SALLY WENZEL, MD
Director of the Asthma and Environmental Lung Health Institute
Dr. Sally Wenzel completed her M.D. degree at the University of Florida. Following her residency in internal medicine at Wake Forest University and her fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, she spent 19 years at National Jewish Health and the University of Colorado before moving to the University of Pittsburgh. She has received numerous national and international awards from the American Thoracic Society and the European Respiratory Society for her work in asthma. She is currently Director of the University of Pittsburgh Asthma and Environmental Lung Health Institute at UPMC and Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. She holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Environmental Health.
Dr. Wenzel has a passion for understanding and improving the treatment of asthma, in particular severe asthma. She has promoted severe asthma as a complex disease and her studies of asthma phenotypes have led the field in understanding these complexities. Dr. Wenzel has developed a strong translational program to study the pathobiology of severe asthma and its phenotypes (or subtypes), utilizing human cells from human patients and controls. She is increasingly interested in the role of environmental pollution and the associated health disparities in asthma outcomes. Dr. Wenzel is currently Co-Principal Investigator (with Dr. Anuradha Ray) on a large scale NIH funded program grant to understand mechanisms of severe asthma to improve treatment. She has been awarded the European Respiratory Society Presidential Award. Additionally, she received the American Thoracic Society Breathing for Life Award and Amberson Lectureship (given for lifelong scientific achievement).
Meet Our Physicians
JUAN C. CELEDON, MD, DrPH
Dr. Juan Celedón obtained his medical degree from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá (Colombia). He served an Internship in Internal Medicine at Lincoln Hospital (New York Medical College, NY), a residency in Internal Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center (Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York) and a Fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Medicine at Brown University Hospitals (Providence, RI). Following his clinical training, Dr. Celedón completed a Research Fellowship in Respiratory Diseases at the Channing Laboratory of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, while also obtaining a doctoral degree in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Dr. Celedón is the Niels K. Jerne Professor of Pediatrics; Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Human Genetics; and Division Chief of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. His research goals are to identify genetic and environmental determinants of airway diseases, particularly in racial/ethnic minorities. Dr. Celedón leads NIH-funded projects on the “omics” and epidemiology of asthma and has authored or co-authored over 350 publications.
ERICK FORNO, MD, MPH
Dr. Erick Forno is the Director of the Pediatric Asthma Center at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (CHP) and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Forno obtained his M.D. degree from Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru. Following residency in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Colorado, he completed fellowship in Pediatric Pulmonology at Boston Children’s Hospital and an MPH at the Harvard School of Public Health. He has received the Robert Mellins Award from the Pediatrics Assembly of the American Thoracic Society (ATS), the international Klosterfrau Award for his research on asthma, and the Gale and Ira Drukier Prize in Children’s Health Research Award from Weill Cornell Medicine.
Dr. Forno’s overarching research interests are the epidemiology, genetic epidemiology, and genomics of asthma. He is particularly focused on the effects of obesity and adiposity on childhood asthma and lung function. He co-directs the Severe Asthma Program at CHP and leads the CHP Asthma Registry. He is currently PI in an R01 grant from the NHLBI to study obese asthma and a grant from the NSF to develop mobile technology to monitor airway patency and lung function.
DEBORAH GENTILE, MD
Dr. Deborah Gentile is board certified in allergy and immunology and is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of allergy, asthma and immune disorders in infants, children and adults. She completed medical school, pediatric residency, and allergy/immunology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. She is now Medical Director of St. Francis University’s Masters of Physician Assistant Science Program, and Medical Director of the non-profit Community Partners in Asthma Care. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Gentile’s current research efforts focus on evaluating asthma outcomes and triggers in residents from environmental justice communities in our region. Dr. Gentile has authored more than 70 publications and is the recipient of numerous awards for her research efforts. She is past president of her local and state allergy societies and is a member of numerous professional organizations. Dr. Gentile is funded by The Heinz Endowments to characterize the impact of environmental triggers on regional asthma prevalence and outcomes. Her work demonstrated a high prevalence of asthma and poorly controlled disease among school children residing near point sources of air pollution in Allegheny County, and a near doubling of acute outpatient and emergency department visits for asthma exacerbations in adults residing near the site of an industrial disaster which resulted in exceedances of air pollution limits over a several month period.
