Pediatric INSIGHTS, Summer 2022

Back to “Normal": How One Young Woman Didn’t Let a Brain Tumor Slow Her Down

Action shot of me photographing in Aruba after my lesson with a professional photographerIn 2014, persistent, debilitating headaches sent Autumn Paolini via medical helicopter to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh where doctors discovered she had hydrocephalus and a low grade juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (JPA), a rare childhood tumor that is slow-growing and weblike in nature. Her journey led her to a medication trial that ended up shrinking her tumor by over half in just three months. As Autumn says: “I am blessed to have the doctors that I did at Children’s that helped to get me on my medicine and helped me get back to that ‘normal’ life.” Read Autumn’s full story.

Also in This Issue

  • UPMC Children’s Hospital once again ranks in the top 10 on U.S. News and World Reports’ Honor Roll of ‘Best Children’s Hospitals”.
  • Andrew Urbach, MD, medical director, Patient Experience and Development, discusses the intersection of religion and healthcare at Children’s.
  • The UPMC Children’s Hospital Foundation’s 2022 Walk for Children’s sets a new fundraising record.

Top Accolades

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Ranks #6 in ‘Best Children’s Hospitals’ Honor Roll

U.S. News Best Children's Hospital Honor Roll 2022-2023 Top 10 NationallyNearly 200 children’s hospitals from across the United States were evaluated and only 10 were named to the U.S. News & World Report Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh was named #6 on the Honor Roll, with rankings in 10 of 10 specialties – including six in the top 10.

“These rankings are a testament to the extraordinary work of our incredibly talented physicians, nurses, and other clinical and support staff who help us to deliver world-class pediatric care each and every day,” said Diane Hupp, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, president, UPMC Children’s Hospital. “We are committed to continuing to expand our advanced care while delivering excellence in all we do for our patients and families across all of the areas we serve.”

In addition, Children’s ranked in 10 of 10 specialties — including six in the top 10.

While we're proud to be the region's only hospital to receive this recognition, our biggest honor will always be the privilege of caring for your child.

The 2022-23 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings are available online and will be published in the “Best Hospitals 2023” guidebook, available in September. U.S. News introduced the Best Children's Hospitals rankings in 2007 to help families of children with rare or life-threatening illnesses find the best medical care available. The rankings open the door to an array of detailed information about each hospital's performance.

Children’s Rehabilitation Unit Receives 3-Year Accreditation from CARF International

The Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation Unit (CHRU) at Children’s was recently awarded a 3-year accreditation for their Inpatient Rehabilitation Programs – Hospital (Pediatric Specialty Programs) from Children’s Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) International.

This achievement is an indication of Children’s dedication and commitment to improving the quality of the lives of the children served. As an excerpt from the report reads: “CHRU operates with a strong, patient-centered focus and a commitment to continuous process improvement. The organization’s services are clearly designed to meet the needs of the patients served. The highly collaborative leadership team fosters an inclusive and interdisciplinary approach to rehabilitation. The staff members are energetic, motivated, and dedicated. They deliver services that are highly regarded by patients, referral sources, and the overarching system.”

The high level of accreditation will extend through June 30, 2025.

UPMC Children’s Announces Key Leadership Promotions

In May, Diane Hupp, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, president of Children’s, announced the promotion of several well-known Children’s leaders to new executive team roles, effective July 1.

Paula EickerPaula Eicker, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, is now Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, at Children’s. Paula has over 30 years of pediatric nursing experience. Since 2015, she has served as senior director, Transplant Services, Hematology/Oncology and Neurosciences. In her role, Paula led collaborative partnerships with the University of Virginia’s Children’s Hospital and Florida Hospital for Children for the transplant service line, led the expansion of several service areas and accreditations of numerous specialties, and helped to lead the Nursing Division. Paula’s entire career as a nurse has been spent at Children’s in progressive leadership roles. She has been a champion for improvements in patient and family experiences. She is a graduate of Duquesne University and received a master’s degree in nursing from Chatham University. Paula also serves as president of the International Transplant Nurses Association.

