Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics

Meet Our Team

Robert M. Arnold, MD

Robert M. Arnold, MD, is a distinguished Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and in the University of Pittsburgh Center for Bioethics and Health Law. He is also the Chief of the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics.  He completed his medical school training at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and residency at Rhode Island Hospital. Subsequently he has been on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. From 2000-2016, Dr. Arnold was the first Leo H. Creip Chair of Patient Care. The chair emphasizes the importance of the doctor-patient relationship, particularly at the end of life. He is the Director of the Institute for Doctor-Patient Communication and the Medical Director of the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute. He is clinically active in palliative care.

Dr. Arnold has published on end-of-life care, hospice and palliative care, doctor-patient communication and ethics education. His current research interests are focused on educational interventions to improve communication in life-limiting illnesses and better understanding how ethical precepts are operationalized in clinical practice. He also is working with the UPMC Health System to develop system-wide, integrative palliative services throughout the health system. He was the Past-President of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities as well as the Past-President of American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Amar Bansal, MD

Amar Bansal, MD , is an Assistant Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine, and the Section of Palliative and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. He is interested in clinical care for adult patients of all ages with chronic kidney disease. He also has a focus on outpatient care for patients with the following conditions: 1) advanced age or other serious comorbidities; 2) patients who may be interested in discussing aggressive management of their kidney disease without using dialysis; 3) patients living with cancer who have kidney disease.

Karl Bezak, MD

Karl Bezak, MD is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. He completed his medical school training at Vanderbilt University, internal medicine residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center, and hospice and palliative medicine fellowship at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He received additional training in gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Pennsylvania and has prior experience as an academic hospitalist at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, PA.

He currently serves as the medical director for the inpatient Supportive and Palliative Care consultation service at UPMC Presbyterian and provides additional clinical service at Shadyside and Mercy hospitals. He assists patients and clinicians with communication regarding goals of care, as well as pain and symptom management in patients with life-limiting illness. He is the director of quality improvement for the palliative care fellowship program and has academic interests including leadership, innovation, and telehealth.

Mamta Bhatnagar, MD

Mamta Bhatnagar, MD, is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her medical education at Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi, India and completed an internal medicine residency at St Vincent Charity Hospital, Case Western University in Ohio. Dr. Bhatnagar subsequently completed a fellowship in Geriatrics from the Cleveland Clinic and a palliative medicine fellowship from Summa Hospital Health System in Ohio.

Dr Bhatnagar has written on frailty in palliative care, weight loss in the elderly and side effects of psychoactive medications in older adults. She successfully completed a Masters in Clinical Research at University of Pittsburgh and completed research projects exploring the importance of functional status to quality of life in palliative care patients and their clinicians. In her role as Medical Director for palliative care services at UPMC Shadyside, she has completed multiple cycles of Quality Improvement projects around CPR assessment and Advance Directives in the hospital and outpatient settings. She currently serves as the Director of the Supportive and Palliative care clinic at Hillman where she is continuing her Quality Improvement projects with Advance Care Planning. Dr Bhatnagar also co-directs the Advance Illness Care program with the UPMC Health Plan.

Tammy Brinker, CRNP

Tammy Brinker, CRNP, is currently a Nurse Practitioner in the Supportive and Palliative Care Program at the UPMC Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Institute and is also a member of the UPMC Presbyterian inpatient consult team for Supportive and Palliative Care.  Her primary role is helping patients with life-limiting illnesses by addressing pain and symptom management, goals of care, and end-of-life issues.

Tammy earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 1989, worked as a critical care nurse for eight years, then earned a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Pittsburgh in 1997. She is board-certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Her work prior to joining the palliative care team included working as a nurse practitioner in primary care internal medicine, cardiology, and inpatient medicine.

Cathy Calkins, MSN, CRNP

Cathy Calkins, MSN, CRNP is a nurse practitioner within the Supportive and Palliative Care program with the inpatient consult service at UPMC Presbyterian. Her primary role is to provide care for hospitalized patients with life limiting illness though pain and symptom management, facilitating goals of care discussions, and providing support to families. 

