Eyes Wide Open

Winter 2018
Shinjini Kundu. (Photo Courtesy Carnegie Mellon University)
The human eye can achieve a resolution of approximately 576 megapixels. The latest televisions, by contrast, display more than 33,000 megapixels. Add a third dimension—as in magnetic resonance imaging—and the flood of images overwhelms the naked eye.
 
That’s where transport-based morphometry, or TBM, comes in. Developed by UPMC radiology resident Shinjini Kundu (MD ’17), TBM uses artificial intelligence to detect the relevant patterns within an MRI that would otherwise evade detection by even the most expert radiologist. 
 
In a 2017 paper, Kundu demonstrated that up to three years before the symptoms of arthritis manifest, TBM detects structural precursors of the condition—shifts in water diffusion within joints. This year, she began applying TBM to brain imaging. One project investigates how a gene associated with autism influences brain structure and function; another examines the subtle injury patterns associated with concussion. “What motivates me is going after the hard problems,” says Kundu, who also has a PhD in biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. 
 
Kundu has garnered praise for both the quality and pace of her research. Two of her papers were deemed best of the year in informatics (for 2016 and 2017) by the Radiological Society of North America. In 2018, MIT Technology Review named her among their 35 innovators under 35; in 2017, she was named a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. 
 
Kundu is excited about moving TBM into clinical practice: “With TBM you can . . . identify the target audience or population for whom early intervention would have the most benefit.” 
 
In that regard, TBM has unique advantages. “We don’t have to have a blanket solution,” she says. “That’s the advantage of algorithms that learn—you can add shades of nuance and complexity.”  
 

Ready to Go: Daniel Singer

BY SHARON TREGASKIS

Daniel Singer (MD ’96) credits a pair of fourth-year rotations with setting his career trajectory—one rotation was in Zanzibar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania, and the other was with the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. “We got three hours’ notice to pack and get on a plane to Indianapolis,” Singer recalls of the latter. “For several weeks I worked with an officer from EIS tracking an epidemic. I thought it was so cool, that you have to be ready to go—anyplace—and that you’re benefiting whole groups of people.”
 
Two decades later, Singer has risen through the ranks of the U.S. Public Health Service, holding posts in Malawi, Liberia, and Washington, D.C. Currently chief of the CDC’s Health Systems Solutions Branch in Mozambique, Singer serves as a point person for programs to promote the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. “We’ve been able to drastically increase the number of people being treated for HIV, and when you’re being treated effectively, you can’t transmit the virus,” says Singer, whose responsibilities span the entirety of the U.S. government’s $400 million budget for health in Mozambique. “We’re making progress in that sense.” 
 
The CDC generally enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress, Singer says, allowing staff to maintain a long-term trajectory in pursuit of evidence-based public health initiatives, buffering the effects of short-term political shifts at home and abroad.
 
“The United States is the largest funder of HIV work around the world,” says Singer. “And because of that, the financial and political challenges a country faces are not the sole determinants of what [it’s] able 
 
to achieve. We’re able to have tremendous effect on health, even when a country is struggling to keep itself up and running.”   
 

Seen Coated

Click here to see more Pitt Med cover models from our photobooth at White Coat ceremony.
 
Josh Ong and his mom. Photography: Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh
 

MAA Says, “Reunited, and it feels so good.”

BY KRISTIN BUNDY

"We reconnected over zebra fish,” says Elaine Hylek (MD ’88), describing her chance encounter with now fiancé Jonas Berman (MD ’88) (Shown left). During their 25th School of Medicine class reunion, the pair went on the same tour of Biomedical Science Tower 3. Hylek says, “I thought, ‘Look at this guy—still interested in science!’” She struck up a conversation with Berman, whom she first met in physical diagnosis class in the ’80s, and they continued to talk over the weekend. While sharing stories about their children, practices, and previous marriages, they discovered that they lived in neighboring towns in Massachusetts. The proximity made it easy to keep the tête-à-tête going, and now, nearly six years after crossing paths again, they plan to wed this spring. 
 
Vanessa Franco (PhD ’11, MD ’12) and Ranmal Samarasinghe (PhD ’11, MD ’12) are also Scaife-crossed lovers. They met during an ice cream social for incoming Medical Scientist Training Program students. After they started dating, and a year before they were matched for residency in Los Angeles together, Franco and Samarasinghe saved a runner’s life by giving her CPR on a Shadyside sidewalk. The runner, KDKA news anchor Susan Koeppen, reconnected with the couple in Pittsburgh this August; they told the story as part of the White Coat Ceremony. (See story here.)
 
