Scleroderma Center

Our Physicians and Researchers

Dr. Robert Lafyatis, MD


Dr. Robert Lafyatis is Professor of Medicine and the Thomas Medsger Professor in Arthritis Research at the University of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine. He relocated from Boston University and joined our Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology in September 2015, as Director of the UPMC and University of Pittsburgh Scleroderma Center. He sees patients in our Scleroderma Clinic. Dr. Lafyatis is a clinical rheumatologist and translational physician-scientist, investigating scleroderma pathogenesis and biomarkers of disease. He is a leader nationally and internationally in research into systemic sclerosis. His work includes molecular studies into the cause of fibrosis, inflammation and autoimmunity. He also studies new medications and has been the lead investigator on several clinical trials of novel medications for patients with systemic sclerosis. He has pioneered the use of biomarkers as outcome measures in patients with systemic sclerosis, and shown that these can be used successfully to assess patient responses to medications. Most recently he has shown that blocking one of the main mediators of fibrosis, TGF-beta, leads to dramatic improvement in biomarkers and clinical disease. Dr. Lafyatis has authored over 120 peer-reviewed articles and a number of book chapters on scleroderma pathogenesis. He has published review articles on topics ranging from SSc therapeutics and pathogenesis, mouse scleroderma models, to autoimmunity and innate immunity. Dr. Lafyatis chairs review panels for several NIH grant study sections responsible for reviewing research grant proposals. He is also a reviewer of manuscripts submitted to Journals, including, Arthritis and Rheumatism, Journal of Experimental Medicine and Journal of Investigative Dermatology. He co-chairs the International Workshop on Scleroderma Research, which has been held in the UK or Boston USA alternating for over 20 years. He is a Member of the Planning and Scientific Committees for the Systemic Sclerosis World Congress. He has co-chaired multiple sessions on scleroderma pathogenesis at American College of Rheumatology National Meetings. The unifying goal in his work is to find better treatments for patients with systemic sclerosis.

For Pub Med search results, click here.

Contact Us

Academic Offices:
Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology
S700 Biomedical Science Tower
3500 Terrace Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15261


Phone: (412) 648-7871

Robyn T. Domsic, MD, MPH

Clinical Director

Dr. Domsic received her medical degree from the University of Iowa. She completed her internship and residency at Duke University Medical Center, and her rheumatology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. She subsequently finished a Master of Public Health degree at the University of Pittsburgh. She is board certified in Rheumatology.

Dr. Domsic’s clinical and research goal is to improve the care of the patient with Scleroderma.  In Dr. Domsic’s research she focuses on three primary areas: developing tools to help the clinician risk stratify patients for death or disease complications, improve clinical trial design, and improve the assessment and management of Raynaud phenomenon.     Her work developing easy-to-use tools to assess an individual patient’s risk for mortality or disease complication can be used by the clinician to counsel and manage patients, as well as by the researcher.  It is her hope that the projects she works on to improve  clinical trial design may help identify a medication to treat scleroderma.    In more recent years she has become increasingly interested in Raynaud phenomenon, as this is a significant symptom for nearly all patients with scleroderma.    She is interested in different types of vascular imaging and its relationship to Raynaud symptoms, as well as understanding if there are better ways to assess the severity of a patient’s Raynaud symptoms.     She is the principal investigator of an NIH-funded trial to evaluate the effect of atorvastatin (Lipitor) on Raynaud symptoms and blood vessel dysfunction.  This is an investigator-initiated trial only at the University of Pittsburgh.

For Pub Med search results, click here.

Patrizia Fuschiotti, PhD

Patrizia Fuschiotti, Ph.D., received her degree in pharmaceutical chemistry and her Ph.D. in the immunopharmacology of tumors at the State University of Perugia, Italy. She completed her postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health in the Laboratory of Immunology (NIAID) in Bethesda, Maryland, studying the immunogenetics of immunoglobulins. Subsequently, she joined the Laboratoire d’Immunochimie – Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research) in Grenoble, France, where she studied the T cells in newborns and adults. She then returned to the US, joining the Department of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh in 2006 where she is currently an Assistant Professor of Immunology.