Cathy graduated from West Virginia University in 2007, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She worked at UPMC Presbyterian for eight years with experience in trauma and ICU. Her personal connection with patients and her families earned her an ACES award. She completed her Master of Science in Nursing from Carlow University, in 2015. She is board certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Palliative care has been the primary focus of her advanced degree. She worked at Aspire healthcare for four and a half years providing palliative care to patients in the home setting, until joining the UPMC inpatient team in 2020.

Ellora Chakraborty, MSW, LCSW

Ellora Chakraborty, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker with the palliative care team at UPMC Shadyside. She works with the palliative care team to assess psychosocial needs of our patients and mobilize appropriate resources. The includes, but not limited to, counseling, education, discharge planning and memory making activities through Legacy Project for palliative care patients/families.

She has a BA in Psychology degree from India and a Masters in Social Work degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She was a Hartford fellow at the School of Social Work. Ellora was a student intern with the palliative care team at UPMC Magee prior to her employment at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside.

Chris Chavlick

Chris Chavlick joined the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics as an administrative assistant. She is currently enrolled in the Nonprofit Management program at the University of Pittsburgh and has over 20 years of administrative experience. She recently worked for the Office of Child Development at Pitt as an executive assistant to the co-directors. Prior to that, she worked as the assistant to the Director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology section at UPMC Presbyterian.

Julie W. Childers, MD

Julie W. Childers, MD, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2005 and completed residency training in internal medicine at the University of Rochester in 2008. She completed fellowship training in palliative care in 2009 and obtained a master’s degree in medical education from the Clinician Educator Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. She joined the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh in July of 2010 and is now an Associate Professor of Medicine.

She serves as an attending physician on the inpatient palliative care consultation service at Presbyterian Hospital and is the director of the Pittsburgh Academy of Serious Illness Communication Teaching, which trains communication teachers for courses such as Oncotalk. She is the medical director of the medical ethics consultation service at Presbyterian/Shadyside Hospitals.  In addition to her roles in palliative care and medical ethics, she is board certified in Addiction Medicine, and serves as a consultant on the Addiction Medicine Consult Service at Presbyterian Hospital and has an outpatient clinic for opioid use disorder. Her academic interests include teaching motivational interviewing and serious illness conversations, treating pain in patients with co-occurring substance use disorders, and managing addiction in patients with serious illness.

René N. Claxton, MD

René N. Claxton, MD, is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. She completed her medical school training at the University of Florida, Internal Medicine residency at the University of Virginia and palliative medicine fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. She also completed a master’s degree in Medical Education at the University of Pittsburgh. She is clinically active in the palliative care inpatient setting and serves as the Director of Education for the Section of Palliative care and Medical Ethics and as the Assistant Medical Director for UPMC Community Palliative Care Programs.

Kendall Downer, MD

Kendall Downer, MD is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh.  She completed medical school training at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, internal medicine residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and hospice and palliative medicine fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

Her clinical responsibilities include providing inpatient Supportive and Palliative Care consultation at UPMC Presbyterian and Shadyside hospitals. Her academic interests include medical education, communication around critical illness and the intersection of spirituality and medicine at the end of life. 

Donna Durant, BSN, MSN, CRNP

Donna Durant, BSN, MSN, CRNP is a nurse practitioner within the Supportive and Palliative Care program with the inpatient consult service at UPMC Presbyterian.   Her primary role consists of meeting patients and families anywhere along the continuum of chronic illness and diseases.  Working within an interdisciplinary care team that wraps their arms around patients with the highest quality of care, compassion and guidance is the goal.  Donna’s goal is to manage the pain and symptoms that chronic illness and diseases bring to folks and working to continue to experience a meaningful life.  We meet patients in the midst of pain or suffering to help unfold their values, concerns, and goals as illness or the disease progresses despite the highest medical care. 

Donna graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in Nursing and in 2000 from Carlow University as a Family Nurse Practitioner.  As a registered nurse Donna worked at Children’s Hospital in the ICU and from there worked with children and adults with spina bifida at Allegheny General Hospital.  Along with one of the internists at AGH, a program for primary care for adults with disabilities was started.  From there Donna worked with internists with the outpatient service at Allegheny General Hospital, Primary Care Northside.  

