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A Generous Gift from a Grateful Family Establishes Pulmonary Education Endowed Fund

July 5, 2022

Ellen and Donald Bilgore have donated $500,000 to the divisions of General Medicine and Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine to establish the Donna Bilgore Robins Research, Education & Clinical Innovation Endowment. The fund will support education initiatives for junior faculty. The Bilgores are lifelong Rochester residents, and are extremely grateful for how Strong Memorial Hospital has cared for their daughter, Donna, all her life. 

At only six months old, Donna was diagnosed with severe asthma. She is now in her 60s, and as she points out, “I never have a day that’s asthma free.” During her childhood, her parents were very involved in her care, which included many trips to the hospital. 

Don had already developed a great patient/doctor relationship with his primary care doctor, Marc Berliant, M.D., who is now division chief of General Medicine. Together with Paul Levy, M.D., professor of Medicine in Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, and Augusto Litonjua, M.D., M.P.H., chief of Pediatric Pulmonology, they have worked with the Bilgore family for many years.

The endowed fund will also establish the Donna Bilgore Robins Teaching Day, for updates on education, training, treatment, and management of asthma and other airway diseases, to and by providers for patients, patients’ families, and their caregivers. 

To honor the Bilgore family and their generosity, the Pulmonary clinical care suite has been named after Donna Bilgore Robins, where a new plaque has recently been installed that includes the phrase “to breathe is to be free.” There is a similar plaque in her honor at the Mary Parkes Asthma Center.

Presented with the plaque, Donna said “I want to thank the University of Rochester Strong Memorial team who have helped to develop the focus of this fund. In particular, I want to recognize Dr. Levy, Dr. Berliant, Joe Lynch and Michael Fahy from Advancement. This is definitely one of the most memorable days of my life. I am humbled by the naming of this gift that recognizes my personal struggle.”

You, too, can donate to the division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine.

Researchers Receive $2.5 million NIH Grant to Study Potential Sepsis Drug Therapies

July 5, 2022

Every year, nearly 11 million people around the world die of sepsis, and there is currently no FDA approved drug to treat the condition. URMC researchers are out to change that.

When Anthony Pietropaoli, M.D., first met Minsoo Kim, Ph.D., over 15 years ago, they found they had common scientific and clinical interests, and started a fledgling translational research project combining a small cohort of septic patients with preclinical investigations using a mouse model of sepsis. In 2014, they earned a $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how immune cells would penetrate blood vessels. Fueled more recently by a URSMD Scientific Advisory Committee Faculty Pilot Incubator award, they have continued to build on that work and grow their collaborative sepsis research program.

This new grant from the NIH is for $2.5 million over four years, and will allow Pietropaoli, a professor of Medicine in Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, and Kim, the Dean’s Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, to conduct research for their ambitious proposal: determining whether a specific blood complement factor could be used as a drug treatment for sepsis.

With funding from previous grants and their intense study of blood markers, they discovered that the complement protein C1q, which occurs naturally in our blood and is one of the bacteria fighting molecules, has other functions, such as promoting resolution of inflammation. They aim to do a deep dive into C1q to see if harnessing its functions can lead to a new therapeutic treatment. 

Drug therapies for sepsis have been difficult to obtain so far because the patient population is so diverse. There is no one treatment for the wide variety of situations of septic patients.

“The goal of this new research,” said Pietropaoli, “is to determine whether the production of C1q by neutrophils in septic patients is an important prognostic marker in our cohort of critically ill patients with sepsis. If we can show this is true, independent of other things like age, and comorbidities, then we have something that might be a relevant target for therapy. Our preliminary work suggests that when neutrophils don't or can't produce C1q, they can't be effectively cleared, and thus they continue to promote organ failures and sepsis. We want to both prove that it's prognostically significant, and further investigate the reasons why neutrophil C1q is so important.”

Their work is also a very timely topic as we continue to see COVID cases in hospitals. “A lot of COVID patients,” said Kim, “they don’t really die because of the virus, they die because of the overall inflammation response. It’s not the virus that kills them, it’s what it does to their bodies, and a lot of COVID patients are dying of sepsis.”

Faculty from URMC Have Large Presence at ATS Conference

May 25, 2022

The American Thoracic Society (ATS) is the world's leading medical society dedicated to accelerating the advancement of global respiratory health through multidisciplinary collaboration, education, and advocacy. M. Patricia Rivera, M.D., division chief of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, is currently the president-elect of ATS and will assume the role of President in May 2023.

