Her colleagues have described her as a hidden gem, a well- kept secret, and even “human dynamite.” Dr. Janet Sparks, whose life ended suddenly in December 2017, had a career at URMC spanning more than three decades. Her accomplishments and legacy as both a researcher and mentor continue to impact those who had the chance to work alongside her.
Janet began her career as a medical technologist at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in medical technology and biology and, later, her Ph.D. While she ultimately pursued basic research, having a background in the clinical labs helped shape her perspective and understanding of disease.
Janet met her future husband, Dr. Charles (“Charlie”) Sparks, while she was working as a med tech at U. Penn. They were married in 1977, starting a longstanding personal and professional partnership. Both were hired onto the Pathology faculty at URMC where he worked primarily as a clinical pathologist and she ran the Sparks research lab.
The two collaborated on projects related primarily to cardiovascular diabetes. Their working relationship was built on mutual respect, explained Charlie, who says Janet was a devoted mother to their three children in addition to taking her work very seriously. Having the opportunity to work as a husband-wife team was, as he says, a privilege.
“When two people work together that closely, it could be good or bad,” said Charlie. “We would only argue about science so that by the time we got home, there was no time to argue about anything else.”
They continued this work after moving to Florida and split time between living there and at their longtime Pittsford home. At the time of her death (related to complications related to a myocardial infarction) the pair had a research collaboration with the University of South Florida. Janet had submitted an NIH grant that, at the time of this writing, was still awaiting approval. Charlie says he hopes to continue the work in her honor.
“I felt very good about the research we were doing and I would like to see it completed,” he said.
Across the University, many former colleagues and trainees have shared their memories of Janet – describing her as kind, driven, and a dedicated scientist.
One of her many mentees over the years was Dr. Jim Corsetti. He first crossed paths with her as a resident. When she saw that he was scrambling to find time to complete research experiments, she gladly jumped in to help, volunteering her time and lab space to run experiments for him.
“There wasn’t an awful lot in it for her except the satisfaction of helping somebody and getting them to a place where their career was more established,” said Corsetti, who credits her with teaching him the many nuances of lipids and lipoproteins, which he continued to explore during his career.
“To degree that I’ve gotten good in those areas, it certainly was she that brought me there,” he said. “She was so good in the lab and very generous with her time.”
Janet also mentored Dr. Linda Schiffhauer during a teaching fellowship. In addition to being a role model, Schiffhauer was happy to call her a friend.
“She was a great mentor and advocate for me in so many ways when, in my career, I probably needed it the most,” said Schiffhauer. “She was all that you could ever want in a mentor.”
Those who knew her remember Janet’s enthusiasm for nutrition and exercise. She would get up before dawn to make coffee and hit the gym before heading into work. Her energy was contagious.
“She was most passionate about her research,” said Joanne Cianci, who worked in the Sparks lab for more than 20 years. “Her work was a huge part of what she was, but she cared about people and established a culture of complete trust.”
Janet was very well known internationally, being listed in both Who’s Who in America and the world. There will be a memorial tribute in The Journal of Lipid Research. She sat on numerous review committees, including for the NIH. She was quiet and humble which is one reason why she was better known internationally than locally.
In spite of her own skill and accomplishments, those who worked alongside Janet in the lab say she was a very hands-on instructor; a daily coach who always sought to encourage and elevate her trainees.
This quality left an impression on many, including Dr. Thuy Phung who had Janet as her PhD thesis advisor and worked in Sparks lab for four years.
Phung had never heard of Janet until she was sitting in the office of the MD/PhD director at the time. He suggested working with Janet because she was a well-hidden secret. What did he mean by that?
“He said that she was highly valuable and skillful, but not well known,” said Phung. “She was talented and humble as well, which to me is a virtue.”
In this way, she modeled what it meant to be a good scientist, fueled by constant curiosity, Phung explained.
“She was doing experiments even until the last days.”
This story appeared in the April 2018 edition of the Pathways to Excellence Newsletter.
Members of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine will join thousands of pathologists from across the globe to present abstracts at the 2018 meeting of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology (USCAP).
The meeting, which is the largest of its kind in the world, will be held March 17-23 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Below is a schedule of events that include URMC faculty and residents. In addition to presenting research, we are pleased to again host a cocktail reception for alumni and friends at the conference on Monday, March 19 (details below). All are welcome!
For general USCAP meeting information, please visit their website.
PP – Pan Pacific Vancouver
FW – Fairmont Waterfront
FPR – Fairmont Pacific Rim
PH – Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront
SUNDAY, MARCH 18, 2018
University of Rochester Fellowship Fair
5:30 - 7:30 PM
Table #4, VCC West Ballroom D
MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018
8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Real Time Cytopathology Feedback (RTCF) versus traditional Rapid On-Site Evaluation (ROSE) for Endobronchial Ultrasound Guided Fine-Needle Aspiration (EBUS-FNA) of mediastinal lymph nodes (MLN). Alexandra Danakas, Carolyn E Jones, John Plavnicky, Christian G Peyre, Sierra Kovar, Joseph J Wizorek, Mary Beth Kearns, Donna Russell, Shawn Evans, Luis De Las Casas.
HIV Enteropathy: Real or Myth? A Histologic Review. ILKe Nalbantoglu1, Raul S Gonzalez.
Poster Session I
9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
74 Significance of Clinicopathologic Parameters, Including Margin Distance and Tumor Budding, on Local Disease Recurrence Following Esophageal Endoscopic Mucosal Resection. Phoenix Bell, ILKe Nalbantoglu, Justin Cates, Raul S Gonzalez.
85 Perineal Carcinoma Cuniculatum: Histology Review of 38 Cases. Dongwei Zhang, Raul S Gonzalez, Michael Feely, Hwajeong Lee, Kavita Umrau, Daniela Allende, Dipti Karamchandani, Michael P Zaleski, Jingmei Lin, Maria Westerhoff, Xuchen Zhang, Lindsay Alpert, Jinping Lai, Xiuli Liu.
171 NKX3.1 Expression in Salivary Gland Neoplasms: A Marker for Mucinous Differentiation and a Potential Diagnostic Pitfall. Anna-Karoline Israel, Abberly Lott Limbach.
273 Extent of Lesional Cell Spread in Hepatic Epithelioid Hemangioendothelioma: Implications for the Diagnosis in Minimal Samples. Diana Agostini-Vulaj, Burcin Pehlivanoglu, Sharon Weiss, Alyssa Krasinskas, Michael Feely, Jason L Hornick5, Justin Cates, N. Volkan Adsay, Raul S Gonzalez.
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Moderators:Timothy D'Alfonso and Megan Troxell
Room: VCC West 211
A Novel Detection Methodology for HER2 Protein Quantitation in Clinical Samples: Correlation with Pathologic Response to Trastuzumab-Based Neoadjuvant Therapy. Bradley M. Turner, Brandon Buscaglia, Hideki Goda, Loralee Mcmahon, Takako Natori, Hisatake Okada, Armen Soukiazian, Yasushi Nakano, David Hicks.
Moderators:Tracy George and Annette Kim
Room: VCC West 208 - 209
Microarray CGH-SNP Analysis Detects Frequent Chromosomal Abnormalities Indicating Clonal Cytopenia(s) in Patients With Indeterminate Bone Marrow Dysplasia - An Institutional Study Of 94 Cases. Nisha Patel, Michelle Pitch, Andrew G Evans, M. Anwar Iqbal.
Moderators: Dhanpat Jain and Lei Zhao
Room: VCC West 224
Does ASS1 Immunohistochemistry Predict an Increased Risk of Hemorrhage in Hepatocellular Adenomas? Heidi Lehrke, Taofic Mounajjed, Raul S Gonzalez, Riyam T Zreik, Laura J Denham, Rory Smoot, Daniela Allende, Bita V Naini, Roger K Moreira, Rondell Graham.
Poster Session II
1:00 PM - 4:30 PM
123 Immunohistochemistry of Androgen Receptor and Related Signaling Pathways in Bladder Cancer as Prognosticators. Satoshi Inoue, Taichi Mizushima, Hiroki Ide, Takashi Kawahara, Guiyang Jiang, George J Netto, Hiroshi Miyamoto.
191 Acinic Cell Carcinoma of Salivary Gland Expresses Low Levels of PD-L1 with Retained MMR Proteins: A Potential Biomarker for Therapy. Abberly Lott Limbach.
How to Get Started and Succeed in Academics: Mistakes We Made and What We Wish We’d Known on Day One
Room: VCC WEST 302-304
- Raul S. Gonzalez, MD, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY
- Rondell P. Graham, MBBS, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
- Laura W. Lamps, MD, University of Michigan Hospitals, Ann Arbor, MI
- Rhonda K. Yantiss, MD, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY
Description: Making the leap from training to a career in academic medicine is daunting for many pathology residents and fellows. As there are few resources specifically devoted to transitioning from pathology training to academic practice, this Special Course would offer trainees and new academic attendings an in-depth look at the first 1-5 years of academic practice. Through the experience of the faculty, participants will hear about mistakes made along the way, lessons learned in areas where there is little formal training, and strategies that have led to successes. The program will discuss useful approaches to securing an academic position, tips, and pitfalls for the first year, and positioning oneself for academic promotion. The program will also discuss how to develop an early career research program, balancing academic activity and clinical work, and avoiding burnout.
University of Rochester Medical Center Alumni Reception
5:30 - 7:30 PM
Room: Fairmont Waterfront, MacKenzie Rm. II
No RSVP required, all are welcome!
TUESDAY, MARCH 20
Poster Session III
9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
101 Should Ki67 Immunohistochemistry Be Performed on All Lesions in Multifocal Small Intestinal Neuroendocrine Tumors? Numbereye Numbere, Aaron Huber, Chanjuan Shi, Justin Cates, Raul S Gonzalez
104 Mesenteric Tumor Deposits Arising from Small Intestinal Neuroendocrine Tumors are Frequently Associated with Sclerosis and IgG4-Expressing Plasma Cells. Jordan Andrew Roberts, Raul S Gonzalez, Frank Revetta, Chanjuan Shi.
117 Clinical Outcome of Perineal Carcinoma Cuniculatum in a Cohort of 38 Cases. Dongwei Zhang, Raul S Gonzalez, Michael Feely, Kavita Umrau, Hwajeong Lee, Daniela Allende, Dipti Karamchandani, Michael P Zaleski, Jingmei Lin, Maria Westerhoff, Xuchen Zhang, Lindsay Alpert, Jinping Lai, Xiuli Liu.
154 Liver Histology in Septic Patients: Is It All About Ductular Cholestasis? Caroline Bsirini, Raul S Gonzalez.
1:00 PM - 2:45 PM
Moderators: Deepti Dhall and Laura Lamps
Room: Vancouver Convention Centre West 224
Mesenteric Tumor Deposit Number, But Not Size, Affects Prognosis of Patients with Small Intestinal Well- Differentiated Neuroendocrine Tumors. Raul S Gonzalez, Justin Cates, Chanjuan Shi.
Poster Session IV
1:00 PM - 4:30 PM
40 Quantitative Measurement of Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-2 (HER2) Protein Expression in ‘Classical’ and ‘Non-Classical’ FISH Categories: A Comparative Study. Jian Shen, Brandon Buscaglia, Hideki Goda, Bradley M. Turner, Hisatake Okada, Loralee Mcmahon, Jill Henry, Yasushi Nakano, David Hicks.
102 Lymphocytic Esophagitis in Adult Crohn’s Disease is Characterized by Younger Age, Lower Incidence of Reflux Symptoms, and a CD4 Predominant Infiltrate. Elizabeth Yiru Wu, Deepa T Patil, Michael Drage, Amitabh Srivastava.
116 What Remains of Appendiceal Adenocarcinoma After LAMN and Goblet Cell Neoplasms are Excluded? Raul S Gonzalez, Joseph Misdraji, Rhonda Yantiss
132 Clinicopathologic Analysis of Benign Lipomatous Lesions of the Colon. Sam L Barron, Raul S Gonzalez
136 Interobserver agreement in the diagnosis of anal dysplasia. Sohaib Abu-Farsakh, Michael Drage, Aaron Huber, Bradley M. Turner, Sharlin Varghese, Xi Wang, Christa Whitney- Miller, Raul S Gonzalez.
150 Significance of Method of Lymph Node Involvement in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma. Diana Agostini-Vulaj, Justin Cates, Richard Dunne, Raul S Gonzalez.
151 Low Union (Lower Insertion of Cystic Duct into Common Hepatic Duct) as a Major Etiologic Factor in the Development of Pancreatic, Distal Bile Duct and Ampullary Cancers: An analysis of 860 pancreatobiliary resections. Takashi Muraki, Michelle Reid, Raul S Gonzalez, Aarti Sekhar, Bahar Memis, Burcin Pehlivanoglu, Yue Xue, Pardeep Mittal, Juan M Sarmiento, David Kooby, Shishir Maithel, Ken Cardona, Bassel El-Rayes, Alyssa Krasinskas, Gwen Lomberk, Raul Urrutia, Kathleen K Christians, Susan Tsai, Douglas Evans, N. Volkan Adsay, Alpharetta.
162 Loss of ARID1A Expression Predicts Worse Overall Survival in Patients with Resected Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma and Is Associated with Inactivating Mutations of the ARID1A Gene. Annacarolina da Silva, Vicente Morales-Oyarvide, Douglas A Rubinson, Margaret M Kozak, Wenjia Wang, Diana Agostini-Vulaj, Aaron Huber, Daniel T Chang, Thomas E Clancy, Aram F Hezel, Shuji Ogino, Brian M Wolpin, Jonathan A Nowak.
202 Clinical Significance of Perivesical Lymph Node Metastasis in Radical Cystectomy for Bladder Cancer. Meenal Sharma, Jerome Jean-Gilles, Hiroshi Miyamoto.
261 AID-Generated Acquired IGH Glycosylation Sites but Not Somatic Hypermutation Rate Differentiate Low-grade versus High-grade Follicular Lymphoma. Chad Hudson, Janice Spence, Diana G Adlowitz, Richard Burack.
262 Increased AID-Generated Acquired Glycosylation Sites in Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphomas with IGH-BCL2 and CD10 Expression. Chad Hudson, Janice Spence, Diana G Adlowitz, Madalynn Bryant, Richard Burack.
277 Unexpectedly High Prevalence of Cystoisospora belli in Acalculous Gallbladders of Younger Patients. Mushal Noor, Christa Whitney-Miller, Laura W Lamps, Raul S Gonzalez, Aaron Huber, Jennifer J Findeis-Hosey, Zhongren (David) Zhou, Lawrence J Saubermann, Rebecca L Abell, Philip J Katzman, Michael Drage.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21
Poster Session V
9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
103 Relationships Among Histologic Characteristics, Molecular Phenotypes, and Patient Outcomes in Mucinous Colorectal Carcinoma. Raul S Gonzalez, Justin Cates, Mary Kay Washington.
149 Evaluation of Histologic Changes in the Livers of Patients With Early and Late Hepatic Artery Thrombosis. Michael J Lee, Raul S Gonzalez.
243 Autoimmune Disease and Lymphoma: A Method for Large Scale Search of the Electronic Medical Record Enables Correlation of Clinical Parameters with Type and Risk of Lymphoproliferative Disease. Genevieve M Crane, Amy Duffield.
265 Next Generation Sequencing-Assays Detect B-Lymphocyte Clonality in Formalin-Fixed Paraffin Embedded Specimens of Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma without Microdissection. Cynthia Reyes Barron, Andrew Campbell, Paul G Rothberg, Richard Burack, Yi Ding DING4 1University of Rochester Medical Center, Victor, NY, 2University of Rochester Medical Center, 3University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, 4University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY
350 Is the Rate of Frozen Section Discordance Affected by Subspecialty Sign Out? Joseph H Blitman, Brandon Buscaglia, Christa Whitney- Miller, David Hicks, Aaron Huber.
Poster Session VI
1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
162 MCM7 Expression Correlates With Tumor Size and Ki67 Index in Well-Differentiated Small Intestinal Neuroendocrine Tumors. Zhongren (David) Zhou, Numbereye Numbere, Aaron Huber, Chanjuan Shi, Raul S Gonzalez.
167 Expression of TIM3 (CD366) and LAG3 (CD223) in Colorectal Carcinoma-associated Inflammatory Infiltrate Suggest Novel Therapeutic Targets for Immune Checkpoint Blockade. Michael Drage, Max Klapholz, Ana C Anderson, Amitabh Srivastava.
280 L1 CAM – A Potential Biomarker for Recurrent and Aggressive Endometrial Carcinoma. Ioana Moisini, James R Richter, Tanya Pulver, Raphael Hellwegg, Boris Winterhoff, Molly Klein.
318 Lack of MUM1 Expression Characterizes B-Lymphoblastic Leukemia/Lymphoma. Chad Hudson, Roula Katerji, Richard Burack.
THURSDAY, MARCH 22
7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Secrets from the Consult Files: Puzzling Cases Solved Piece by Piece
Room: VCC WEST 301-305
Moderator: Michael Torbenson, MD, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
- Maria Westerhoff, MD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
- Tom Smyrk, MD, Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN
- ILKe Nalbantoglu, MD, Yale University, New Haven, CT
- Raul Gonzalez, MD, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY
- Oyedele (Dele) Adeyi, MD, University of Toronto, ON, Canada