In 2006, Donna joined UPMC Magee Internal Medicine’s I service, inpatient medicine service.  It was there that Donna worked alongside the Palliative Care service at Magee Hospital, UPMC.  In 2012 Donna went to UPMC East to be a part of the opening of the new hospital and it was at UPMC East where Donna began her work with the Palliative Care Team, PSI, UPMC East, in 2015. 

Donna’s passion is working to deliver the highest quality care for patients and families.  She also has a passion for teaching nurses who work at the bedside in the care, compassion, skills and the philosophy of Palliative Care.  Her passion is also to support young men and women who desire a career in nursing, and those who are already registered nurses who wish to go on to further their nursing career. 

Donna is grateful to be a part of the team within the Supportive and Palliative Care program at UPMC Presbyterian.

Kimberly L. Gottschalk, MBA

Kimberly L. Gottschalk, MBA, Director, UPMC Inpatient and Outpatient Palliative Care Services is responsible for the oversight and management for all inpatient and outpatient supportive and palliative care clinical services within the UPMC Health System. Prior to transitioning to this position in November 2015 – Kim served as the Administrative Director for the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. In this capacity, she managed the administrative responsibilities of the UPMC Supportive and Palliative Care inpatient and outpatient consult services for the Oakland and Shadyside hospitals. She also oversaw the academic and research activities for the faculty members. Kimberly has a Bachelor’s degree from the School of Health Related Professions and a Master’s degree in business administration from the Katz Graduate School of Business, both from the University of Pittsburgh. Her professional background includes extensive experience in medical specialty practice management as well as a prior appointment as an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine-Dental Hygiene Department.

Sherry Gunn, MSW, LSW

Sherry Gunn, MSW, LSW, is a clinical social worker with the UPMC Supportive and Palliative Care team at UPMC Mercy Hospital. Working collaboratively with the Palliative Care team, she provides psychosocial support for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families, including education on end-of-life issues and assistance with the transition to palliative care or hospice.

Sherry received a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Brigham Young University, followed by graduate work in Educational Psychology after which she taught Special Education for grades K-8. Most recently, she earned a master’s degree in Social Work as an Edith M. Baker Integrated Healthcare Fellow from the University of Pittsburgh.  She interned at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Kelly Wolenberg Harris, MD

Kelly Wolenberg Harris, MD is a Clinical Instructor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh.  She is a second-year fellow in the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship and a Postdoctoral Scholar on a HRSA T32 grant in General Academic Pediatrics. She is completing her Master of Science in Clinical Research through the Institute for Clinical Research Education. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Dr. Harris received a BA with Honors in both Religious Studies and Biology from the University of Chicago in 2011. She received her MD with a Certificate in Biomedical Ethics in 2016 from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She completed residency in Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2020, after dedicating an extra year of training as a V-StARR Resident Scholar through the NIH R38 grant to research the longitudinal experience of parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of congenital heart disease. Her other research projects have involved qualitative, quantitative, and historical methods on topics such as clinical ethics consultation and the intersection between medicine and religion. She looks forward to a career as a physician-scientist within the fields of pediatric palliative care and medical ethics

Rebecca Hoelsken, MSN, CRNP, CRM

Rebecca (“Becca”) M. Hoelsken, MSN, CRNP, CRM, is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, 1987. She took her first position as a nurse on the Liver Transplant Unit at Presbyterian Hospital, working with Thomas Starzl, MD. From there she moved on to various positions as a Staff Nurse, working in the ICU/PACU, Nursing Education and Research, and finally Medical Oncology-solid tumors. She credits those early years in nursing with shaping her professional career, which is informed by a desire to always look for ways to improve patient care, and to eagerly engage in new learning experiences.