ALLYSON LARKIN, MD
Dr. Allyson Larkin is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in the division of Allergy and Immunology. She attended medical school at the University of Pittsburgh followed by an Internal Medicine Residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. She did her Allergy/Immunology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center/Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and is board certified in Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Dr. Larkin currently serves as the Clinical Director of the UPMC CHP Pediatric Asthma Center. She co-directs the UPMC CHP Difficult to Treat Asthma Clinic with Dr. Erick Forno. She chairs the asthma education committee at the UPMC CHP Asthma Stakeholders Group and sits on the Allegheny County Asthma Task Force. She is a past president of the Pennsylvania Allergy and Asthma Association, and an active member in the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee as well as the UPMC CHP Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee Division Representative for Allergy and Immunology. Dr. Larkin received the 2022 UPMC CHP Asthma Champion Award and has been named as a Top Doctor in Pittsburgh Magazine.
MERRITT L. FAJT, MD
Dr. Merritt Fajt is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Associate Program Director of the Allergy-Immunology fellowship program. Dr. Fajt completed her undergraduate education at Duke University in Durham, NC where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and graduated cum laude. She attended medical school at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA followed by an Internal Medicine Residency at the Pennsylvania State University Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA. She then completed fellowship in Allergy-Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center/Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh before joining the faculty in 2010. Dr. Fajt’s clinical interests include asthma, environmental, food and drug allergies, and immunologic disorders. She sees patients in the Comprehensive Lung Center and enjoys teaching and working with residents and fellows. Since the start of her fellowship, she has been conducting translational research on severe asthma, including the role of the mast cell in asthma pathogenesis. She enjoys participating in various asthma community outreach programs. Dr. Fajt also enjoys cooking, gardening, and playing tennis.
MARC C GAUTHIER, MD
After the completion of his B.A. in Classical Studies and Chemistry in 2005, Dr. Marc Gauthier stayed at Vanderbilt for medical school, completing his M.D. in 2009. Dr. Gauthier then came to Pittsburgh for his residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. After completing residency, Dr. Gauthier spent a year as a hospitalist with the Pulmonary Stepdown Service at UPMC Presbyterian and covering nights in the ICU at UPMC East before proceeding with his fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at UPMC. He completed fellowship and joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2016.
Since starting fellowship, Dr. Gauthier has pursued his research interests in severe asthma. His research focuses on the role of Type 1 inflammation in asthma including how Type 1 inflammation interacts with other inflammatory pathways and how this type of inflammation contributes to asthma severity and corticosteroid resistance. During his time away from his clinical and research duties, Dr. Gauthier enjoys baseball and soccer as well as improving his cooking skills.
ANDREJ PETROV, MD
Dr. Andrej Petrov is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Section Chief of Allergy in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine (PACCM | Department of Medicine | University of Pittsburgh). Dr. Petrov treats patients with systemic and airway allergic diseases and adult primary and secondary immunodeficiency syndromes. He leads the Upper Airway Exercise Breathing Center at UPMC (Exercise-Induced Laryngeal Obstruction | UPMC – Pittsburgh, PA) that specializes in the diagnosis of vocal cord dysfunction and exercise induced laryngeal obstruction.
RICHARD RAMONELL, MD
Dr. Richard Ramonell is a Clinical Instructor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Ramonell completed his undergraduate education at the University of Florida before attending medical school at the Florida State University College of Medicine. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Emory University where he also served as Chief Medical Resident. He then completed a fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Emory University before joining the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Ramonell has a clinical interest in the care of patients with severe asthma and related allergic and eosinophilic disorders. He sees patients in the Asthma and Environmental Lung Health Institute in the UPMC Comprehensive Lung Center. In addition to his clinical practice, he studies the immunobiology of patients with severe asthma. Currently, he is working on understanding the role of a unique memory T cell subset, T effector memory cells re-expressing CD45RA (TEMRAs), in the pathogenesis of severe asthma. Dr. Ramonell is currently funded by a prestigious Parker. B Francis Fellowship. He has received multiple awards including election to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and an American Society for Clinical Investigation Emerging-Generation Award.
