Medical Alumni Association

Alumni Updates

Alumni Connections 


The following are reprinted from the Fall 2018 issue of the School of Medicine’s flagship publication, Pitt Med magazine. Click here for more.

While building his plastic surgery career, Henry Shimizu (Plastic Surgery Resident ’62) also chaired the Japanese Canadian Redress Foundation for 13 years—an organization whose work, he says, restores “Japanese Canadian communities which had been destroyed by the federal government.” Shimizu retired from medical practice in 1999, but he continues to raise awareness about the internment of people of Japanese ancestry in Canada during World War II. (Born in British Columbia, Shimizu was interned in the New Denver camp from 1942 to 1946.) Shimizu has painted internment scenes that have been exhibited at university galleries and collected in his memoir, Images of Internment (Ti-Jean Press). For his life of service in medicine and to the community, Shimizu was awarded the Order of Canada. Last year, the National Association of Japanese Canadians honored him at a lunch marking 75 years since the internment of Japanese Canadians. 

Michael Handler (MD ’79) holds the McMurry-Seebaum Chair in Pediatric Neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado and the University of Colorado. As associate surgeon-in-chief for the former, he juggles administrative and clinical duties; yet, at the end of the day, he says, his main focus is “taking care of the kids.” Handler specializes in pediatric brain tumor and epilepsy surgeries, as well as operations for fetal closure of spina bifida. While he notes it can be difficult emotionally to work in fetal medicine, Handler nevertheless finds the work invigorating. He also serves as treasurer for the International Society for Pediatric Neurosurgery, and recently hosted their 45th annual meeting in Denver. He was also on the organizing committee for the 2018 International Symposium on Pediatric Neuro-Oncology. 

The 2018 School of Medicine Diploma Day wasn’t just another day at the office for David A. Brent (Psychiatry Resident ’82, Psychiatry Fellow ’85), who holds Pitt’s Endowed Chair in Suicide Studies and serves as a professor of psychiatry, pediatrics, epidemiology, and clinical and translational science. He got to “hood” his son Jacob Brent (MD ’18) during the graduation ceremony. “It’s a wonderful moment, because Jacob has worked for so long and so hard, and now he’s on the threshold of what we think is going to be a terrific career,” says the proud dad. Jacob also received the Matthew Eric Piraino Award for Excellence in Infectious Disease and the John B. Reinhart, MD, Award for Pediatrics and Child Psychiatry. He will soon begin a triple board residency in child and adult psychiatry and pediatrics at Pitt. 

Jorge Reyes (Transplantation Fellow ’89), professor and chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery at the University of Washington, remembers how Thomas Starzl’s office “always smelled like pizza,” thanks to a Pizza Hut on the first floor. Reyes, who served on the Pitt Med faculty until he left for Seattle in 2004, recalls what it was like to work with Starzl: “We were always learning, always cutting edge.” His latest research addresses factors associated with mortality within 24 hours of liver transplantation; he has also compared outcomes for end-stage liver disease patients receiving organs from living versus deceased donors. 

Katherine Wisner (Pediatrics Resident ’81, Child Psychiatry Resident ’85) is the Norman and Helen Asher Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, as well as professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University. She directs the Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders and is principal investigator on a NICHD grant to study medication management for mothers with depression. In 2017, she published the results of a randomized controlled trial (conducted here while on the Pitt faculty) that revealed telephone-based depression care management was therapeutic for postpartum women with a history of childhood sexual abuse. Wisner received the American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Award for Outstanding Research last year. “Pregnant women get sick, and sick women get pregnant,” she says. “I am committed to providing effective treatment to this neglected population—the mothers of our next generation.” 

Scott Hultman (MD ’90) is director of the newly relaunched Johns Hopkins Burn Center, professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery, and vice chair of strategic development for its Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He joined Hopkins this summer after being recruited by former Pitt Med surgery professor Andy Lee. Hultman says he combines his training in general surgery, critical care, and plastic surgery to provide “the complete arc of care for burn patients.” 

On a personal note: Last year, Hultman completed a double century, a 200-mile race—the New Bern MS Cycling Classic. And he’s a huge U2 fan (he likes to sneak their lyrics into the titles of his papers).

In January, J. Nadine Gracia (MD ’02, Pediatrics Resident ’05) joined Trust for America’s Health, a D.C.–based public health advocacy organization, as its executive vice president and chief operating officer. She says advocacy allows her to influence the development of U.S. health policy. Under the Obama administration, Gracia served as deputy assistant secretary for minority health and director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she worked to implement the Affordable Care Act. Gracia returned to Pitt Med this April to speak with students taking the Changing Science, Changing Society elective. “I reminded them,” she says, “that for as much as you try to plan your next steps, it is important to be open, flexible, and prepared.”

Earlier this year, Seth Hawkins (Emergency Medicine Resident ’03) published the medical textbook Wilderness EMS. The assistant professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University also colaunched the monthly podcast RAW Medicine (that’s Remote, Austere, and Wilderness). He serves as the medical director of Burke County EMS, supervising the oldest wilderness EMS team in North Carolina. The Carolina Wilderness EMS Externship, which Hawkins founded in 2011, was recognized this year with the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine’s Innovation in Medical Education Award. 

Carolyn Rogers-Vizena (MD ’07), an attending physician in plastic surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of surgery at Harvard University, has had a busy 2018. Her clinical practice in Boston spans numerous pediatric plastic surgery procedures, primarily cleft lip and palate and adolescent breast surgeries. She also researches simulation in plastic surgery and was recently awarded a National Endowment for Plastic Surgery grant to further study cleft lip simulation. In addition to her responsibilities in Boston, Rogers-Vizena carries her expertise abroad, most recently returning from a trip to Beirut with the Global Smile Foundation. In Lebanon, Rogers-Vizena hosted a workshop to help local clinicians expand their cleft lip and palate services; she remained after the training to provide free operations to kids in need, mostly Syrian refugees. “It was humbling,” she says, to hear the stories of her patients. —Rachel Mennies and Maureen Passmore 


MAA Says, “Come on over!” 

Ivan Shulman (MD ’72) has done surgery in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mongolia, the Philippines, and Kenya—and that’s an incomplete list of countries. In April, the voluntary assistant professor of surgery at UCLA returned to Pitt Med to speak to the Global Health Interest Group, addressing students who share his wanderlust. He talked about sustainable medicine—providing care abroad while teaching community members skills and medical knowledge. “It’s one thing to do a case,” he says, but “more importantly, can I give that knowledge to someone else?” (Shulman, an award-winning teacher, has also stacked up honors as a virtuoso performer and conductor. He is the music director of the Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra.)

Photo by d’Lynn Waldron

Cardiologist Michael Hess knows something about teaching. A professor emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University, Hess (MD ’68, Intern ’69, Res ’70) was inspired by the late Jack D. Myers, famed Pitt chair of medicine. “I was [one of Myers’s] last chief residents. Jack always demanded that you teach at the bedside, and I never lost that,” he says. Hess “jumped at” a chance to visit Pitt in December; while here, he spoke with cardiology fellows and offered feedback on their “highly impressive” research.

The Medical Alumni Association (MAA) loves having alumni back to campus. This year also brought Matthew E. Fink (MD ’76) presenting a grand rounds lecture to the neurology department, Deborah Gilboa (MD ’00) speaking at a family health conference, and Mary-Elizabeth Patti (Res ’88) sharing research on mediators of metabolic disease risk.  

Next time you’re planning a trip to Pittsburgh, check for upcoming events or consider giving the MAA ( a heads-up. The invitation is open!   —Keith Gillogly