Becca went on to receive her master’s degree in Nursing Science and CRNP from LaRoche College in 1997. She again held several positions, including in Internal Medicine and Primary Care and a Liver Disease Clinic/Transplant Center in Phoenix, AZ, before finally making her way back to UPMC where she took a position at Shadyside Hospital in Surgical Oncology. In this position, she grew both professionally and personally, and developed a love for palliative care. She decided to pursue a position in this area, and has been with our Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics since 2015, where she is challenged daily. She is developing a Reiki Therapy Program at Shadyside in which Nursing and Medical staff provide Reiki to patients.

Colleen Hutzel, MSW

Colleen Hutzel, MSW, is a social worker with the Supportive and Palliative Care team at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside. Colleen assists the palliative teams at both campuses, ensuring patients and families have education, support, and resources to meet their quality of life goals towards end of life.

Colleen graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2019 with her Bachelors in social work and minor in creative writing. She then continued at the University of Pittsburgh to earn her Masters in social work with a certificate in gerontology in 2020. As a fellow in the Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education, Colleen attended monthly seminars on aging-related topics, ran an interpersonal therapy group for Community LIFE participants, and partnered with Pittsburgh artists to run an art therapy program for those living with dementia in nursing facilities.

Colleen has been interested in end of life care since she was in elementary school, witnessing family members navigate the beauties and challenges of dying. She is excited to begin the next chapter of her life with UPMC, collaborate and learn with various hospital disciplines, and walk the journey with those she will serve.

Susan Jessell, CRNP, ACHPN

Susan Jessell, CRNP, ACHPN, is currently a Nurse Practitioner at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in the Pain and Supportive Care Outpatient Clinic. From 2006 to 2010 she was employed by West Penn Hospital where she worked in developing their Palliative Care consulting service. Susan received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh and has Advanced Certification in Hospice and Palliative Nursing. She also completed the Advanced Practice ELNEC training. She has over 25 years of experience in hospice and palliative care.in the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics.

Shannon Joy, MSN, CRNP

Shannon Joy, MSN, CRNP is a nurse practitioner within the Supportive and Palliative Care program with the inpatient consult service at UPMC Shadyside. Her primary role includes optimizing pain and symptom management as well as addressing goals of care for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families.

Shannon graduated from Penn State University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Biobehavioral Health with a Neuroscience concentration / minor in Psychology and immediately went on to complete the Accelerated Second Degree BSN program at Duquesne University in 2011. She worked as a senior professional staff nurse at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC for over five years, with the majority spent in the adult medical intensive care unit and also regularly instructed classes with the education department. As a critical care nurse, she always aimed to make a personal connection with patients and their families to provide support through difficult clinical scenarios which earned her a Cameos of Caring award nomination. She simultaneously worked to complete her MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner degree in 2016 through Carlow University. 

Shannon’s nurse practitioner experience has been predominantly focused on the oncology patient population, initially with the outpatient Cancer Pain & Supportive Care clinics at Magee supporting women with breast and gynecologic cancer (2016-2017), and for the past two years (2017-2019) on the inpatient Hematology-Oncology “A Service” APP team at UPMC Shadyside as the primary medical service for patients with solid tumor malignancies. Eager to once again employ her passion for palliative care, she is excited to transition to her new position at Shadyside.

Linda A. King, MD

Linda A. King, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics of the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. King graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1995, completed a primary care medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1998, and then completed a fellowship in palliative care at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. King’s clinical responsibilities include working on the inpatient Palliative Care consultation services at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, UPMC Mercy and Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC and seeing outpatients at the Supportive and Palliative Care Program at the Hillman Cancer Center.   She is the medical director of the Palliative Care Service at UPMC Shadyside. Dr. King is involved in Palliative Care education for first and second-year medical students at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Czarina Kulick, MSW, LCSW

Czarina Kulick, MSW, LCSW, is a Senior Social Worker with the palliative care team at UPMC Shadyside-Presbyterian. She received a Master of Social Work degree at Smith College, School for Social Work in Northampton, MA. She is also a certified oncology social worker with over 20 years of clinical experience in various settings.

In her role at UPMC Shadyside, she provides counseling for palliative and hospice care patients, while also working on creating new initiatives to better support patients and their families by focusing on memory-making and legacy building activities. Czarina also works at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System as a Senior Social Worker specializing with aging Veterans in crisis.

