Class Acts, Fall 2014

Pitt med lost three of its legends at the start of this school year.
Fall 2014


OCT. 19, 1918–AUG. 3, 2014

"If it’s not published, it’s not data,” read a plaque in the late Emmanuel Farber’s office. As chair and professor of pathology and professor of biochemistry at Pitt from 1961 to 1970, the MD/PhD prodded colleagues to fundamental oncogenesis discoveries.

“He made major contributions in understanding the biology of cancer at a time when things like oncogenes … [were] not known or understood,” says the current chair and Maud L. Menten Professor of Experimental Pathology, George Michalopoulos, an MD/PhD. Farber recognized similarities between cancer cells and liver regeneration that helped him describe the biochemical origins of tumors. He also served on the Surgeon General’s first Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health, contributing to its 1964 report that helped establish the carcinogenic effects of tobacco use.

Called “the philosopher scientist” by colleagues, Farber emphasized a basic understanding of normal cellular processes rather than focusing solely on disease pathogenesis. “Sometimes you didn’t agree,” says Michalopoulos. “But he did not stifle you with his strong opinions.”

Farber received the Rous-Whipple Award, among many other honors. After Pitt, he was director of the Fels Research Institute at Temple University. In 1975 he became pathology chair at the University of Toronto, where he overhauled their curriculum. Says his daughter, Naomi Farber, “My dad had this philosophy: Do something, give it your best, transform it, then move on.”

—Robyn K. Coggins



JUNE 10, 1919–AUG. 20, 2014

Albert Ferguson, lovingly referred to as “Ferg,” is something of a Pitt legend. “He was really a true gentleman,” says mentee Freddie Fu, Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery as well as David Silver Professor and chair of the Division of Sports Medicine at Pitt. “He was fantastic to work with. He understood you, allowed you to grow, and was a benevolent leader,” he adds.

Ferguson, 95, died in August.

A World War II veteran who graduated first in his class at Harvard Medical School, Ferguson went on to become the founding chair of Pitt’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in 1954, serving in this role until his retirement in 1986. In his storied career he developed interventions that his colleagues call ingenious—perhaps most notably among them an I-beam nail used to mend hip fractures (still in use today) and a less invasive technique for hip surgery that made it possible to repair hip dislocation in children as young as 2 years old. (A complication of breach delivery, hip dislocation had previously robbed children of their mobility until they were school-aged.)

Ferguson’s program at Pitt became so influential that it cultivated upwards of 30 department chairs and leaders of programs throughout the world (including Henry Mankin, also profiled in this issue).

—Nick Moffitt

See Edwin Kiester Jr.’s 2002 cover story on Albert Ferguson.



AUG. 28, 1921–SEPT. 12, 2014

When Ross Musgrave (MD ’43) interviewed Kenneth Shestak (Res ’85) for a residency position in plastic surgery, what surprised Shestak more than the generous interview were the calls Musgrave fielded during their chat. Musgrave got animated: No, no, we talked about where those props are going to be. Shestak later learned of Musgrave’s work as a stage actor and director (an interest he continued to foster through his involvement in Scope and Scalpel and the Pittsburgh Academy of Medicine’s annual musical).

“Right then and there, it was obvious that he was multidimensional,” says Shestak, chief of plastic surgery at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. “He was unceasingly inquisitive,” which held true until Musgrave’s death in September. He was 93.

Musgrave spent 60 years with Pitt’s School of Medicine, from student to resident to Distinguished Clinical Professor of Surgery. He also served as executive director of the Medical Alumni Association for 12 years. Musgrave trained 125 surgeons; he himself was the second resident to graduate from Pitt’s plastic surgery program. The school continues to honor Musgrave through the annual Ross H. Musgrave Lectureship, as well as the newly named Ross H. Musgrave Chair in Pediatric Plastic Surgery. (A new namesake award for medical student excellence is also in the works—contact Jennifer Gabler at for more information.)

Musgrave served on the med school’s Board of Visitors and as governor of the American College of Surgeons, president of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and director of the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Throughout his career, Musgrave impressed upon his patients and students the importance of family as an essential component of successful medicine. Musgrave and his wife, Norma Jane, had “an old-time Pittsburgh warmth and graciousness,” says Shestak. “[Musgrave] lived a full life. He’d be the first to tell you he had a great life.”

—Amy Whipple

See Sally Ann Flecker’s 2003 story on Ross Musgrave.