Durae VinczeDurae Vincze, MSN, RN, NEA-BC is now Vice President, Operations. Durae has also spent her career at Children’s, first as a bedside nurse, before progressing into leadership roles in Nursing and Hospital Operations. In her most recent role, Durae served as senior director, Ancillary Services and Emergency Department (ED) at Children’s since 2018. Under her leadership, the ED length of stay has significantly decreased for both admitted and discharged patients, resulting in a 50% reduction in patients leaving the ED without being seen. In addition, the team has realized improved ED patient satisfaction scores. Durae’s innovative mindset of leading not only the ED but essential services such as Pharmacy, Lab, Radiology, and Nursing has helped us significantly improve organizational efficiencies. Durae is a graduate of Edinboro University and received her master’s degree in nursing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Mike CumunaleAnd Mike Comunale is now Vice President, Pediatric Service Line. In this new role, Mike will focus on the continued growth of the Children’s pediatric service line and accessibility of both ambulatory and inpatient pediatric and surgical services across UPMC. He will continue to develop strategic relationships with pediatric physicians, referral sources, and the community. Mike will retain his current areas of responsibilities as the executive administrator for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Physicians (UPP), within UPMC Physician Services and UPMC Children’s Ambulatory Services. With his experience in leading the expansion of our nationally ranked pediatric services into Central Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, he is uniquely poised to lead the Pediatric Service Line moving forward.

UPMC Children’s Hospital Foundation News

Fifteen Years of Rocking for UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh

DVE Rocks Children’s Radiothon “rock-n-rolls” back this fall! After a record setting year in 2021, we’re ready to raise even more funds for the kids receiving care at UPMC Children’s Hospital. Join us as we celebrate our 15th Anniversary of Radiothon and tune in to Pittsburgh’s 102.5 WDVE September 28–30! You don’t have to wait until September to be a Rockstar. Sign up today and receive all the perks of rocking with us! Visit our foundation page to learn more!

Walk for Children’s Sets a New Fundraising Record

On June 4, after nearly three years, Walk for Children’s returned to Schenley Park! Joined by over 4,000 walkers in-person and virtual walkers in over 20 states, this year’s Walk for Children’s raised over $920,000 for the kids receiving care at Children’s! Thanks to our sponsors, our patient champions, and most importantly, you, we had our best year ever! We walk for healthier tomorrows and cannot achieve such milestones without the support of our community. Check out this year’s celebration video here!


Andy Urbach, MD

What’s Your Faith?: The Intersection of Religion and Health Care

Research shows that religion and spirituality can greatly influence the way patients and their families view an illness and make treatment decisions. It can even affect the healing process. As our base of multicultural and international patients grows more diverse at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, it’s important for us to understand the intersection of faith and medicine to deliver the best possible outcomes.

The great cartoonist Charles Schultz once said he made it a practice to “never discuss politics, religion, or the Great Pumpkin.” But on one of those topics, I have to disagree. We as health care providers must do a better job when it comes to understanding — and responding to — the religious traditions and faith needs of our pediatric patients and their families.

As doctors, most of us are reluctant to ask our patients about their religion. But there’s growing evidence that if we don’t ask “what’s your faith?” we miss the opportunity to deliver vital and culturally competent care.

Rev. Richard Freeman Sr., MSCP, manager, Pastoral Care Department at UPMC Children’s Hospital finds this a compelling argument. “I ask our patients about their faith because I believe it’s an importantand professionally ethical measure,” he says.

The Hannukah Display in one of the Hospital's main lobbies this past holiday season.Asking families about their faith tells them we care about what’s important to them. We are a secular institution, but I firmly believe that when we attend to both the medical and faith needs of our patients, we leave a lasting impression. That’s an essential reflection of the UPMC experience.

Rev. Freeman recently shared a story with me about a young boy who, despite our best care, died of a seizure disorder here 17 years ago. “I provided spiritual support to that family from the day they came in until the day he died,” he said. “This spring, all these years later, his sister called asking me to do her wedding.”

A changing landscape of faith

Religion in America – and here in Pittsburgh – is becoming increasingly diverse. Our patients and staff include Buddhists, nearly a dozen Christian denominations, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and other faiths.

Members of the Orthodox Jewish faith — which has an increasingly robust community in Pittsburgh — follow very strict rituals. Michael Moritz, MD, clinical director of Pediatric Nephrology, wears a yarmulke that readily identifies him as a devout Orthodox Jew. It is the fastest-growing segment in Judaism.

“Things most people take for granted when their child is in the hospital can present great challenges to an Orthodox family,” he explains. “Some are well-known, like eating only Kosher food. But on the Sabbath, we cannot drive, use our phone, cook, transact business, or even turn lights on and off. Three times each day, we pray in silence for 30 to 60 minutes, and at length on Sabbath. We do so using specific prayerbooks and wearing prayer shawls.”

How we’re responding

At my request, we’ve created a Religion Work Group at Children’s comprising interested staff and external volunteers. Our goal is to identify ways we can be more supportive of the religious needs of our patients and their families. We also want to build awareness among our doctors, nurses, and staff.

Coordinating the work group is María Cecilia (Mariace) Dancisin, MBA, manager of the International Department. Rev. Freeman, Dr. Moritz, and I are among its members. “We are very much a learning group,” she says. “We recognize that we can’t address the needs without increasing our knowledge.”

