate man and the consummate professional.”
Smith is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jeanette Niemeyer Smith, and three children, Robert (Kathy Van Stone), Andrew (Sandra Espinosa) and Anita (Dr. Andrew Murray) and nine grandchildren.
Memorial gifts are suggested to Baptist Homes Foundation, 500 Providence Point Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15243 or the Salvation Army.
— Marty Levine
Doerfler brought real-world expertise to teaching dental residents
Richard Doerfler, a practicing orthodontist whose teaching took students from anatomy to the business of practicing dentistry, died Sept. 18, 2019.
Doerfler earned his undergraduate degree from St. Vincent College in 1982 and graduated from Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine in 1986, where he was a teaching assistant. In addition, he received master’s degrees in anthropology and anatomy from Pitt, as well as a Master of Dental Science in Orthodontics degree from the dental school here.
He had orthodontic practices in Clearfield and State College, from which he travelled to the School of Dental Medicine beginning in 2001 to lend his expertise as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.
“The residents enjoyed working with him and appreciated what he had to offer them,” said department chair Joseph Petrone, “particularly because it was seasoned with a private practice (perspective). He was teaching them what made him successful.”
When Doerfler sold his practice several years ago, he increased his commitment to teaching at Pitt, adding anatomy classes to his repertoire. But he was particularly valued by the residents, Petrone said: “He definitely mentored residents in their transition to their careers in the private sector,” advising them on everything from contracts to partnering in a practice, which is a complicated business decision.
“His mentoring role for the residents in that transition to the real world was really important,” Petrone added.
Doerfler started an endowed fund, the Orthodontics Residency Fund, to provide support for Pitt dental school residents’ travel and research. He received the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award in 2019 for advanced education.
He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Jane Gravatt Doerfler; his son, William Reed Doerfler; his daughter-in-law, Lindsey Saldin; and his daughter, Bethany Doerfler, as well as his mother, Barbara Doerfler, and siblings Linda (Joseph) Bartolacci, Judy (Angelo) Napoleone, James (Theresa) Doerfler, Mary (Thomas) Callaghan, and Bethany (Samuel Karow) Doerfler.
Memorial contributions are suggested to the Pitt Dental Medicine Orthodontics Residency Fund or to the St. Vincent DePaul Society.
— Marty Levine
Biology lecturer Bledsoe was avian expert and honored teacher
Anthony Bledsoe, a 31-year biological sciences department lecturer and accomplished avian expert, died Sept. 14, 2019.
“Tony was truly beloved by his students,” said his long-time departmental colleague, Walter Carson. “He was a spectacular ornithologist.”
After earning a master’s from the University of California–Santa Cruz and a Ph.D. in biology from Yale, Bledsoe joined the Pitt faculty in 1987. In 2006, he won the student-selected Bellet Teaching Excellence Award as an outstanding undergraduate teacher in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences.
He conducted two classes at Pitt’s Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology — ecology and ornithology — and on the Pittsburgh campus he taught Foundations of Biology II as well as courses on taxonomy and vertebrate morphology. He also served for many years on students’ Ph.D. committees. He retired from Pitt in 2018,
From the beginning of his career here, as a post-doctorate, Bledsoe teamed with colleague Robert J. Raikow on ornithological research, eventually earning the cover of the prestigious journal BioSciences in 2000. He also studied specimens at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in early efforts to recover their genetic materials. His research focused on DNA hybridization in avian evolution and phylogeny, as well as the anatomical and molecular structures of birds.
He also was a member of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania’s board of trustees.
Carson recalled Bledsoe as “very erudite, very professional,” and that his teaching methods were “classic,” avoiding PowerPoint in favor of chalkboards or whiteboards and an overhead projector. “He was particularly adept at conveying difficult concepts,” Carson said.
Another departmental colleague, Laurel Roberts, met Bledsoe when he arrived at the University. She was a graduate student at the time. “He had a kind of reserved and refined (demeanor) — but he was also a warm and generous person,” she recalled. “He had incredible attention to detail and high standards for students to meet.”
Roberts remembered joining a bird walk Bledsoe hosted at Pymatuning. He showed up in his classroom garb of chinos and a pressed white shirt. “I came back with mud everywhere … and Tony looked like he had just stepped out of the dressing room at Macy’s. Tony had this jazzy cool when he was in his element.”
He was generous to the end, she said, calling her three months ago to say he was proposing her for the local Audubon chapter’s board. “It came out of the blue,” she said. “I am nowhere the ornithologist he was, but he is really interested in promoting diversity. … He worked hard to make sure my nomination had been presented. He called me (in early September) and told me it was going well. I think it was his last project. I feel like he passed the torch along, making sure that science at Pitt was represented.”