Love was in the air this fall, too. During Homecoming 2018, former MAA President Robert Bragdon (MD ’73) renewed his vows with Theresa “Bunny” Clements at Heinz Memorial Chapel’s “I Do, I Do . . .  Again!” ceremony. Clements, a nurse, is his partner at work as well as in life. They’ve raised four daughters in their 50 years together.
 
The Medical Alumni Association delights in campus love stories. Tell us yours at medalum@medschool.pitt.edu.   
 

OBITUARIES

James Perel

March 1932—Aug. 27, 2018

When psychiatry professor Neal Ryan stopped by James Perel’s office to talk about one of their many collaborations and related research in the field, Perel would often pull a “magic trick” with the stacks of journal articles in his office. “He had a profound knowledge of literature. He’d go to exactly the right stack, cut the stack like a card trick, and choose the right paper,” Ryan recalls. 
 
Perel, professor emeritus of psychiatry and pharmacology, died in August. Before joining Pitt’s Department of Psychiatry in 1979, Perel held academic appointments at Emory, Columbia, and New York University, where he earned his PhD in 1964. He served in multiple leadership positions while at Pitt, including acting chair of the Department of Pharmacology, director of the Clinical Pharmacology Program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, and chief of the Clinical Pharmacology Service for the Veterans Administration Medical Center. 
 
Perel’s research centered on psychotropic drug actions and also the prediction of individual responses using biomarker and pharmacogenetic profiling of antidepressants. He accrued a publication portfolio that included more than 330 peer-reviewed articles and was named one of the top 1.5 percent most cited authors between 1982 and 1999 by the Institute for Scientific Information. Perel was also known for his passion for educating students. He earned the Clinician Educator of the Year award from Pitt’s School of Medicine in 2013.
 
Charles F. Reynolds, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and the UPMC Endowed Professor of Geriatric Psychiatry, says, “Jim’s joining the department turned out to be a wonderful thing for all of us who cared about developing intervention science for people living with mood disorders. His memory is a blessing to all of us.”   —Jon Kunitsky

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Jeremy Rabinowitz

Nov. 10, 1951—Oct. 27, 2018

When Jerry Rabinowitz attended Jewish services, he always stood when the mourner’s prayer, the Kaddish, was recited. If asked why he always joined worshippers who stood in memory of recently deceased family members, Rabinowitz, past president of the Dor Hadash congregation, which met at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, said he stood to honor those who didn’t have family to stand for them, recalls Brian Primack, a fellow Dor Hadash member and MD, who is a Pitt School of Medicine faculty member and dean of the Honors College. 
 
Rabinowitz (Res ’80) was one of 11 worshippers killed at the synagogue in October. Standing up for others was a cornerstone of Rabinowitz’s spiritual life—and his approach to family medicine.
 
Rabinowitz’s practice partner Ken Ciesielka (Res ’83) says Rabinowitz was known as a warmhearted physician, particularly among HIV/AIDS patients. “Word spread that our practice was a safe place to come,” says Ciesielka. “We had one of the largest AIDS practices in the county at one time.”
 
At UPMC Shadyside, Rabinowitz was past president of the medical staff and chaired the ethics committee for many years. His wife, Miri Rabinowitz, who 
manages the neurotrauma biorepository in Pitt’s Department of Neurological Surgery, notes, “he was truly passionate” about the ethics work. He was particularly effective helping physicians honor a patient’s end of life wishes, says Beth Chaitin, assistant professor of medicine. She counted on Rabinowitz as both her colleague and her family’s physician.  
 
Rabinowitz was a clinical instructor in the UPMC Shadyside family medicine residency program for three decades. Elizabeth Baker (Res ’91) says he had exacting standards yet never put on airs. “What I learned from Jerry is that doctors do not need to pretend to know everything,” says Baker, who also chose Rabinowitz as her family’s physician when she lived in Pittsburgh. 
 
At Shadyside, his reputation for good cheer was legendary, says Chaitin. Rabinowitz volunteered for Christmas shifts and donned an elf costume—complete with curled shoes. —Sharon Tregaskis