From May 13 – 18, 2022, the ATS held its annual conference in San Francisco, California. URMC had an exceedingly large presence with many faculty presenting talks, symposia, and research projects. Faculty were present from the division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, as well as Pediatric Pulmonology, Neonatology, and Environmental Medicine.

View the full list of presenters.

Daniel Lachant Awarded Research Grant to Study New Way to Monitor Pulmonary Hypertension

June 14, 2021

Daniel Lachant, DOPulmonary arterial hypertension is a rare, life-threatening disorder characterized by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. Current methods for diagnosing this condition can be cumbersome, expensive and not entirely reliable. Daniel Lachant, DO, Associate Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at Mary Parkes Center for Asthma, Allergy and Pulmonary Care, has been awarded a grant (URMC KL2 Scholars Award) to study whether cardiac effort (the number of heart beats required for a person to walk a given distance) is a more sensitive and reliable measure to monitor patients. As part of this project, Dr. Lachant will also develop a remote, mask-free assessment of cardiac effort and heart rate expenditure that patients can perform in the comfort of their own homes.

Daniel Croft Awarded K23 from NIEHS for Air Pollution Research

Monday, December 7, 2020

Daniel Croft, MD, MPHDaniel Croft, MD, MPH, has been awarded a K32 research grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to study the effect of air pollution on the immune response to respiratory viral infestions in adults. Respiratory viral infections are an important cause of hospitalization and death in adults, and we are concerned that exposure to outdoor air pollution may reduce the body’s ability to fight infection. This epidemiology study will examine the association between short-term exposure to outdoor air pollution concentrations and the immune system response to respiratory viral infection, in a population of adult patients hospitalized with severe respiratory viral infections. By studying this link between air pollution and respiratory viral infection, we can learn how to better counsel our patients to avoid specific pollutants in the short term to protect them against severe respiratory infection, while we contribute to decisions on air quality regulations.

Sarcoidosis Program Named Center of Excellence

December 7, 2020

We are extremely proud to announce the Comprehensive Sarcoidosis Program was recently named one of 14 programs in the nation—and 23 in the world—to earn Center of Excellence designation by the World& Association for Sarcoidosis and Other Granulomatous Disorders and the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research.

The team, led by advanced heart failure cardiologist Himabindu Vidula, M.D. and pulmonologist R. Matthew Kottmann, M.D., is the only multidisciplinary sarcoidosis center in the region, drawing patients from across the state.

“We have worked very hard to build a strong multidisciplinary center for patients with this complex disease and I am very proud of our entire team,” said Vidula, associate professor of Medicine, Cardiology.

Sarcoidosis causes inflammation of several organs, most commonly the lungs and lymph nodes. It also affects the heart, liver, kidneys, eyes and skin, creating damaging scars that lead to more serious problems.

“The sarcoid program includes experts from diverse specialties who provide the full complement of care these patients need,” said Kottman, associate professor of Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care.

The Center of Excellence designation follows detailed analysis of the program’s best practices, research, training and support for patients and specialists.

The program includes pulmonologists Irene Perillo and David Nagel, cardiac imaging specialist Ronald Schwartz, electrophysiologist Mehmet Aktas, radiologist David Dombroski, endocrinologist Inga Harbuz-Miller, nephrologist Catherine Moore, neurologist Jessica Robb, ophthalmologist Vamsi Gullapalli, and rheumatologist Christopher Palma as well as advanced heart failure nurse practitioner Megan Dierks and pulmonology nurse practitioner Tina Parmenter.

Inside Lab Investigating Mystery Illnesses Linked to Vaping

September 5, 2019

Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine researchers are investigating illnesses linked to cannabis vaping. "When the oil is heated, it forms an aerosol that's able to travel into the lung," says Daniel Croft, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of medicine. "From that very hot initial temperature, as it cools it can condense into the larger droplets and then stick to the walls and then coat the walls."

Dr. Croft was featured for this story on NBC Nightly News

New Interim Chief and Vice Chief Appointed for Pulmonary and Critical Care

April 11, 2019

Two new leaders have been appointed in the Department of Medicine’s Pulmonary and Critical Care Division. Augusto (Gus) Litonjua, M.D., M.P.H., has been named the division’s interim chief, and Anthony Pietropaoli, M.D., M.P.H., has been promoted to vice chief.

Litonjua will assume his interim role May 1st. He currently serves as Chief of the Pulmonary Division in the Department of Pediatrics. He also serves as a Professor of Pulmonology in the Department of Pediatrics and as a Professor of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care in the Department of Medicine.

