Pediatric INSIGHTS, Summer 2023

Hayden's Story: Overcoming a Brachial Plexus Palsy with Physical Therapy and Surgical Intervention

hayden in a suit in front of a carrot garlandDuring his birth, Hayden sustained a brachial plexus birth palsy. The brachial plexus nerves from his neck and down into his arm and hand became stretched.

Hayden received treatment at the Brachial Plexus Clinic within the Division of Plastic Surgery at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. In Hayden's first months of life, his doctors observed that he had good movement in his hands. However, his range of movement for his arm was limited. A daily physical therapy regimen helped him regain some movement, but not all.

At 10 months old, the decision was made for Hayden to undergo brachial plexus reconstructive surgery. Now, at 3 years old, Hayden has near complete function of his arm and is not limited by any functional issues.

Read Hayden's Story >>

Also in This Issue

  • UPMC Children's once again ranks in the top 10 of U.S. News and World Report's Honor Roll of Best Children's Hospitals.
  • Important changes to our Physician Liaison Program (including a new name). These changes are aimed at helping us build stronger local connections, improve communication, and expand your access to our resources.
  • How the staff in UPMC Children's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit uses technology to bridge communication gaps and improve family-centered care.

Top Accolades

Top 10. Again. US News & World Report

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Ranks in the Top Ten ‘Best Children’s Hospitals’ Again

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is recognized as one of the top pediatric hospitals in the country, earning the eighth position on the 2023-24 U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of Best Children’s Hospitals.

The Best Children’s Hospitals rankings feature the top pediatric hospitals – among 250 nationally – that are ranked in each of 10 specialties: cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology and GI surgery, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, pulmonology, and urology. 

UPMC Children’s ranked in all 10 of those specialties surveyed — including six in their respective top 10:

“This extraordinary honor once again is a testament to the dedication of our talented physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, researchers, and staff to delivering exceptional pediatric care and compassionate service to our patients and families every day,” said Diane Hupp, president, UPMC Children’s.

“The recognition as one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation, year after year, is a tremendous honor for UPMC and the care we provide to our patients,” said Joel Yuhas, president, UPMC Hospitals. “A distinction such as this is only possible through the efforts of our employees and their commitment to our patients in Pittsburgh, across the regions we serve, and all over the world who seek out the expertise of our providers at UPMC.”

UPMC Children’s continues to bring patient-centered care closer to home for patients and families in communities in and outside of the Pittsburgh region. UPMC provides nationally ranked specialty and subspecialty care in Southwestern and Northwestern Pa., North Central and Central Pa., Western Maryland, and West Virginia.

The 2023-24 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings will be published in the “Best Hospitals 2024” guidebook, available in September. The rankings were introduced in 2007 to help families of children with rare or life-threatening illnesses find the best medical care available.

UPMC Children’s President Diane Hupp Receives DAISY Award for Lifetime Achievement During Nurses Week 2023

Diane HuppDuring Nurses Week and the DAISY Day Celebration in May, Diane Hupp, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, president of UPMC Children’s was recognized with a DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award for her dedication to nursing through active mentoring, role modeling, advocating for the patients, and promoting a positive image of nursing.

The DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes nurses who have devoted their life's work to the compassionate care of others. They serve as a beacon of inspiration to those at all stages of their career and in the various and important roles of nursing.

In 2006, Diane brought the DAISY recognition program to UPMC Children’s and has awarded a nurse the DAISY award monthly for the past 18 years. Congratulations, Diane!

Dr. Diego Chaves-Gnecco Receives Proclamation from Mayor Gainey and the City of Pittsburgh

Dr. Diego Chaves-Gnecco Receives Proclamation from Mayor Gainey and the City of PittsburghRecently, Diego Chaves-Gnecco, MD, MPH, FAAP, received an official Proclamation from Mayor Ed Gainey and the City of Pittsburgh honoring his work in developing a welcoming and safe environment for Spanish-speaking residents of the city seeking medical care and healthcare information.

