Class Notes, Spring '23
Charles Gaush (PhD ’62) enlisted in the army in 1951, during the Korean War, and was deployed to Japan were he created pro-democracy propaganda that was translated into Russian and Korean. Gaush retired in 1995 after a career in teaching at the University of South Dakota and working in various microbiology and virology labs. His last position before retiring was with the American Red Cross in its blood lab outside of Rockville, Maryland. Today, he estimates he has nearly 800 titles in his personal library and that he’s read every one of those books. At 93, he names books about botany among his favorites. “I go straight to nonfiction,” he says.
While not a season ticket holder anymore, Don Hennon (MD ’63) keeps tabs on his beloved Panthers men’s basketball team. The Pitt Hall of Famer was a scoring legend from his days on the team in the ’50s and had a message for this year’s team: “Keep up the good work.” After retiring from full-time practice as a general surgeon, Hennon worked part-time up until last year conducting physical exams for military recruits at the United States Military Entrance Processing Command along Liberty Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh.
William Young (MD ’70) remembers a Grand Rounds talk shortly after the famed Pitt surgery chair Henry Bahnson completed one of the first heart transplants. Then-chair of orthopaedic surgery Albert Ferguson good-naturedly chimed in: “That Hank has become more skillful over the years.” Apparently Ferguson and Bahnson (both surgical giants and both Harvard educated) liked to joke with each other. Young went on to become an ob/gyn, training in Montreal before landing at Dartmouth, where he met another dynamic duo. He befriended Dartmouth undergrads Milton and Fred Ochieng’ on a service trip to Nicaragua; the young men were determined to become doctors and eventually go back to their home, Lwala, Kenya, to start a hospital. With the help of Young and others, including their sister, Grace Ochieng’, a nurse, they did so in 2007. Their story was chronicled in the documentary “Honoring a Father’s Dream: Sons of Lwala.” Young has also spent a great deal of time in Kosovo, working with USAID to establish newborn and obstetrics services.
For almost 40 years, Niranjana Parthasarathi (Internal Medicine Resident ’91) has lived with lupus; she was diagnosed at the age of 23. After residency, Parthasarathi experienced a major organ flare and struggled with kidney disease. She persevered though, practicing medicine full-time until she turned 50, as an assistant professor of clinical medicine and then associate professor at the University of Cincinnati. Forced to step away from full-time practice because of her illness, she wrote the book “Lupus: In the Jaws of the Wolf” to chronicle her experience and provide guidance and resources to patients and clinicians. Proceeds from the book’s sales go to the Lupus Research Alliance and the Lupus Foundation of America.
Peter Wenner’s (PhD ’93) cell biology lab at Emory University probes how circuits in the nervous system develop appropriate and inappropriate levels of excitability. In some neurodevelopmental disorders, appropriate levels of excitability are never established. The insights his team gleans should make it possible to therapeutically address and bring those levels back into alignment, he says. Wenner won the mentor of the year award in Emory’s Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences in 2019.
Daniel C. Jaffurs (PhD ’99, MD ’00), a pediatric plastic surgeon and medical director of craniofacial services at Children’s Health of Orange County (CHOC) and division chief of pediatric surgery at the University of California, Irvine, is back in school. He’s pursuing his master’s degree in health care administration at UCLA and plans to expand CHOC’s programs and service lines while improving existing programs. “It’s gratifying to work with people of a similar mindset,” Jaffurs says. “We’re all on a mission to provide the best care for the children of Orange County.”
Early in Ilene Ruhoy’s (MD ’00) medical career, she pursued a PhD in environmental toxicology and trained in pediatric and adult neurology at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital. Her own experience with a brain tumor influenced her clinical focus. She cofounded the Mount Sinai South Nassau Chiari Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes (EDS) Program in 2021 to treat patients with structural defects in the base of the skull and the cerebellum (Chiari malformations) and EDS, a group of inherited connective tissue disorders caused by abnormalities in the structure, production and/or processing of collagen. She continues to conduct research at that New York program while also serving as the medical director of Cascadia Complex Health in Seattle.
Nima Sharifi (MD ’01), director of the Genitourinary Malignancies Research Center and Kendrick Family Professor for Prostate Cancer Research at Cleveland Clinic, is part of a team that recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation on a possible treatment for castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), a lethal form of the disease. The research shows that blocking the epithelial and endothelial tyrosine kinase known as BMX could be a viable treatment strategy in men who are genetically predisposed to faster tumor development and shorter lifespans. About half of the men who develop CRPC have a genetic predisposition. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego are conducting a clinical trial to determine the efficacy of a drug that targets BMX.
Opeolu M. Adeoye (MD ’02), a physician-scientist specializing in emergency medicine and neurological emergencies, was elected to both the National Academy of Medicine and the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2022. His research focuses on how acute-care interventions influence outcomes after strokes, seizures and traumatic brain injuries. At the Washington University in St. Louis, he is the BJC HealthCare Distinguished Professor of Emergency Medicine and chair of emergency medicine. He’s also the chief medical officer of Sense Neuro Diagnostics, a company developing noninvasive scanners to monitor brain injury.
After completing his postdoctoral research in Cape Town, South Africa, Collin Diedrich (PhD ’12) came back to Pittsburgh to establish Learning Disabilities Association of Pennsylvania (LDA of PA) in 2018. As both the founder and president of the nonprofit, Diedrich advocates for adults and children who are neurodivergent. Motivated not only by his personal experience with learning disabilities but also his drive to help others, LDA of PA teaches students life skills through improv classes and multisensory science videos. Diedrich is also a researcher at Pitt, where he studies immunologic responses in HIV and tuberculosis. In 2022, he was named a Pittsburgh Magazine 40 Under 40 honoree.
—Michael Aubele, Rachel Bittner, Nicole Matthews, Erica Lloyd and Lynnette Tibbott