Meet Our Researchers
JEANINE M. BUCHANICH, PhD, MEd, MPH
Dr. Jeanine Buchanich is Associate Dean for Research at the School of Public Health and Research Associate Professor of Biostatistics. She has been engaged in occupational and environmental health research for more than 25 years. Her occupational health studies had special focus on respiratory cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Most recently, she has studied the health impacts of oil and gas development in Southwestern Pennsylvania. She is the Principal Investigator for a Pennsylvania Department of Health study investigating the associations between hydraulic fracturing in SWPA and asthma exacerbations. She is a four-time alumna of the University of Pittsburgh and has lived here all her life.
JAMES P. FABISIAK, PhD
Dr. James Fabisiak received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology at the Pennsylvania State University School of Medicine at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. He went on to post-doctoral training at the University of Vermont and was the recipient of a Parker B. Francis Fellowship in Pulmonary Biology and Respiratory Medicine. He moved to the University of Pittsburgh, and eventually the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health where he is an Associate Professor.
Although beginning as a mechanistic toxicologist studying the cellular and molecular responses of injury, inflammation, repair, Dr. Fabisiak has “expanded his portfolio” to include public health community-based activities such as studying public health risks associated with point source air pollution, unconventional natural gas drilling, and marine oil spills. He serves as the Director for the Center of Healthy Environments and Communities and authored several reports and peer-review manuscripts examining community air quality and health in Southwest PA.
SAGAR KALE, PhD
Dr. Sagar Kale is a research scientist in the division of Pulmonary Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, School of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. in Biotechnology from CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi, India in 2016, where he studied the role of protease allergens in initiation and exacerbation of allergic responses in the airway mucosa.
Working with Dr. Anuradha Ray, he has been involved in developing precision mouse models that mimic human severe asthma both phenotypically and physiologically employing multiple state-of the art immunological techniques to better understand aberrant immune responses in severe asthma. Currently, Dr. Kale’s research is focused on delineating the molecular and cellular underpinnings of steroid refractory severe asthma. The findings in his studies highlight the role of different immunologic pathways, which may operate individually or in conjunction with other pathways, in the manifestation of the steroid resistance observed in severe asthma. These studies will help shed light on novel targets involved in both type 2- and type 1-dominant severe asthma.
SEYED MEHDI NOURAIE, MD, PhD
Dr. Mehdi Nouraie received his M.D. and Ph.D. of Epidemiology from Tehran University of Medical Sciences. He was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine, University of Tehran in where he spent two years studying the epidemiology of chronic diseases including GI cancers. He spent a few months as a research scholar in National Cancer Institute, Bethesda in 2003. Then, he pursued a faculty position in the Digestive Disease Center where he was the chief epidemiologist studying the GI diseases. In 2007, he joined Howard University. He worked for 8 years at Howard University as a biostatistician and Assistant Professor where he collaborated in many national and international studies to investigate the clinical characteristics and cardiopulmonary complications of chronic diseases in African Americans. In 2016, he joined the Division of Pulmonary, Asthma and Critical Care Medicine at University of Pittsburgh where he serves as a faculty biostatistician and research methodologist. Currently, he is a member of American Thoracic Society and is collaborating with multiple clinical and translational research projects to study the natural history of chronic pulmonary diseases, their casual pathways, biomarker discovery. He has been the PI of a study to investigate the impact of air pollution in patients with chronic pulmonary disease.
TIMOTHY B. ORISS, PhD
Dr. Tim Oriss received his MS and PhD degrees from the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology in the School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh in 1988 and 1993, respectively. He has had a longstanding interest in immunology and was appointed as faculty in the research stream prior to joining the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine in 2001, where he currently holds the rank of Research Associate Professor. Dr. Oriss specializes in cellular immunology and has amassed considerable expertise in various forms and applications of flow cytometry, including state-of-the-art spectral (high dimensional) flow cytometry, as well as cell sorting.
During his time in PACCM working in the laboratories of Drs. Anuradha and Prabir Ray, Dr. Oriss has contributed to investigations of immunologic aspects of numerous lung conditions, but has been primarily focused on asthma, with particular emphasis on the most severe forms of the disease. Using both established and novel murine models the research group has sought to unravel fundamental pathways involving antigen-presenting dendritic cells and their vital role in the balance between allergic airway inflammation and immunologic tolerance. In recent years, a considerable portion of his efforts have been directed towards human steroid-refractory severe asthma through participation in the Immune Mechanisms of Severe Asthma (IMSA) project. As part of this work, mass cytometry time of flight (CyTOF) was used to identify potentially important immune cell types in the lung, along with additional studies aimed at elucidating gene expression networks unique to severe asthma and other forms of the condition. This work is ongoing at a more detailed, single cell level with the goal of identifying immunologic pathways that are potentially amendable to therapeutic interventions tailored to patients in an individualized fashion.