The proclamation comes from the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) and officially recognizes June 27, 2023, as Dr. Diego Chaves-Gnecco Day in the city of Pittsburgh.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this recognition,” Dr. Chaves-Gnecco says. “More than a recognition to me or to my work is a recognition to the program that we created 20 years ago and to all the people who has made it possible and successful, including the Latino Community of Southwestern Pennsylvania.”

The day also marks the 20th anniversary of Salud Para Niños, originally the first bilingual-bicultural clinic in southwestern Pennsylvania. Salud Para Niños, which Dr. Chaves-Gnecco founded and serves as program director, has since developed into a program that holds three weekly clinics in Oakland, one free clinic every week in Beechview, and another monthly free clinic in the South Side.

Across his career, which began in Colombia and included residency training at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Dr. Chaves-Gnecco has consistently used his platform to advocate for underserved and under- and uninsured populations. He has also worked to share important health care information with Latino communities in Pittsburgh regarding obesity, diabetes, physical activity, healthy habits, and more recently COVID-19 and its related vaccines.

Dr. Chaves-Gnecco’s clinical and academic interests focus on the diagnosis and treatment of children with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and associated care with their families. He has been named by Pittsburgh Magazine as one of the Best Doctors of the city every year from 2013 to the present. He is also a professor of Pediatrics in the Divisions of General Academic Pediatrics and Neurology and Child Development.

Dr. Chaves-Gnecco also notes his gratitude for the ongoing support from the following: UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the Department of Pediatrics, the General Academic Pediatrics Division, the staff of the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, and community organizations and partners like Casa San Jose, the Latino Community Center, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Birmingham clinic, the University of Pittsburgh Center for Latin American Studies, among many others.

Congratulations on this wonderful recognition, Dr. Chaves-Gnecco!

UPMC Children’s Hospital Foundation News


Celebrating its 12th year, unWINEd welcomes guests to enjoy a night of drinking wine, auctions and raffles, and raising critical funds and awareness for UPMC Children's Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. With the support of our guests, we have raised over $1.5 million over the event's 12 years. This year’s event will take place on Tuesday, August 1 at Narcisi Winery in Gibsonia, PA.

Visit the UPMC Children’s Foundation website to buy your tickets before they sell out! Guests must be 21+ to attend.

Regional News

Central Pa.: Pediatric Nutrition Services Available at UPMC Children’s Specialty Care in Lemoyne

Alexa Scotto, RDN, LDN, CDCESAlexa Scotto, RDN, LDN, CDCES, is a registered dietitian (RD), licensed dietitian nutritionist (LDN), and certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) at UPMC Children’s Specialty Care in Lemoyne. While she specializes in pediatrics, she can help all patients with their nutritional needs.

As an RD, Ms. Scotto counsels and guides patients and families who want to achieve optimal health through food and nutrition. To accomplish this goal, she will:

  • Complete a nutrition assessment.
  • Determine a nutrition diagnosis.
  • Provide nutrition interventions using evidence-based guidelines.
  • Monitor and evaluate progress towards goals.  

Ms. Scotto provides only outpatient services at UPMC Children’s Specialty Care in Lemoyne. UPMC has dietitians who support our patients during a hospital stay. While she specializes in pediatrics, she supports a range of patients. This includes patients who need support with certain issues or conditions, including:

  • Adopting a healthy diet
  • Obesity
  • Underweight
  • Poor growth
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Tube feedings
  • Celiac disease
  • Endocrine issues

The areas of nutrition she reviews with each patient includes:

  • Normal nutrition
  • Healthy eating
  • Healthy diet
  • Weight management concerns
  • Food allergies

Patients do not need to see one of the specialists at UPMC Children’s Specialty Care in Lemoyne to start working with Ms. Scotto. However, they must get a referral from their child’s pediatrician.

Follow-up visits are normally 30 minutes. The number of visits depends on the patient and family’s concern. Some patients need one visit to learn about how to eat with a new food allergy, while other patients with failure to thrive will need weight checks and more frequent follow up visits. Follow up is determined on an individual basis. Insurance may also set limitations.

Referrals may be called in to the office at 717-988-0090 or faxed to 717-221-5320. Providers who are using Epic may request a referral under “Ambulatory Referral to Nutrition.”

