Class Notes

Winter 2021


These days, Constance Keefer (MD ’69) is “to a great extent retired—but I can’t seem to give up the work!” This semi-retirement includes working as assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and as a child development specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital. As an expert in newborn behavior and infant mental health, she’s also teaching for the medical staff at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital nursery. Before semi-retiring, Keefer traveled the world as a developmental teaching pediatrician; that work included yearly trips to Iran. 


Vicki Rubin Kelley (PhD ’77), professor of medicine at Harvard University, researches destructive inflammation—“the common denominator of almost every disease,” she notes. Her recent work focuses on potential therapeutic targets for lupus nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys that is common in patients with lupus. Kelley advises her students to follow their gut, saying she wouldn’t have achieved success if she hadn’t strayed from convention. She credits her unconventional efforts to seek out grants in person as a Pitt Med PhD candidate with ultimately landing her a position in Harvard’s renal division. 


Paul McDermott (PhD ’84) is on the faculty of the Medical University of South Carolina’s cardiology division in its department of medicine. McDermott is associate dean for faculty affairs and faculty development as well as professor of medicine. He oversees the preclinical medical curriculum and is also the director of the university’s Academy of Medical Educators. McDermott’s daughter Anne McDermott is in her second year at Pitt Med. 
Christopher Troianos (MD ’85) is chair of the Cleveland Clinic’s Anesthesiology Institute. He oversees anesthesia-related care at the clinic’s 10 hospitals and seven surgery centers in Ohio and provides administrative support to their hospitals in Florida, Abu Dhabi and London. Troianos also serves as professor of anesthesiology at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University and practices as a cardiac anesthesiologist at Cleveland Clinic. He says the value of anesthesiologists has certainly come to light with COVID-19. “We’re on the front lines in caring for these patients, from intubating their airways to managing their ventilation to caring for them in the ICUs.” 


Timothy Klatt (MD ’92) serves as professor and head of the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Division of General Obstetrics and Gynecology and as the medical director of patient safety at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. “I am truly a generalist,” he says of his clinical ob/gyn practice. In June, Klatt was honored with Froedtert’s Thomas L. Smallwood Award for Clinical Excellence, the highest honor bestowed by the hospital. The best part of the recognition, according to Klatt? His colleagues: “the people who nominated me—the fantastic people with whom I work every day.” 
Elisa Konieczko (PhD ’92) is professor of biology at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, where she primarily teaches anatomy, cell biology and other courses. She recently completed a 20-year collaboration with researchers and physicians at UPMC Hamot investigating the hormones relaxin and estrogen in joint injuries and diseases. Responding to the sixfold increase of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in women compared to men, the team confirmed the hormones’ partial roles in the disparity. She is especially proud of the 40 undergraduate biology and preprofessional students from Gannon who participated in the collaboration. 
While pursuing her doctorate at Pitt Med, Kathleen Yee (PhD ’93) delved into neuronal pathfinding of visual sensory systems. During her career, she has broadened her attention to include auditory systems. Yee, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, began investigating the Zika virus’s impact on the inner ear after reports surfaced of patients experiencing hearing impairment. She published a study in September’s Hearing Research that is “the first to show the molecular and morphological damage to the inner ear” caused by Zika infections and “suggests multiple mechanisms” that contribute to that hearing loss. 


David Hackney (MD ’00, Maternal Fetal Medicine Fellow ’08) is associate professor of reproductive biology at Case Western Reserve University and division director of maternal fetal medicine at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. As vice chair for the Ohio section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Hackney meets with legislators to advocate for women’s health. Hackney and his wife, Lisa Hackney (MD ’02, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellow ’08), a pediatric oncologist, both trained with Pitt doctors—and their Pitt connection spans a generation. “Our first son, Abe,” says Hackney, “was born at Magee while we were fellows.”
Brian Keith McNeil (MD ’01) recently added associate dean for clinical affairs at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University to his titles, an extensive list that includes vice chair of Downstate’s urology department. In our 2018 write-up on McNeil, we noted his longstanding efforts to address health care inequities. Now as associate dean, McNeil is overseeing the medical school’s senior class curriculum, and he’s revamping student rotations with Brooklyn-area hospitals as part of a broader effort to better prepare students to care for underserved populations. Last year, as part of the Downstate Coronavirus Preparedness Task Force, McNeil worked closely with his colleagues to organize redeployment of residents and faculty to meet critical patient needs. 
Nima Sharifi (MD ’01) studies sex steroids that control the progression of prostate cancer. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s following a new thread: whether these steroids play a role in the disproportionate number of men who’ve become seriously ill or died from COVID-19 compared to women. There may be clues from his study published last year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; he discovered a genetic anomaly related to prostate cancer that’s common in patients with poor outcomes from asthma treatment. Sharifi is the Kendrick Family Endowed Chair for Prostate Cancer Research at the Cleveland Clinic.   
—Nithya Kasibhatla and Rachel Mennies