He is survived by his wife, Meg, and brother, Paul.
Memorial gifts are suggested to the Pymatuning Lab of Ecology discretionary fund at giveto.pitt.edu or to the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.
Rosemary Scully helped put Pitt Physical Therapy on the map
Rosemary Scully, former chair and associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, passed away August 7, 2019, in Sun City West, Ariz., where she resided after her retirement.
She joined the physical therapy faculty in 1972 and remained until 1992 when she retired. She served several in leadership roles including as chair and worked continuously to enhance physical therapy training at Pitt.
She successfully implemented innovative ways to incorporate clinical experts into entry-level and post-professional educational offerings by convincing the Pittsburgh Veterans Administration, Presbyterian University Hospital and the Center for Sports Medicine to create combined clinical/faculty positions. These models proved mutually beneficial by greatly enhancing the educational programs and strengthening clinical learning within the Department of Physical Therapy while providing teaching opportunities to practicing clinicians.
She also hired two orthopedic experts, Richard Erhard and Rick Bowling, both of whom put the Pitt on the map as one of the best orthopedic post-graduate programs in the country.
Scully grew up in Weirton, W.Va., where she developed her love of sports. At 14, Scully was one of the youngest women to try out for the women’s baseball league made famous in the movie “A League of Their Own.” She was not offered a baseball contract but did go on to earn a degree from West Virginia University in 1957 in physical education. She then completed the one-year physical therapy education program at Columbia University in New York City.
She worked at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan and later at Columbia Presbyterian, where she got a taste for education by becoming a supervisor for clinical education. She left New York briefly for a stint at Albany Medical College but was recruited back to NYC to work at Downstate Medical Center in a newly created physical therapy education program.
Scully met Pitt’s School of Health Professions’ founding dean, Anne Pascasio, at an American Physical Therapy Association district meeting, and was eventually convinced to return to her hometown region and join the physical therapy faculty at Pitt.
She was an expert in clinical learning. She studied the physical therapist-patient interaction in her doctoral work and consulted extensively as an educator. She co-authored a book entitled “Physical Therapy” and published several papers about physical therapy education.
She was a Lucy Blair Service Award winner and a Catherine Worthingham Fellow, recognizing outstanding achievement in practice, research or teaching. The award is the second highest given by the American Physical Therapy Association.
She loved all things sports but especially the Pittsburgh Panthers. She and her mother could often be found watching a baseball or football game on TV or playing with their amazing dog, Boomer.
The Endowed Scully Visiting Scholar Program at Pitt was developed after Scully’s retirement to honor her mother and father. She felt that it was important to promote the excellence of the Department of Physical Therapy by inviting distinguished scholars to give a lecture and to meet with students and faculty for open forums and discussions.
Donations may be made to Endowed Scully Visiting Scholar Program, University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Therapy, 6035 Forbes Tower, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
This is an edited version of a remembrance of Rosemary Scully on the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences website.
Miroslav Klain worked on many projects during 40 years in Anesthesiology
Miroslav Klain, professor emeritus in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, died on May 18, 2019.
Klain was born in 1927 in Czechoslovakia. He trained as a physician at Charles University in Prague (MUDr., 1951) and earned a PhD as well. He began his medical career as a cardiac surgeon.
He first came to the U.S. in 1965 when he completed a one-year research fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic. At the end of that year, he returned to Prague, but when the Soviets invaded, he and his wife, Eva, moved to Austria and soon found refuge in the U.S., moving to Texas with their two children and all the possessions they could carry. They returned to Cleveland, where Klain was hired to direct artificial heart development at the Cleveland Clinic.
He eventually shifted his research and clinical focus to anesthesiology. A lecture Klain gave in 1972 resulted in a job offer at the Pitt Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine/UPMC Presbyterian, beginning his 40-year relationship with the department.
Klain contributed to numerous projects over the years, most notably his early work with high-frequency ventilation and his contributions as a co-inventor on seven U.S. patents awarded between 1990 and 2002 related to portable cardiopulmonary bypass apparatuses and aortic balloon catheters.
He was a member of an interdisciplinary team of researchers known as the University of Pittsburgh Disaster Reanimatology Study Group (DRSG), which, in partnership with a team of Russian and Armenian physicians, conducted the first international interdisciplinary disaster evaluation research field survey study of the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. The Armenia study led to a series of post-disaster field studies by the DRSG in Costa Rica (1991), Turkey (1993), and Japan (1994).
These studies helped to establish the "Golden 24 Hours" of emergency response in disasters and inspired Norwegian anesthesiologist and humanitarian Knut Ole Sundnes to establish the Task Force of Quality Control of Disaster Management under the auspices of the Nordic Society of Disaster Medicine and World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine.