Prior to her work at UPMC, Czarina was a social work supervisor at Georgetown University Medical Center, Department of Infectious Diseases, HIV Clinic in Washington, DC. She completed her clinical internships at the National Institute of Health, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HIV-AIDS unit, and at George Washington University Hospital, in Outpatient Psychiatry.

Janet Leahy, CRNP

Janet Leahy, CRNP, as the Supervisor APP for the Hospital- and Outpatient-Based Palliative Care Services, provides departmental leadership to direct, supervise, and manage daily activities of the Pas and CRNPs in the department. She also provides clinical services where needed and teaches communication training throughout the system. Ms. Leahy earned a diploma in nursing from St. Francis School of Nursing and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Waynesburg University. She is board-certified as an acute care nurse practitioner with a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh.

Lauren Mazary, MSN, CRNP

Lauren Mazary, MSN, CRNP is a nurse practitioner with the Supportive and Palliative Care Program at UPMC Mercy. Her primary role is to provide care for hospitalized patients with life-limiting illnesses through pain and symptom management, facilitating goals of care discussions, hospice evaluations and providing support to both patients and their families.

Lauren graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2013 with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and went on to further her education while earning her MSN at Clarion and Edinboro Universities in 2018.  Her background as a registered nurse was in the intensive care unit for nearly six years prior to completing two years as a CRNP with the UPMC Neurogastroenterology and Motility Center.  Lauren has always had an extreme interest and passion for palliative care and is thrilled to step into this role, striving to deliver compassion, understanding and high-quality care for all patients.

Jessica Merlin, MD, MBA

Jessica Merlin, MD, MBA, is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Merlin is also a PhD-trained behavioral scientist and NIH-funded clinician-investigator. Her research includes foundational work on the pathophysiology, clinical epidemiology, and behavioral management of chronic pain in people with HIV. This work has extended to management approaches to pain and opioid misuse/use disorder in individuals with serious illness in palliative care settings. She has been recognized nationally for her work with three Young Investigator awards from relevant societies, an Inspirational Leader Under 40 Award from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and a Cambia Foundation Sojourns Scholar Leadership Award.

Dr. Merlin’s clinical interest is in chronic pain in people living with HIV (PLWH) and other medically and psychiatrically complex patient populations. While on faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) from 2011 to 2017, she developed and ran the HIV Pain/Palliative Care clinic, which was embedded in UAB’s HIV Patient Centered Medical Home. This multidisciplinary clinic included a nurse practitioner, nurse, social worker, physical therapist, and pharmacist, and a total of 24 palliative care fellows in chronic pain care during her tenure. At Pitt, she leads the pain clinic at the Pittsburgh AIDS Center for Treatment (PACT) started by Dr. Bob Arnold.

Dr. Merlin also attends for one month per year on the inpatient general medicine service.

Shelley McCormick, CRNP

Shelley McCormick, CRNP, is a nurse practitioner with the Supportive and Palliative Care Program at UPMC Magee Womens Hospital. Her primary role is providing outpatient clinical support, patient visits, and managing symptoms as well as end-of-life issues. Shelley holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester, Master’s in nursing Adult Acute Clinical Nurses Specialist from Boston College, and a Certificate Family Nurse Practitioner from Duquesne University. Her work before joining the palliative care team was in cardiac transplant, surgery, and heart failure.

Colleen McMonagle, MSW, LSW

Colleen McMonagle, MSW, LSW, is a Clinical Social Worker with the UPMC Supportive and Palliative Care team at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. She works collaboratively with the Palliative Care team, the patients, and families to engage in various psychosocial interventions to provide support to patients with life-limiting illnesses. This often includes providing education on end-of-life issues and helping patients and families with the transition to palliative care or hospice.

Colleen earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Westminster College and Master of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to joining the Palliative Care team, she worked at UPMC Mercy on the Surgical/ Oncology Unit. She also completed internships at UPMC Passavant in the Intensive Care Unit, as well as the Allegheny County Apprise Program where she provided Medicare and Medicaid counseling.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman BCC

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman BCC is the Bereavement and Spiritual Support Coordinator with the Palliative and Supportive Institute at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside Hospital.  He dedicates his time to visiting patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families through spiritual conversation, comfort, prayer, and therapy around fear, depression, and end-of-life issues. He also directs programs and trainings for staff and the community around spiritual assessment, speaking about death, cultural diversity, and bereavement. 