North Central Pa.: Pediatric General Surgery Services Now Available at UPMC Williamsport

UPMC Children’s is proud to announce that pediatric surgical services are now being offered to patients in Williamsport.

We work as a team to provide comprehensive care to infants, children, adolescents and young adults with surgical needs. Any general and thoracic pediatric surgery consult can now be seen in Williamsport. If surgical intervention is required, it can be performed at UPMC Williamsport, UPMC Children's Harrisburg, or UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, depending on the age of the patient and complexity of the diagnosis.

Shawn Safford, MD“It means a lot to me to provide high-quality specialty care to children and families where they live,” said Shawn Safford, MD, pediatric general surgeon. “Many communities are accustomed to traveling for care and growing up in a community comparable to Williamsport provides me with the background to truly understand the environmental importance of quality health care to the development of healthy, active, and thriving children. It’s a privilege to be a part of this development and build those critical relationships with patients and their families, being with them from the cradle to college.”

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Safford in Williamsport, call 570-321-2810. Learn more about pediatric services in north central Pa.


Pediatric and Family Medicine Practice Liaison Program: Version 3.0

We’re making important changes to our Liaison Program targeted at building stronger local connections, improving communication, and expanding your access to our resources.

In mid-2019, we restructured the Physician Liaison Program at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Less than a year later, COVID-19 hit, transforming the practice and delivery of medicine. For many of us, the pandemic also marked a major shift from in-person to online — from patient check-ups to continuing medical education events.

At UPMC Children’s, we’ve listened to and learned from you over these past few years. Based on your input and as part of our own continuous improvement efforts, we have created a “new and improved” 3.0 version of our Physician Liaison Program, designed to:

  • Enable us to better understand and address your needs and contact preferences.
  • Help you stay current on new services and programs at our hospital and in your own community.
  • Share your insights on areas for improvement with our division chiefs.
  • Offer you access to the latest best practices and educational materials on topics of importance to you.

While we’re not yet 100% there on all aspects of the program, I want to share our new direction and some of the initiatives now underway.

Coming to you, in your community

At Children’s, our service area includes all of Pennsylvania and parts of four other states. An additional 12% of the patients we treat come from referrals by physicians outside that service area.

It’s my goal for the new Pediatric and Family Medicine Practice Liaison Program to support every referring pediatrician and primary care doctor who entrusts their patients’ care to us, regardless of location. 

  • Previously, physician liaisons were senior administrators at Children’s. Wherever possible, you now will be assigned a physician liaison who is locally based.
  • Our new liaisons are nurse coordinators, nurse directors, and nurse managers. Each is responsible for a specific geographic area based on where they live and work. They are knowledgeable about our hospital in Lawrenceville as well as our growing number of outreach locations and regional specialty services. 

If you are outside our immediate service area but would like to connect with us, contact us and we’ll be happy to connect with you. Email us at or call 412-692-3300.

“Because of their backgrounds, our new liaisons understand the kind of support doctors need from us administratively and informationally,” says Michelle Capan, senior director of ambulatory services at Children’s and the new director of the liaison program. “They know Children’s and they’re deeply invested in your community,” she adds. 

Greater real-time support

Proactive is how I describe our new Physician Liaison Program, particularly when it comes to quickly connecting you to the information you need.

If you have a nonemergency request or question, you can now access:

  • A dedicated phone line— answered weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Reach us at 412-692-3300.
  • A dedicated email — with daily monitoring and follow up. Email

If your patient urgently needs a specialist’s care, use Children’s MedCall to arrange a consult, refer a patient, and coordinate a pediatric transfer or admission.

We also know that one of your top concerns is being able to review your patient’s chart in real time to see if they’ve been admitted and examined by a specialist. Please know this is also a top priority of our senior leadership team. There are several ways to access your patients’ information. Your liaison will work with you to find the best option for you.