In 2006, Klain retired from Pitt and UPMC but continued to serve on the department’s Resident Education Committee for several years.
Klain met his wife, Eva, at a hospital in Czechoslovakia where he was working as a doctor and Eva as an X-ray technician. He was a polyglot, speaking English, German, Czech, Russian, Latin, and several other languages.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three children and six grandchildren who live in Prague, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
— Edited and reprinted from the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine website.
Jere Gallagher brought energy as associate dean of Education
Jere Gallagher, former associate dean in the School of Education known for her dedication and hard work in a sometimes-unheralded job, died Aug. 20, 2019, at 70.
John Jakicic, current chair of the school department where Gallagher was a faculty member — Health and Physical Activity — was a graduate student in the early 1990s and remembered Gallagher as a professor. “Talk about high energy!” he said. “Sure, there was a lecture, but she tried to get students actively engaged in their learning process, with hands-on activity, far before that became the way (of education generally).”
Jakicic experienced her administrative side as well, when he joined the faculty in 2002: “She was constantly advocating for students, student involvement, student experiences, both in and outside the classroom,” he said. “She always tried to be very fair and equitable to her students; when students had special circumstances, she would always find a solution to help students to thrive.” In administrative meetings, he recalled, “She was always the one who brought up, ‘Yeah, but what about the students?’ ”
Gallagher created the department’s Kinder Kinetics Program for kids ages 3-12 and ran it for a quarter century. It was designed to promote not just more physical activity but the right kind of healthy movement, especially among underserved children and those with physical and cognitive/emotional disabilities. After Gallagher’s retirement, the program was renamed Pitt’s Kids: Honoring the Vision of Dr. Jere Gallagher.
Alan Lesgold, former Renée and Richard Goldman dean (2000-16) of the School of Education, recalled her ability to adapt to changing academic trends. When child development was moved from the school’s Health and Physical Activities Department, for instance, Gallagher “worked extremely hard to assure that every one of her doctoral students was able to continue and complete the doctoral degree. I also never heard her complain that her own area of interest had been pushed aside.”
He also remembered her taking on fresh duties unasked: “She dramatically improved the quality of the alumni magazine … and turned it into the kind of alumni magazine that schools do when they're doing it right.”
He fondly remembered “how responsible and helpful of a person she really was. If there was a problem in the dean’s area, she was the one who kept our spirits up.”
In eulogizing Gallagher last month, Lesgold said: “She was a positive, uplifting spirit, and she cared deeply about the people she encountered and the University of which she was a beloved part.”
He noted that, as the child of Army officers, Gallagher moved often because of her parents’ careers and later chose to honor them by establishing an endowment in Pitt’s Office of Veteran Services.
“Career coaches counsel their clients not to become too useful, lest one get stuck in roles one is ready to outgrow,” he concluded. “Jere was far too altruistic to follow that principle; she was quite indispensable and helpful, even though there were seldom rewards for her efforts.”
Noted Jakicic: “In this day and age, where faculty in many universities jump from place to place, I think she found her place many years ago.” She felt a deep sense of loyalty, he said, “and tried to make this place a better place.”
Gallagher earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in health and physical education from East Carolina University and a Ph.D. in motor development from Louisiana State University. She is survived by her husband of more than 30 years, H. Yale Gutnick; his children, Laura and Todd; and her sister, Salli Gallagher; as well as nieces and nephews.
Memorial gifts are suggested to the University of Pittsburgh Office of Veteran’s Services or the Department of Health and Physical Activity.
— Marty Levine
Audrey Champagne was a pioneer at LRDC
Audrey B. Champagne, a pioneer who studied science and mathematics learning at the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), died Aug. 14, 2019, at 84.
Her former colleague Richard Goldman, who met Champagne when she joined the School of Education as a lecturer in 1968, said, “Audrey is the smartest person I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with a lot of smart people.
“She really respected teachers and practitioners,” he recalled. “She respected what teachers did and saw teachers as the catalysts for improving science education, not researchers and professors.”
Alan Lesgold, LRDC senior scientist and former Renée and Richard Goldman dean (2000-16) of the School of Education, remembered Champagne as “energetic and imaginative, and just plain kind.
“In the early years of the Learning Research and Development Center, it was really doing something new” in studying the psychology of learning inside the classroom. “Schools of education were very much in the ivory tower at that moment. … Research journals weren’t even interested in publishing research that took place in classrooms.”
Champagne was an innovator in bringing research out of this cloister: “She was a major contributor to … this new enterprise,” he said. “She helped to build the good strengths that the school and the LRDC have today.”