Rabbi Perlman is a board-certified chaplain of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychiatry.  He did his training as a resident at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He was ordained as a rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and has a BA in Religious Studies from Yale University in New Haven, CT.  His work prior to coming to PSI was in hospice care at Forbes Hospice and Compassionate Care Hospice in the pastoral care departments.  He has been the shepherded synagogues for over 30 years including the New Light Congregation in Pittsburgh where he currently preaches and teaches. 

Lisa Podgurski, MD

Lisa Podgurski, MD, is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics and the University of Pittsburgh. Her clinical responsibilities include inpatient consult service at UPMC Presbyterian-Shadyside and Magee Womens Hospital of UPMC, as well as seeing palliative care outpatients at Hillman Cancer Center.

Lisa completed her undergraduate studies in Bio-Psych and Anthropology at Carnegie Mellon University; medical school training at Harvard Medical School and Internal Medicine Residency training at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian program. She recently earned a Masters in Medical Education from the University of Pittsburgh.

Lisa also serves as Wellbeing Champion for the Section and facilitates our monthly Psychosocial Rounds.

Sinthana Uma Ramsey, DO

Sinthana Uma Ramsey, DO is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. She attended the University of Florida where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences with minors in Chemistry and Education. She then completed her medical school training at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Internal Medicine residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian-Shadyside, and Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship at the Ohio State University. She has also spent two years as a Hospitalist at UPMC-Shadyside.

Her clinical responsibilities include providing inpatient palliative care consultations at UPMC Presbyterian and Shadyside and as a hospitalist at UPMC Presbyterian. She will also spend a portion of her time as a hospitalist at UPMC Presbyterian. Her academic interests include furthering palliative medicine integration with chronic non-malignant diseases, addressing racial disparities in palliative care, and furthering graduate medical education (for which she is pursuing a master’s degree). She is grateful to dedicate her time to assist patients and clinicians with communication regarding goals of care, as well as pain and symptom management in patients with life-limiting illness.

Sarah Reiland, MPAS, PA-C

Sarah Reiland, MPAS, PA-C is a physician assistant within the Supportive and Palliative Care Program at UPMC Presbyterian. Her primary role consists of pain and symptom management in addition to addressing goals of care and providing support for patients and families dealing with life-limiting illnesses. 

Sarah graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a Pre-Physician Assistant Concentration. She worked as an EMT at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, and as a nursing assistant at an assisted living facility, where she gained experience caring for patients near the end of life. She went on to complete her MPAS from the University of Pittsburgh Physician Assistant program and graduated in 2020. Among others, Sarah completed clinical rotations in Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, and Hematology/Oncology to prepare her for her current position. 

Sarah developed an interest in Palliative Care from both her personal and professional experiences. She is drawn to the opportunity for patient advocacy, clear communication, and family connection that Palliative Care emphasizes. She is extremely excited to begin her new position with UPMC Supportive and Palliative Care. 

Eva B. Reitschuler-Cross, MD

Eva B. Reitschuler-Cross, MD, graduated from the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, in 2004 and completed her residency training in Internal Medicine at Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, MA in 2010. She then served as a chief resident at Mount Auburn Hospital and completed a fellowship in medical education. After completing a fellowship in Hospice and Palliative Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in 2011, she joined the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh in August 2012.

Dr. Reitschuler-Cross currently serves as an attending physician on the inpatient consultation service and has an outpatient clinic at the Hillman Cancer Center. She has a passion for medical education and will be serving as the subspecialty education coordinator for the GME Residency Program.

Rebecca Sands, DO

Rebecca Sands, DO, graduated from medical school at Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. She then completed her training in Internal Medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where she also served as Chief Medical Resident. She completed her Hospice and Palliative Medicine fellowship at Harvard University in 2011 training at both Massachusetts General Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. After her training she practiced for three years in community and inpatient hospice as well as serving as the hospice coordinator for the Harvard Palliative Medicine fellows.