Its activities include:

  • Collecting patient data to better understand trends and areas of need.
  • Encouraging families to identify their religious preferences and supports they may need at the point of their admission to the hospital — before the start of care.
  • Building upon Pastoral Care’s well-established list of local resources for all major faiths to connect visiting and international families.
  • Seeking the support of key groups like Children’s patient experience and equity and inclusion committees.
  • Developing a communication plan and beginning content creation for internal communications and social media.

An outdoor hut created by the Religion Work Group at Children's for Orthodox Jewish families whose children are hospitalized during the Fear of Tabernacles.As a hospital community, we also must recognize the spiritual needs of our staff, who share the stress of families as they provide care for challenging medical problems.

One of the work group’s first projects has been to better support the growing number of Orthodox Jewish patients at Children’s. We now try to avoid scheduling tests for Orthodox patients or releasing them to go home on the Sabbath. The work group also secured donated prayerbooks and prayer shawls so they are available at the hospital on request. And a family whose child is hospitalized during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) — which requires eating all meals in an outdoor hut, rain or shine — can now do so at Children’s, thanks to the combined efforts of hospital leadership and our Facilities crew.

“We treat all of you”

At Children’s, our promise is: “We treat all of you.” That means caring for all of a patient’s needs — physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Religion is a sensitive and challenging topic, but it is core to our ability to deliver the best possible care. We want you — and the families and patients you serve — to know that we recognize the importance of faith. I welcome your ideas and input as we continue this journey as a health care community.

Andy Urbach, MD, is medical director for Patient Experience and Development at Children's. He welcomes your comments and questions. Please send an email to

What to Know About Art Therapy at UPMC Children’s Hospital

CHP Art TherapyIn addition to the clinical excellence you’ll find at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, we take a whole-child approach to healing children. That includes caring for their emotional needs while they are staying at our hospital. One of the ways we do that is through medical art therapy.

Art therapy allows patients to express feelings that they may have trouble putting into words through art. Any patient at UPMC Children’s Hospital (and their family) can take part in art therapy. Hear directly from some of our registered and board-certified Art Therapists at Children’s about what to expect in an art therapy session and the numerous benefits of expressing feelings through art in this recent article on the UPMC Healthbeat blog.

Laurels for Our Staff

These UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh staff members recently received recognition in their fields.

Carlton Bates, MD, division director of Pediatric Nephrology and director of the Pediatric Nephrology Fellowship Program at UPMC Children’s Hospital, retired from clinical practice on June 30, 2022 after 14 years of service. Under his leadership, the Division has experienced significant growth in its mission to provide outstanding clinical care, educate the next generation of leaders in pediatric nephrology, and discover novel mechanisms of pediatric kidney disease. Dr. Bates’ discoveries in the development of the kidney and lower urinary tract are internationally renowned. His research program has been focused on the role of fibroblast growth factor receptors in the kidney and lower urinary tract. He has been continuously funded by the NIH for 24 years. Read his full retirement announcement here.

In April, Alison J. Culyba, MD, PhD, MPH, adolescent medicine physician and director of the Empowering Teens to Thrive hospital-based violence intervention program for assault- injured youth at Children’s, was awarded the Philip Troen, MD, Excellence in Medical Student Research Mentoring Award. This award is based on graduating University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine student recommendations for outstanding mentoring over the course of their LRP.

In May, Lina Ghaloul Gonzalez, MD, geneticist at Children’s, received $25,000 in funding from the TANGO2 Research Foundation for her research project “Investigating the Effect of Mitochondrial Stabilizing Compounds on TANGO2 Deficient Cells.”

Jacqueline Ho, MD, MSc, director of the Pediatric Nephrology Fellowship and co-director of the Pediatric Scientist Development Program at Children's, received a 2022 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Next Gen Pregnancy Initiative Grant. The grant is a five-year, $500,000 award designed to support novel investigations into healthy and adverse pregnancy outcomes using creative basic and translational science approaches. This grant will support Dr. Ho’s research which explores basic science mechanistic processes that may be responsible for or contribute to why children born to mothers with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk for kidney disease. In April, Dr. Ho was also appointed as a Pediatric Scientist Development Program (PSDP) liaison for the Association of Pediatric Program Directors (APPD). A PSDP graduate now mentoring PSDP participants as director of the Pediatric Nephrology Fellowship at Children's, Ho will advocate for specialty training and research opportunities for entry-level faculty interested in research careers.