Two years after joining Pitt, Champagne became a research associate at the LRDC and earned her Ph.D. in education at Pitt in December 1970. She became a research assistant professor at the school in 1971, and two years later was named co-director of the Individualized Science Project. The next year, she was promoted to research associate professor.
At LRDC, she led the way in developing instructional software for physics and elementary mathematics. She was well known for collaborating across disciplines and wrote widely on such topics as expert and novice performance in problem solving, knowledge about physical properties, problem solving in science teaching and reasoning about physical concepts.
She served on the editorial boards of the journals Science Education and Studies in Science, and for the yearbook of the National Science Teachers' Association. She was also a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Educational Research Association, and Kappa Omega Phi.
From July 1984 to June 1986, she took a leave of absence to direct the Project for Science and Technology Education Planning at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C., departing Pitt in 1987 to become AAAS’s associate director for education. Later, she joined the faculty at State University of New York–Albany, with joint appointments in educational theory and practice and in chemistry, from which she retired an emerita professor.
She served on several prestigious committees, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which created science frameworks and performance standards, and the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), researching science education. NARST awarded her its Distinguished Contributions to Science Education Award. In 2016, she and her co-authors won the William Elgin Wickenden Award from the American Society for Engineering Education.
Goldman recalled the years in which their families were friends, including their young children. When his kids were in preschool, Goldman said, Champagne would lead family hikes in the woods. “She would make science lessons for hours, just on a short little hike, on flora and fauna and mushrooms and all kinds of things lay people would never see.”
— Marty Levine
Crock was ‘consummate cardiologist and an outstanding educator’
Frederick W. Crock, an echocardiologist teaching in the School of Medicine who died Aug. 16, 2019, is recalled by his supervisory colleague Jenifer E. Lee as “a consummate cardiologist and an outstanding educator.”
Lee, medicine faculty member and director of medical student education in the Division of Cardiology, remembered Crock as “Superman — that’s all I have to say. The bottom line is, Fred was perfect.”
Crock was one of the instructors of second-year courses for School of Medicine students focused on individual organs for 15 years. Students at all levels “really adored him,” Lee said. “He had a broad fund of knowledge,” and could communicate very complicated information in a very clear manner, she remembered.
Lee quoted a 2018 course evaluation for Crock that notes his “virtuosic mastery of his field and an infectious enthusiasm for both teaching and the subject matter,” calling him “an amazing professor.”
Crock won many teaching awards here. However, Lee said, “You would never know because Fred never talked about those things.” Cardiology trainees voted Crock outstanding teacher in 2005, 2010, and 2018, while medical students chose him for the same honor in 2010 and 2011 and medical residents in 2012. The school’s Alpha Omega Alpha Society awarded Crock its Charles Watson Teaching Award this year.
He also was part of a structural heart disease research team that Lee termed instrumental in introducing percutaneous catheter-based treatments for valvular heart disease at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. As a substitute for traditional open-heart surgery, “that is really in the vanguard to what we are doing nowadays,” she said.
The pair worked together as non-invasive imaging cardiologists on staff at UPMC, and she remembered him being last in the office, helping to close up. “He was one of those guys who really loved what he did. … He was the kindest, most joyful person to work with.” Crock also volunteered as a lead cardiologist in the Birmingham Free Clinic on the South Side, which serves those without medical insurance, helping the organization to acquire specialty diagnostic equipment.
Crock was a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the American Society of Echocardiography). He was born Feb. 7, 1952, in Greensburg and graduated from Indiana Area Senior High School in 1970 as president of his senior class. He received his bachelor of science degree from Pitt in 1974 and his MD from Temple University in 1978.
He trained in internal medicine at Mercy Hospital and was chosen as a chief resident. He then completed a cardiovascular fellowship under Pitt’s James Shaver before joining the teaching faculty at Mercy in 1984, when he also was appointed assistant clinical professor of medicine at Pitt. In 2004, he joined UPMC's Cardiovascular Institute and was promoted to assistant professor.
On May 14, 1983, he married Kathleen Nagy. He is survived by her as well as children Tyler, Kirsten and Marco, and siblings Mary Ann Crock, Kathleen Harrison (Mark) and Diane Daskivich (Bruce), as well as many in-laws, nieces and nephews.
Memorial donations are suggested to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the Birmingham Free Clinic (University of Pittsburgh, Institutional Advancement, Records Management, Attn: Tina Beckett, 128 N. Craig St., Pittsburgh, PA 15260), with donations allocated to the Birmingham Free Clinic in memory of Dr. Frederick William Crock, MD, FACC, FASE.
— Marty Levine