As Vice Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Pietropaoli will move into an expanded role of developing academic and clinical programs in the division. He will continue to serve as Medical Director of the Medical Intensive Care Service and as a Professor of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine (SMD).

Patricia Sime Stepping Down as Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

January 8, 2019

The Department of Medicine will soon begin a search to replace Patricia Sime, M.D., F.R.C.P., vice-chair of Medicine for Research and division chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. She has been recruited to serve as Chair of Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, effective July 1.

Sime joined the faculty in 1999 and was named vice-chair in 2008 followed by division chief two years later. During her tenure, clinical and research faculty have grown substantially furthering the academic, education and research missions within the Department of Medicine. She is proud of the expansion of mentoring initiatives for junior trainees and faculty. Sime also assisted in the creation of a pilot research grant program that has been highly effective allowing several faculty members to successfully compete for new external funding.

Division Recognized for Specialty Program in Pulmonology and Treatment for COPD

August 14, 2018

US News & World Reports 2018-2019 America's Best Hospitals has recognized the division's adult specialty program in Pulmonology as well as its treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The Pulmonology specialty program was recognized as High Performing, which means that it scored in the top 10 percent of the nearly 5,000 hospitals analyzed but was not nationally ranked. Strong Memorial Hospital received the highest rating possible in its treatment of patients with COPD.  The scores were determined by numerous factors, including services and staff, volume of patients, and advanced technologies. Read about the other rankings and ratings at the URMC.

Patricia Sime Honored and Tapped for ATS Committee

April 19, 2018

The American Thoracic Society named Patricia Sime, M.D., F.R.C.P., to its Scientific Advisory Committee and presented her with the Parker B. Francis Award. The honor recognizes her outstanding contributions to the advancement of respiratory medicine and science.

Sime is Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Division, Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Medicine, and director of the Mary Parkes Center for Asthma, Allergy and Pulmonary Care. She also holds the C. Jane Davis and C. Robert Davis Distinguished Chair in Pulmonary Medicine.

She is an international leader in the clinical care of patients and their families with lung scarring and inflammatory diseases and leads a busy NIH-funded laboratory pursuing new therapies for pulmonary diseases.

David Kaufman Named Adult Critical Care Director

January 16, 2018

David Kaufman, M.D., professor of Surgery, has been named director of Adult Critical Care Services for Strong Memorial Hospital, effective Jan. 1. He replaces Michael Apostolakos, M.D., who was named chief medical officer last year.

In his new role, he will provide administrative oversight of adult intensive care units and the burn trauma unit, building a coordinated, collaborative ICU environment across UR Medicine. He will also chair the Critical Care Quality Council and the Resuscitation Committee.

Kaufman received his M.D. from Boston University School of Medicine and completed his residency and fellowships in both Critical Care and Medical Ethics at URMC. He joined the Department of Surgery in 1993. A specialist in Internal and Critical Care medicine, he is also a professor of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Medicine and Urology.

In conjunction with Kaufman’s appointment, Anthony P. Pietropaoli, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Medicine and director of the medical ICU, has been named associate director of adult critical care. Paritosh Prasad, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, has been named director of the surgical ICU. Both have been serving in those roles on an acting basis.

Michael J. Apostolakos to Serve as CMO of SMH and Highland

July 13, 2017

Michael J. Apostolakos, M.D., who has led Strong Memorial Hospital’s adult critical care program for 20 years, is being named chief medical officer of both Strong and Highland.

His appointment is pending approval from both URMC and Highland governance. Apostolakos will succeed Raymond Mayewski, MD, who stepped down June 30. As CMO, Dr. Apostolakos will oversee all matters related to medical staff affairs, clinical outcomes, patient safety and more.

Apostolakos is known regionally as an expert on sepsis. He has served on numerous state and national committees, including a stint as president of the New York State Thoracic Society, and he has repeatedly been listed as one of the Best Doctors in America.

In addition to his appointment as director of Adult Critical Care, Apostolakos is a professor of Medicine and director of the Internal Medicine/Critical Care Medicine Fellowship. He chairs both the Critical Care Quality Council and the Resuscitation Council, and he serves as director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit and medical co-director of the Respiratory Care Department.

Apostolakos won URMC’s Arthur W. Bauman Teaching Award twice and received our Emergency Medicine Resident Teaching Award three times. In 2004, he received a URMC Board Excellence Award.

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