She serves as an attending physician on the inpatient Palliative Care consultation service and staffs an outpatient clinic at Hillman Cancer Center. Her academic responsibilities include being the program director for the Hospice and Palliative Medicine fellowship.

Jane Schell, MD

Jane Schell, MD, graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and trained in Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. She completed dual fellowships in Nephrology and Hospice & Palliative Medicine at Duke University in 2012. She also earned a Masters in Health Science in 2011 and completed a qualitative study examining communication between nephrologists and elderly patients with kidney disease. She joined the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics and Renal-Electrolyte Division at the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 as an Associate Professor of Medicine.

She serves as an attending physician on the inpatient consultation service for Palliative Medicine and Nephrology. She also attends a nephrology clinic which addresses palliative care issues for nephrology patients. Dr. Schell’s academic and educational interests focus on communication within the doctor-patient relationship.

Yael Schenker, MD, MAS

Yael Schenker, MD, MAS, is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of the Palliative Research Center (PaRC) in the Division of General Internal Medicine and the Section of Palliative and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Schenker received her AB magna cum laude from Harvard University. She completed medical school, residency and fellowship training at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was also awarded a master’s degree in clinical research.

Dr. Schenker joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. Her research focuses on the integration of palliative care services for patients with serious illness, with a focus on primary palliative care approaches in oncology.  She is an active mentor and co-director of team science for the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. She is also clinically active on the palliative care consult service.

Ethan Jaffe Silverman, MD

Ethan Jaffee Silverman, MD is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. He completed his medical school training at Wayne State University, internal medicine residency at University of Chicago Medical Center, and hospice and palliative medicine fellowship at University of Wisconsin Madison. He also completed a fellowship in clinical medical ethics at the MacLean Center at University of Chicago, and an advanced fellowship in medical education at University of Wisconsin Madison.

His clinical responsibilities include providing inpatient Supportive and Palliative Care consultation at UPMC Presbyterian, Shadyside, Magee, and Mercy hospitals. He assists patients and clinicians with communication regarding goals of care, as well as pain and symptom management in patients with life-limiting illness. His academic interests include medical education, ethical challenges at end of life, and moral distress of providers.

Lori Spahr

Lori Spahr joined the Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics in 2010 and is an Administrative Coordinator for the department. She earned a degree in Business Administration & Information Processing from the Monroeville School of Business and has over 27 years of administrative experience. Before coming to the University of Pittsburgh she worked for West Penn Allegheny Health System as an Executive Assistant in the Finance area.

Aaron Teague, MA, MT-BC, LPC

Aaron Teague, MA, MT-BC, LPC, is the Creative Expressive Arts Therapist with the Palliative and Supportive Care teams of UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Shadyside. In this role, Aaron provides services as a board-certified music therapist and a licensed counselor. He collaborates with the patients and families in music therapy and counseling to provide support to patients with life-limiting illnesses. Services can include music offered for a patient to manage distress, co-created music with patients or families for psychosocial support, or counseling to manage symptoms.

Aaron earned both his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Therapy and a Masters in Community Counseling from Appalachian State University. Before joining the Palliative Care team, he provided music therapy services on adult and child/adolescent inpatient units of UPMC Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. 

Andrew Thurston, MD

Andrew Thurston, MD, is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. He completed his medical school training at the Baylor College of Medicine, and his residency at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He subsequently completed a Geriatrics Fellowship and a Palliative Medicine Fellowship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

His clinical activities include supportive and palliative medicine inpatient consult service at UPMC Mercy Hospital, where he is the Medical Director, UPMC Mercy Supportive and Palliative Care Program. Current areas of interest include the integration of medical humanities into clinical practice, and the use of reflective techniques involving art and literature to explore complex themes in medical practice.