Clinical pathways, best practices, and medical education

Under the leadership of Andrew Buchert, MD, medical director for Clinical Resource Management, Children’s currently has more than 30 clinical pathways in place, in addition to more than 200 clinical effectiveness guidelines that guide the care we provide across all disciplines based on the most recent evidence and specialty society’s best practice recommendations. They offer evidence-based models to evaluate, diagnose, and care for children with specific conditions. They also mean added support for referring physicians like you. Working together, we can provide your patients’ families with the latest treatment, as well as consistent and unified information about their care at every stage.

“We also welcome hearing from doctors with questions like, ‘What guidelines are you providing parents now when their baby has a fever?’, which were changed recently by the American Academy of Pediatrics,” says Dr. Buchert. “Our liaisons will advise of our available resources, from the latest evidence-based educational materials on a condition like bronchiolitis to the discharge instructions we give families, with the goal of unifying care.”

Your physician liaison also will keep you connected to a host of medical education opportunities, including podcasts, Grand Rounds, and webinars. I’ll be sharing more about our clinical and medical education support in future issues.

To learn more or to share a comment

For more information or to pass along any suggestions or feedback you may have as we move forward, please contact me at

Andy Urbach, MD

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



Digital Health News

Virtual Family-Centered Rounds Is an Effective Tool to Bridge Gaps in Communications and to Improve Family Experience in the NICU.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh embraces family-centered care. Family presence at the bedside is vital for ongoing communication, discharge preparation, and shared decision‐making. In some instances, it may be a challenge for parents to be at their infant's bedside due to work commitments, geographical challenges, or the need to care for other siblings or family members.

Recently, UPMC's NICUs began offering real-time real virtual connection with the parents to enhance communication between parents and the medical team in the NICU. This effort led to an improvement in parents' satisfaction with communication and was particularly helpful for parents and caregivers who are not able to be at the bedside during daily multidisciplinary NICU rounds. In addition, the NICU staff reported that direct communication might improve post rounds calls and decrease miscommunication amongst team members and families. 

One new feature of the recent upgrade of the Vidyo platform allows providers to invite a Cyracom interpreter. This innovative feature is vital for language-diverse families who may have difficulty being at the bedside and fully participating in Family-Centered Rounds. It also ensures equal access to NICU care. A total of 30 languages are available for interpretation, including American Sign Language, Burmese, Filipino, Korean, Nepali, and Vietnamese.

Laurels for Our Staff

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

In April, Kelly M. Bailey, MD, PhD, pediatric oncologist at UPMC Children’s, was awarded a research grant from the Charlie Landers Foundation through the UPMC Children’s Hospital Foundation. The philanthropic funding has a funding period of one year and will be allocated for Dr. Bailey’s research into the role of galectin-3 in metastatic Ewing sarcoma. 

Effective July 1, Franklyn Cladis, MD, MBA, assumed the role of chief of Pediatric Anesthesiology at UPMC Children’s. Dr. Cladis’ promotion to Chief comes after his outstanding service as assistant site chief and in other leadership roles at Children’s, including program director of the Pediatric Anesthesiology Fellowship and clinical director of Perioperative Medicine. In his new role, Dr. Cladis will lead and manage all clinical anesthesiology and perioperative care operations at Children’s, including staffing and OR management, budget and revenue cycle management, resident and fellow training, hospital peer review and credentialing, quality, communications, and faculty affairs. He will also serve on several leadership committees such as the Executive Committee of the Medical Staff and the Joint Conference Committee. Peter J. Davis, MD, is stepping down from this position after over 20 years of exemplary service at Children’s to take on the new leadership role of director of Pediatric Perioperative Care, leading initiatives to improve patient care services and perioperative efficiencies, and system director of Pediatric Anesthesiology, providing strategic guidance and leadership of pediatric anesthesia services, research, and education across the UPMC system. During his tenure as chief of Anesthesiology, Dr. Davis led the team to become one of the top programs in pediatric anesthesiology nationally.