In April, Traci M. Kazmerski, MD, MS, pediatric pulmonologist and health services researcher in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children's, received a 2022 Pitt Momentum Funds award. Joined by colleagues Andrew McCormick, MD, FAAP and Loreta Matheo, MD, FAAP, she will develop an innovative measurement plan for holistically measuring the transition to adulthood. The team will visually map the transition to adulthood of young adults and their caregivers and create an outcomes assessment strategy to reinforce the benefits of multi-systemic care. For the 2022 award cycle, the Pitt Momentum Funds called specifically for research projects investigating the social determinants of health. This work aligns with the ongoing efforts of the Children's Transition Task Force.

In March, Christine A. March, MD, MS, pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s, had her study investigating adverse effects of virtual schooling on children with type 1 diabetes published in The Science of Diabetes Self-Management and Care and featured by Endocrine Today.

On June 30, Sara C. McIntire, MD, FAAP, pediatric hospitalist in the Paul C. Gaffney Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Children’s, retired from clinical practice after 32 years of service. Dr. McIntire has served as a medical education leader and innovator in several positions. She chaired the Continuing Medical Education Committee for Children’s for over a decade, and for eight years she served as co-director of the Three Rivers Educational Conference, which provides education for pediatricians throughout our region. For the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, she spent a decade as the overall director of Pediatric Medical Student Education. She directed the Pediatrics Inpatient Clerkship, the Advanced Inpatient Pediatrics Elective, and served as an advisory dean of Students. As a recognition of these many efforts, Dr. McIntire was inducted into the University’s Academy of Master educators in 2006. Perhaps most influentially, she has served as associate editor for the sixth and seventh edition and co-editor of the eighth edition of the Zitelli and Davis’ Atlas of Pediatric Physical Diagnosis. This ground-breaking book is the third-highest selling textbook in the history of pediatrics, and it has been translated into nine languages. It has become an essential companion for all trainees and practitioners in pediatrics. Read her full retirement announcement here.

Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, FSAHM, was appointed Distinguished Service Professor of Pediatrics for the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine by Chancellor Patrick Gallagher on May 1.

In April, Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, MD, MPH, FAAP, medical director of Prehospital and EMS at Children’s, was appointed to serve as a representative of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on the American Heart Association's COVID task force. In this role, she will represent AAP in monthly meetings to discuss data, conduct literature reviews, and determine updates to COVID-related mitigation guidance.

Margalit Rosenkranz, MD, assumed the role of clinical director for Children’s Division of Pediatric Rheumatology, effective July 1. Dr. Rosenkranz joined Children’s and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2004, initially as a research instructor focused on translational lab-based studies. She then refocused her efforts, establishing herself as an outstanding clinician and educator, while continuing her scholarly pursuit of clinical research in pediatric rheumatology. In 2017, she was appointed as director of Clinical Research for the Division of Pediatric Rheumatology. In this leadership role, Dr. Rosenkranz’s efforts have led to establishing Children’s as a premier site for nearly every large collaborative clinical trial in pediatric rheumatology at a national level. Her collaborative research contributions led to significant evidence-based advances in the management of children with complicated rheumatologic conditions.

News You Need

UPMC Children’s Physicians Take Part in White Coats For Black Lives Demonstration

White Coats for Black Lives DemonstrationMay 25, 2022, marked two years since the death of George Floyd after former Minneapolis policy officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. Physicians, staff, nurses, and medical students at Children’s and many other UPMC campuses knelt for nine minutes and 29 seconds – the same length of time Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck – on the front lawn of Children’s to honor Floyd’s life and the lives of countless others that we have lost to police brutality and other racially motivated hate crimes.

Speakers at the event included:

  • Diane Hupp, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAP, President, Children’s
  • Amanda McCoy, MD, MPH, Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon, Children’s
  • Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, MD, MPH, Associate Vice Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and EMS Medical Director, Children’s

This event is just one way that Children's is taking a stand against hatred, violence, and injustice that our Black, Brown, AAPI, and LGBTQ+ communities face daily.

Pediatric Intestinal Failure Rehabilitation Symposium 2022 in Toronto

Registration is now open for the Pediatric Intestinal Failure Rehabilitation Symposium (PIFRS) 2022 in Toronto. PIFRS is a global event aimed at advancing medicine, research, and the treatment of children diagnosed with intestinal failure and those who require intestine transplantation. The conference will integrate medical and surgical dialogue to help build off the dramatic interdisciplinary work that has characterized intestinal failure management. Global leaders will set the stage for important next steps and networking. Learn more and register here.

UPMC Center for Rare Disease Therapy Webinar Series

Join experts from the Center for Rare Disease Therapy at UPMC Children’s for webinars for providers, parents, and caregivers of children with a rare inherited disorder. Learn more here.


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