Alicia Topoll, MD

Alicia Topoll, MD is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Heart and Vascular Institute (HVI) and the Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Topoll also serves as the Clinical Director of the Heart and Vascular Institute (HVI) Palliative Care Program.  She completed her medical school training as part of the 6-year combined BS/MD program at Youngstown State University and Northeast Ohio Medical University where she joined the US Navy.  Dr. Topoll completed an internship in Internal Medicine at Naval Medical Center San Diego and completed her active-duty military service as a Flight Surgeon with the Marine Corps. She completed her Internal Medicine residency at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, where she also served as a chief resident.  Dr. Topoll is board certified in Cardiology and Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship, which were completed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  She also received a Master of Science degree in Medical Education at the University of Pittsburgh.  Her clinical time is spent on the inpatient and outpatient service in both Cardiology and Palliative Care consultation service at UPMC Mercy, Presbyterian, Shadyside, and Magee Hospitals.  Her academic interests include teaching communication skills, chronic illness, non-invasive cardiology, and the integration of cardiology and palliative care.

Stephanie Garofalo Uram, DNP, CRNP

Stephanie Garofalo Uram, DNP, CRNP, is a nurse practitioner with the Supportive and Palliative Care Program at UPMC Presbyterian. Her primary role is to provide care for hospitalized patients with life-limiting illnesses through pain and symptom management, facilitating goals of care discussions, and hospice evaluations.

Stephanie earned her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 and completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice from Robert Morris University in 2018. Her work prior to joining the palliative care team included working as a registered nurse in the trauma-surgical intensive care unit, resource intensive care department, and emergency department.

Richard L. Weinberg, MD

Richard L. Weinberg, MD, is Clinical Associate Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics. He graduated from the University of Michigan and completed residency at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

He practiced general internal medicine at Penn Group/HealthAmerica in Pittsburgh and served as the head of internal medicine. He was then Chief, General Internal Medicine at Western Pennsylvania Hospital. In 2005, He moved to Fairfax, Virginia to work full time in hospice and palliative care. He served as faculty for the National Institute of Health-Capital Caring Palliative Medicine fellowship.

Dr. Weinberg currently provides supportive and palliative care consultations at UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Shadyside and Magee Womens hospitals.

Ashley Wills, DNP, CRNP

Ashley Wills, DNP, CRNP, is a nurse practitioner for the Supportive and Palliative Care Program at UPMC Magee Womens Hospital. Her primary role is to evaluate and support patients in the areas of pain and symptom management, goals of care, and hospice evaluations. Ashley earned her Bachelor of Arts from Carlow University in 2004 with a focus in English and creative non-fiction writing. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Duquesne University of Pennsylvania in 2008 and completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice at Robert Morris University in 2017. Her work prior to joining the palliative care team was as a registered nurse in the medical intensive care unit where she was introduced to palliative care. While obtaining her DNP, she completed a quality improvement project with the Palliative team at UPMC Mercy regarding moral distress in nurses caring for patients at the end of life.

Kathy Wunderle, MD

Kathy Wunderle, MD is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh. She completed medical school at the University of Rochester, and then did her internal medicine residency at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR. She first came to Pittsburgh in 2018 for a Critical Care Medicine fellowship, and then went on to complete a fellowship in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Her clinical responsibilities include providing inpatient Supportive and Palliative Care consultation at UPMC Presbyterian, Shadyside, Magee, and Mercy hospitals. She also works as an intensivist at the VA in Oakland. Her academic interests include teaching all levels of learners communication skills and critical care medicin

Gillian Zeile, MSN, CRNP

Gillian Zeile, MSN, CRNP, is a nurse practitioner with the Supportive and Palliative Care Program at the UPMC Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Institute and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Her primary role is helping patients with life-limiting illnesses by addressing pain and symptom management, goals of care, and end-of-life issues.

Gillian earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Biology from Denison University in 2009, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011, and a Master of Science in Nursing from Case Western Reserve University in 2015. She is board-certified as an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. Her work prior to joining the palliative care team included working as a nurse practitioner in hematology-oncology, as well as a registered nurse in medical oncology and inpatient hospice.

Contact Us

Division of General Internal Medicine Academic Offices

UPMC Montefiore Hospital
Suite W933
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
412-692-4821

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412-692-4889