In May, Brian Feingold, MD, MS, FAHA, medical director of Heart Failure and Transplant Programs at UPMC Children’s, was published in Clinical Transplantation. The article is entitled, “Short-term Clinical Outcomes and Predicted Cost Savings of dd-cfDNA-led Surveillance after Pediatric Heart Transplantation.” In this publication, Dr. Feingold and his research team compared the results of two surveillance protocols following pediatric heart transplantation (HT). The traditional protocol uses repeated surveillance endomyocardial biopsy (EMB), an inherently invasive test, to evaluate for rejection of the transplanted heart. Donor derived cell-free DNA (dd-cfDNA)-led surveillance offers an alternative to EMB, but detailed knowledge and research regarding its outcomes has been lacking. This work is helping to shift the standard of care after pediatric heart transplantation, enabling cheaper and less invasive care for patients. In addition to Dr. Feingold, Kirsten Rose-Felker, MD; Shawn C. West, MD, MSc; Susan A. Miller, MD, MBA; and Matthew D. Zinn, DO, all of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology, participated in the research, collection, and writing of this work.

In April, Catherine S. Forster, MD, MS, FAAP, pediatrician at UPMC Children’s, was published in The Journal of Pediatrics. Her article, “Accuracy of NGAL as a biomarker for UTI in young febrile children: An individual patient-data meta-analysis,” focuses on comparing the accuracy of a novel biomarker to the standard method of the diagnosis of urinary tract infection (UTI) in pediatric populations.

Effective July 1, Jesse A. Goldstein, MD, assumed the role of chief of Pediatric Plastic Surgery at UPMC Children’s. Over the last 9 years, Dr. Goldstein has grown to be a leader within the Department and broadly within the specialty. He serves as the program director of the Pediatric Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery Fellowship. He is also director of the Cleft-Craniofacial Center and associate program director of the Department of Pediatric Plastic Surgery’s Residency Program. This new role for Dr. Goldstein is built on a foundation of programmatic growth and mentorship by Joseph Losee, MD. Under his leadership over the past 20 years, the Division grew to its current state of nearly 30 people. Dr. Losee will continue in his role as executive vice chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery, in addition to his recent appointment as vice dean for Faculty Affairs in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

In May, Timothy Hand, PhD, was elected America's Councilor for the Society for Mucosal Immunology (SMI) from 2023-2025. He was also published in Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology (CMGH) with an article titled, “Excess dietary sugar alters colonocyte metabolism and impairs the proliferative response to damage.” Hand’s publication addresses the effects excess sugar has on the function of intestinal stem cells (ISCs) and transit amplifying (TA) cells that are responsible for maintaining the integrity of intestinal walls. It’s already known that ISCs and TA cells are sensitive to the contents of a person’s diet, however the way in which excess sugar directly affects their functionality is presently unknown. Utilizing a combination of 3-dimensional colonoids and an animal model, Hand, and his research team, which included Amanda C. Poholek, PhD, of the Division of Rheumatology and Kevin P. Mollen, MD of the Division of Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery, found that high sugar levels in a diet directly reduce an expression of ISC genes and TA cell regeneration proliferation, among other sometimes irreparable issues. Ultimately, the research demonstrates, especially in scenarios of intestinal damage, that high sugar diets can impede or worsen intestinal recovery, activity, and function. Results will hopefully inform dietary guidelines for those suffering from acute intestinal injury.

Recently, Thomas A. Hooven, physician-scientist in Neonatology at UPMC Children’s, and his team from the Division of Newborn Medicine, received an National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant for their research using CRISPR-Cas technology to learn about group B Streptococcus, a major cause of bacterial infections among neonates. Their article, “Group B Streptococcus Cas9 variants provide insight into programmable gene repression and CRISPR-Cas transcriptional effects” was also published in Nature Communications Biology. It tells about the tools they’ve developed and provides a detailed roadmap about their techniques to study mechanisms of infection.

In April, Traci Kazmerski, MD, MS, physician-scientist in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at UPMC Children’s, was awarded an R01 grant from the NIH that will support new research into the impact of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) on populations considering and entering parenthood, as the advent of effective CF modulator therapies have allowed people affected by the disease to live longer and healthier lives.