ANURADHA RAY, PhD
Dr. Anuradha Ray is a Professor of Medicine and Endowed Chair of Lung Immunology in Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She also holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Immunology. Dr. Ray received her Ph.D. from Calcutta University in India and underwent postdoctoral training at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY and at Rockefeller University in New York. She was on the faculty at Rockefeller University and at Yale University between the years 1990 and 2001 before moving to the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Ray’s early research led to the identification of a central mechanism underlying the anti-inflammatory effects of corticosteroids and a key molecular regulator, GATA-3, that drives Th2 cell development and promotes allergic asthma. The primary goal of Dr. Ray’s current research is to understand immune mechanisms that drive severe steroid-refractory asthma that incurs more than 28 billion dollars in healthcare costs in the US. Along these lines, she and her collaborators have described the complexity of immune response in the airways of severe asthmatics using advanced tools of immunology such as mass cytometry and high dimensional flow cytometry in combination with RNA-seq approaches. These studies have identified an unexpected deleterious role of Type 1 inflammation/IFN-g in a subset of severe asthma patients driving steroid resistance and potentially inflammaging, which she is pursuing further in ongoing research. Over the years, she has mentored multiple physician scientists, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. Her research has been continuously funded by multiple grants from the National institutes of Health (NIH) that include R01, SCCOR, P01 and R35 grants. She recently served as a member of the Advisory Council of the National institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the NIH. She has received scientific achievement awards from the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) and the Chancellor’s distinguished research award from the University of Pittsburgh.
PRABIR RAY, PhD
Dr. Prabir Ray is a Professor of Medicine and Endowed Chair of Lung Immunology in Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He also holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Immunology. He received his Ph.D. from Calcutta University in India. He received postdoctoral training at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY and at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute in New York. He was on the faculty at Yale University between 1990 and 2001 before joining the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Ray is a basic/translational scientist with a primary research interest in host defense mechanisms against respiratory pathogens. He pioneered the development of inducible cell-specific transgenic mice in the early years of his career and using this system showed an important role for the growth factor KGF in protection from lung epithelial cell death during lung injury. One key area of his research interest over the years has been to understand immunoregulatory mechanisms that protect from acute lung injury and asthma. These investigations led to the first identification of IL-10-expressing regulatory myeloid cells in the lung resembling myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) that were shown to play an important role in resolution of bacterial pneumonia and also in suppression of a Th2 response in experimental asthma. His current research is focused on mechanisms that allow the host’s innate immune system to prevent lethal infections by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium commonly associated with hospital-acquired pneumonia that results in a high degree of morbidity and mortality. Using scRNA-seq methods research from his group has identified gene signatures in the peripheral blood that discriminate between pneumonia patients who develop sepsis and advance to ARDS vs those who do not. Another area of his investigation has involved host-pathogen interactions in the context of infection by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). A highlight of this investigation includes the demonstration that RSV infection in early life results in breaching of immune tolerance in the host by disabling Tregs increasing the risk for asthma and this finding was widely covered by popular and scientific media. Many of his studies have been cited >300 times in the literature. He has mentored multiple physician scientists, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students over the last 25 years. His research program has been continuously funded as a Principal Investigator or Project Leader of R01 grants or collaborative grants (SCOR, P01s, SCCOR) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In recognition of his research accomplishments, he received a scientific achievement award from the American Thoracic Society.
MELISSA SAUL, MS
Melissa Saul is a Clinical Data Scientist in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care in the Department of Medicine and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics in the School of Pharmacy. In the School of Pharmacy, she teaches Data Privacy and Security and precepts the Pharmacotherapy Scholars in Clinical Research Informatics.
She began her tenure at Pitt in 1990, as one of the developers of the Medical Archival System (MARS), one of the first EHR systems in the country. She supports pulmonary outcomes research through the development of large datasets. She is an inventor of De-ID, a de-identification software that removes protected health information in clinical narrative reports to enable the use the EHR data for research purposes.
