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Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology News and Awards

November 11, 2019

Amr H. Sawalha, MD, was awarded the 2019 Henry Kunkel Young Investigator Award from the American College of Rheumatology. The Henry Kunkel Young Investigator Award is awarded to a young physician scientist, age 45 or younger by October 1 of the year in which they are nominated, who has made outstanding and promising independent contributions to basic or clinical research in the field of rheumatology.

Dr. Sawalha joined UPMC in April as director of the Division of Pediatric Rheumatology at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He previously served as professor of medicine and the Marvin and Betty Danto Research Professor of Connective Tissue Research at the University of Michigan. At UPMC Children’s, Dr Sawalha is working to establish and lead a new Autoimmune Genomics Research Center. Additionally, Dr. Sawalha serves as the director of the comprehensive Lupus Center of Excellence that spans the clinical and research enterprises of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on elucidating genetic and epigenetic contributions to the pathogenesis of systemic autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. His research applies state-of-the-art genomic, epigenomic, and bioinformatics methodologies, and subsequent functional studies using in vitro and in vivo systems to identify and characterize genetic loci and pathways involved in the pathogenesis of immune-mediated diseases. Using clinical phenotyping and extensive national and international collaborations, Dr. Sawalha seeks to discover genomic and epigenomic markers of disease progression, specific organ involvement, and responses to therapies.

Chester V. Oddis, MD, professor of Medicine in the Division and director of the Myositis Center was recognized as a Master of the American College of Rheumatology at the 2019 annual American College of Rheumatology conference. The Master of the American College of Rheumatology is one of the highest honors the College bestows. The designation of Master is conferred on ACR members, age 65 or older by October 1 of the year in which they are nominated, who have made outstanding contributions to the ACR and the field of rheumatology through scholarly achievement and/or service to their patients, students, and profession.

Mehret Birru Talabi, MD, PhD, is a 2020 recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Harold Amos Faculty Development Award for her work advancing family planning care for individuals with rheumatic diseases. In this competitive four-year career development award, Dr. Birru Talabi will create and test a clinical intervention to help rheumatologists engage patients in family planning conversations.

According to Dr. Birru Talabi, “Our work and that of others suggests that family planning conversations rarely occur in the context of their rheumatologic care, although many rheumatic diseases and antirheumatic drugs have the potential to affect the reproductive health of patients. We are excited to develop an intervention to help patients receive the family planning care they have strongly indicated that they need.”

Learn more about the UPMC Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology