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September 2016

Alum Blood Banker, Dr. Triulzi, a Leader in Transfusion Safety


Dr. Darrell Triulzi, M.D., gets excited when thinking about the direct impact his work has on patients.

The former URMC Pathology resident (1986-1990) now serves as the director of Transfusion Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Department of Pathology and medical director of the Institute for Transfusion Medicine.

Triulzi MDHe originally intended to work in internal medicine but switched to pathology during his second year of residency. After a rotation in the Blood Bank, Triulzi says he found his calling. 

“I immediately fell in love with the Blood Bank because it combined clinical medicine and pathology," he said. "It was one of those niches where you could do both clinical and laboratory medicine, and there aren’t many places where you can do both.”

After residency, he completed a fellowship at Johns Hopkins University and later joined the faculty at University of Pittsburgh, where he's worked for the last 25 years. His driving inspiration is finding ways to improve patient care and safety in transfusions, and a practical way to do that is by participating in clinical research. 

He has taken part in a number of multi-institutional NIH-funded clinical trials since the 1990s. These studies have addressed such questions as: Will HIV patients who receive transfusions progress to AIDS more quickly? The findings said no. Or, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine asked, what’s the proper platelet dosing strategy for cancer patients? What about the storage duration of blood in cardiac surgery patients?

A follow up study published in Blood questioned whether it made a difference if platelets are apheresis or pooled, fresh or stored or ABO matched. When results showed that it did not, a number of providers responded positively, saying this information helped them strategically manage platelet inventory. Triulzi most recently began working on an NIH study examining the use of an antifibrinolytic agent to reduce bleeding in cancer patients.

He is co-chair of a multidisciplinary health system-wide patient blood management (PBM) committee at UPMC alongside fellow co-chairs, an anesthesiologist and a trauma surgeon. Like many PBM groups across the U.S. the committee has worked to promote restrictive transfusion practices in clinical settings.

While blood transfusions can be life-saving, there are safety risks linked to using them. Physicians are therefore encouraged to only administer transfusions when absolutely necessary for the patient. Triulzi says this effort is having a real impact in recent years as UPMC has reduced total transfusions by more than 30 percent. 

“I’ve always enjoyed taking care of patients and the clinical side of medicine,” said Triulzi. “I think one of the reasons I chose blood banking is because it’s a consultative service to the clinicians that’s not so much looking at slides like most pathologists do. There is a more outward focus.” He added, “Most physicians at the hospital think that I’m a hematologist as opposed to a pathologist, and I take that as a compliment.”

Triulzi has fond memories of his time in Rochester, where he met his wife Mary, a dietician. He continues to keep in contact with longtime mentor, Dr. Neil Blumberg, director of Clinical Pathology, and credits Blumberg with triggering his interest in academic pursuit within his career.

An Albany area native, he and his wife have three children, Leah, 23, Ben, 20, and Sam, 15. In his free time Triulzi enjoys studying American and European history, attending University of Pittsburgh football and basketball games, and playing fantasy football. 



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