Recently, Lisa Maurer, MD, PhD, pediatric oncologist and physician-scientist at UPMC Children’s, received a K08 grant from the NIH for her project entitled, “BCL10-MALT1 protein-protein interaction in lymphocyte function and dysfunction.” Her project will receive 5 years of support from the NIH, and is designed to foster significant research and development in the field of lymphocyte biology, as well as to establish a firm foundation for early career development.

In June, Michael Moritz, MD, clinical director of Pediatric Nephrology and medical director of Pediatric Dialysis and the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program at UPMC Children’s, had his research titled, “Investigating the human spirit and spirituality in pediatric patients with kidney disease,” published in Frontiers in Pediatrics. In the mini-review, co-written with Robert P. Woroniecki, MD, MS, of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, Dr. Moritz addresses the integral part the human spirit plays in the application of medicine and in the overall evaluation of health. After a review of the terms “soul” and “spirit” and their historical contexts, Drs. Moritz and Woroniecki investigate the role spirit plays in the medical arts. While the effect of spirit has been addressed in medical literature, the co-authors find, a recent systemic review of nearly 9,000 articles regarding spirituality and health in adults concludes that the subject is not assessed to nearly an adequate level, and even less so in pediatrics. 

At the end of May, Heidi L. Ochs, DO, MPH, FAAP, regional medical director of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at UPMC Children’s, was recognized by the Pennsylvania Medical (PAMED) Society as one of 2023’s Top Physicians Under 40. The Top Physicians Under 40 recognition is part of PAMED’s efforts to highlight and celebrate leading clinical providers at an early stage in their medical careers. To be selected, physicians must be nominated to PAMED by colleagues, and selected by a committee of member physicians. In her nomination, Dr. Ochs’ colleague said of her, “[Ochs] has dedicated herself to improving access and level care to children in the communities she was raised but also beyond.” In her role, Dr. Ochs is responsible for coordinating pediatric hospital medicine and developing the pediatric service line at the UPMC regional hospitals across Pennsylvania.

Recently, Amanda Poholek, PhD, researcher and director of the Health Science Sequencing Core Facility at UPMC Children’s, received a grant award from the Career Enhancement Program (CEP) of the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program SPORE at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Dr. Poholek’s project titled “Identifying the immunotherapy driven epigenetic landscape that underlies transcriptional changes in tumor infiltrating CB8 T cells” is focused on understanding how immune cells integrate signals encountered in the environment to drive functional outcomes at the molecular and epigenetic level in both health and disease.

Last month, Franziska Rosser, MD, MPH, pediatric pulmonologist at UPMC Children’s, testified before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arguing for stricter standards for federal health standards for pollutants, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ground-level ozone. The full story of her testimony and subsequent commentary can be found here, at the New Pittsburgh Courier. Earlier this year, Rosser published research on this topic in the journal Pediatric Pulmonology. Titled, “Ozone and childhood respiratory health: A primer for US pediatric providers and a call for a more protective standard,” Rosser’s work investigates the issue of the lack of education for providers around the effects of air pollutants in children’s health. She further reviews the inadequacies of U.S. air pollution regulations, discusses the harms of ground-level ozone for healthy children and those with underlying respiratory diseases, and highlights the need for further standards in order to protect children’s respiratory health. 

At the beginning of June, Kelsey Schweiberger, MD, MS, physician-researcher in the Division of General Academic Pediatrics, had an article titled, “Scheduled and attended pediatric primary care telemedicine appointments during COVID-19” published in Pediatric Research. Dr. Schweiberger’s clinical and research efforts focus on integrating health services research, quality improvement, and clinical informatics to improve child health outcomes through the appropriate application of technology. In this study, she aimed to examine the proliferation and successes of the use of telemedicine among pediatric patients during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the use of remote healthcare platforms became relatively commonplace. By using electronic health record data from two academic pediatric primary care practices between April 2020 and March 2021, Dr. Schweiberger and her research team used statistical models to determine demographic characteristics associated with scheduled and attended telemedicine appointments.