EVELYN O. TALBOTT, DrPH, MPH
Dr. Evelyn Talbott received both her Master’s and Doctorate degrees from the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, and she was a founding officer for the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, founded in 1990, and serving as secretary Treasurer for several years. She is a Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health with a secondary appointment in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders. She has over 25 years of experience in conducting environmental epidemiology case-control studies and cohort investigations, which have included five cross sectional case crossover investigations of air pollution and seasonal pollen and acute ED exacerbations for asthma in both adults and children within Allegheny County and SW PA region. She has authored 200 peer reviewed articles and book chapters that relate to the health effects of air pollution and other environmental contaminants. Dr. Talbott was a director of one of the five CDC Academic Centers of Excellence in Environmental Public Health Tracking (2005-2014) providing the opportunity to link environmental exposures to populations of risk and to explore associations of acute and chronic effects of PM2.5, ozone, NO2 as well as pollen counts and cardiorespiratory disease.
Currently, Dr. Talbott is Principal Investigator on a nationwide case-control study using the CDC/ATSDR ALS registry and bio repository. This investigation is considering persistent organic pesticide exposure and the risk of ALS in cases, compared to controls. She is also collaborating with Drs. Wenzel, Buchanich and Jian Min Yuan, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health on a childhood cancer case-control study on the Health Effects of Hydraulic Fracking in southwestern Pennsylvania. She is the primary instructor for the Environmental Epidemiology and Geospatial Analysis courses within the Department and is also the primary advisor for students in this area. She serves on numerous advisory boards, including the PA Department of Health Rare Disease Advisory Council. She is also a fellow of the American Heart Association and the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention.
WAN-YEE TANG, PhD
Dr. Wan-Yee Tang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of Pittsburgh. Her current research focuses on deciphering how environmental pollutants/allergen and dietary factors alter the epigenome, leading to respiratory diseases like asthma and cancer. Environmental stressors (chemicals or non-chemicals) can impact the ability of genes to be active or not (called epigenetics), without changing the DNA sequence determined at birth (heredity). These epigenetic changes can persist after the exposure has stopped to cause long-lasting effects on development, metabolism and health, sometimes even in subsequent generations. Her long-term research goal is to apply innovative and promising approaches to understand the underlying mechanisms by which epigenetic (environmental) changes contribute to respiratory diseases. These findings may lead to development of preventive and therapeutic strategies to improve diseases impacted by various environmental exposures. Dr. Tang’s current funding/projects include “Explore the role of cell metabolism in asthma pathogenesis” and “Understand the impact of early-life exposure to inorganic arsenic (in drinking water) on later-life asthma risk.”
JINMING ZHAO, PhD
Dr. Jinming Zhao completed his medical training at Nanhua University and received his Ph.D. in Toxicology at Fudan University Medical School in China. He then came to the University of Pittsburgh for post-doctoral training, and in 2010, Dr. Zhao became a faculty member in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and a faculty member of the University of Pittsburgh Asthma and Environmental Lung Health Institute @UPMC/UPSOM. He is now a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and the Asthma and Environmental Lung Health Institute. Dr. Zhao’s research interests are focused on the translational study of asthma using primary human epithelial cells as a model, particularly the role of T2/15LO1/autophagy/ferroptosis as related to asthma pathogenesis. His research interests also include the effects of respiratory virus infection in human airway such as Influenza, Rhinoviruses, and SARS-CoV-2. He is currently working on a NIH-funded project to investigate the 15LO1-dependent ferroptotic mitochondria damage and cell death and has published a series of key publications in prestigious journals, such as Cell, PNAS and JCI.
XIUXIA ZHOU, PhD
Dr. Xiuxia Zhou received her B.S. from Lanzhou University, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Hebei Medical University. After completing her Ph.D. program in 2000, she continued to teach Biochemistry and Molecular Biology as a professor in Hebei Medical University. In October 2001, she joined the National Jewish Medical and Research Center under the mentorship of Dr. Sally Wenzel, and in October 2005 she became a faculty member. Dr. Zhou moved to the University of Pittsburgh with Dr. Wenzel as a research assistant professor of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine Division in August 2006. In 2018, she moved to the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health as a research assistant professor with Dr. Wenzel.