In June, Kathryn S. Torok, MD, director of the Pediatric Scleroderma Clinic at UPMC Children’s, had her article, “Proposed response parameters for 12 months drug trial in Juvenile Systemic Sclerosis. Results of the Hamburg International Consensus Meetings,” published in Arthritis Care and Research. Co-written with Ivan Foeldvari, MD, of the Hamburg Centre for Pediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology, among other contributors, this research focuses on proposing clearly defined standards for appropriate outcomes of new treatment strategies for juvenile systemic sclerosis (jSSc). This need for clearly defined outcomes of treatment for jSSc coincides with an increased need for new treatments of the disease, as it is often associated with high morbidity and mortality.

In April, Jerry Vockley, MD, PhD, FACMG, chief of the Division of Genetic and Genomic Medicine and director of the Center for Rare Disease Therapy at UPMC Children’s, was published in Genetics in Medicine, an official journal of the American College of Medical Genetics. Titled “The evolving role of medical geneticists in the era of gene therapy: An urgency to prepare,” Dr. Vockley presents that the increasing role gene therapy will take in managing and treating rare diseases is rapidly turning the corner since its initial development in the late 1960s. 

In May, Daniel Weiner, MD, FAAP, FCCP, ATSF, pediatric pulmonologist at UPMC Children’s, and Erick Forno, MD, MPH, former director of the Pediatric Asthma Center and former co-director of the Severe Asthma Clinic at UPMC Children's, were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Their publication, “Race and Ethnicity in Pulmonary Function Test Interpretation: An Official American Thoracic Society Statement,” is the result of an American Thoracic Society (ATS) workshop and addresses the role of racial identifiers when evaluating and interpreting pulmonary function tests (PFT). 

In May, Jennifer Zarit, MD, IBCLC, FAAP, newborn hospitalist at UPMC Children’s, was selected to be the new medical director of the Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to providing pasteurized human milk from carefully screened donors to newborn babies in need. The Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank is part of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, which has been a leading organization for over 30 years. In this new role, Dr. Zarit hopes to “work towards expanding the awareness and availability of pasteurized donor breastmilk. One example is human ‘bridge’ milk that can be offered to help more mothers and babies realize their goal of exclusive breastfeeding when there is temporary mismatch of mother’s own milk supply in comparison to the infant’s medical needs.” 

In June, three pediatric physicians from UPMC Children’s received the UPMC Award for Commitment and Excellence in Service (ACES) award. Each year, fewer than 1% of UPMC staff from across the health system receive this honor and this year, of the 11 total winners, 4 were from UPMC Children’s:

  • Feras Alissa, MD, clinical director of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition and associate director of the Intestinal Care and Rehabilitation team at UPMC Children’s
  • Luigi Garibaldi, MD, clinical director of the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes at UPMC Children's
  • Cheryl Hillery, MD, clinical director of Hematology and director of the Pediatric Comprehensive Sickle Cell Program at UPMC Children’s

These physicians received the award for exceeding the high level of service that our patients, members, and the community have come to expect from UPMC.

News You Need

New Less Burdensome Screening Protocol at UPMC Children’s Uses Arginine Stimulation and Copeptin Levels to Guide Diagnosis

For the last few years, the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has been testing and gaining expertise in a new form of testing to help diagnose and differentiate between conditions causing excessive thirst and urination (also known as “the polyuria-polydipsia syndrome”), which include diabetes insipidus and primary polydipsia. The new testing protocol, which can be performed in the clinic in just a few hours is much less taxing on the patient and their family compared to the traditional water deprivation test that must be done in the hospital with an overnight admission and subjects children to many hours of thirst. Read more on UPMC Physician Resources >>

UPMC Children’s Physicians Once Again Take Part in White Coats Against Racism and Injustice Kneel

May 25, 2023, marked three years since the death of George Floyd after former Minneapolis police 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:

  • Chief John Moon, Original Freedom House Ambulance Service Member. Freedom House was the first emergency medical service in the United States to be staffed by paramedics with medical training beyond basic first aid.
  • Diane Hupp, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAP, President, Children’s
  • Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, MD, MPH, Associate Vice Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and EMS Medical Director, Children’s

The purpose of this event is to unify against hatred and violence based on race within our Black, Brown, and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.

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