Dr. Fuschiotti’s research focuses on how T cells and their products contribute to fibrosis in systemic sclerosis (SSc). She joined forces with Dr. Medsger and the staff of the Scleroderma Center. Her research has shown that a certain type of T cells (CD8 positive cells) produce a substance (interleukin 13 or IL-13) which participates in fibrosis. In recognition of her work, Dr. Fuschiotti has received a Marta Marx Research Award from the national Scleroderma Foundation. She is currently studying how CD8 positive T cells and IL-13 are regulated at the molecular level in the blood and skin of SSc patients. Blocking the effects of IL-13 may be a treatment strategy to prevent fibrosis in SSc and other diseases characterized by fibrosis.

Thomas A. Medsger, Jr., MD

Dr. Medsger received his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his internship at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and his rheumatology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Dr. Medsger’s research focuses on the epidemiology, clinical and laboratory features and natural history of systemic sclerosis (SSc) and localized forms of scleroderma (LScl), Raynaud disease and polymyositis/dermatomyositis. He and collaborators have described many serologic subsets of SSc and LScl, their distinctive clinical findings, survival and immunogenetic associations. He has developed a SSc disease severity index and has proposed criteria for the classification of early SSc. Current studies include cytokines and other soluble protein markers as SSc disease activity measures, lung transplantation, SSc in twins, and childhood onset SSc and LScl.

For Pub Med search results, click here.

Kathryn S. Torok, MD

Dr. Torok is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University of Medicine. She began her career in Pediatric Rheumatology as a Fellow at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (CHP) in 2006. Upon completion of her fellowship, she stayed at Children’s and became an Assistant Professor. She helped develop and now serves as director of the CHP Scleroderma Clinic which provides treatment for children with localized and systemic scleroderma. Along with treating patients, Dr. Torok has been involved in numerous research projects. She is the principal investigator of the National Registry for Childhood Onset Scleroderma (NRCOS), which serves as a national resource of longitudinal data on pediatric patients with this disease.

In addition she is involved in the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatic Disease Research Alliance Network (CARRANet), a North American organization of pediatric rheumatologists who are committed to advancing the health and quality of life of children living with rheumatic diseases and arthritis including the various forms of scleroderma. They have joined together to answer critical research questions. Dr. Torok participates in a number of studies to further evaluate disease activity measurement in pediatric localized scleroderma, including clinical and laboratory parameters.

For Pub Med search results, click here.


Leigh Freno, CRNP

Leigh Freno, CRNP, is a graduate of Carlow University with her Master of Science degree and Family Nurse Practitioner certification.  She began her career as a Registered Nurse after obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2008.  She worked for several years as an RN in the fields of labor and delivery, medical oncology, and outpatient bariatric surgery.  She later earned her MSN and Family Nurse Practitioner certification in 2012 and has since worked as a Nurse Practitioner in the field of hospice, as an internal medicine hospitalist, and as a primary care provider in family medicine before joining the University of Pittsburgh Physicians Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology group in the Scleroderma Center.  Her primary focus is on patients with scleroderma, seeing them both clinically and assisting in research clinical trials along with Drs. Domsic and Lafyatis, with the hope of identifying better treatments in the care of scleroderma patients.

Maureen Lafoon

Maureen received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh and has worked in the medical field for over 25 years. She began her research career in the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology in the 2008 for a multi-center trial in myositis research. In 2010, her focus shifted to scleroderma research where she continues to work as a Clinical Research Coordinator. She manages the scleroderma research database that supports the work of several faculty members. She also creates the Collagen Connection newsletter. You may see her in the Scleroderma Clinic where she discusses our Center’s research with patients and recruits for our clinical trials.

Christina Morse

Christina is a Laboratory Manager in the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology (DRCI) at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt).   She has a Bachelor of Science from The Pennsylvania State University and has research experience in immunobiology and cancer.   More recently she worked as a senior research technician in Pitt’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine.   She joined the DRCI in July of 2016 working in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Lafyatis.

Jenny Peat-Fircak, RN

Jennifer received her Associates Degree in Nursing from the Community College of Allegheny County and has been working in the medical field since 2003.  She joined the Rheumatology division at UPMC in 2012 working as a clinic nurse supporting the physicians.  In 2017, she began her career in research at the University of Pittsburgh accepting the role of Clinical Research Coordinator. Jennifer works closely with patients recruiting for and conducting clinical trials.

Eileen Roth

Eileen Roth, MT (ASCP) is the Biorepository  Manager in the department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology (DRCI) at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). Eileen received her Bachlor of Science degree with a Certification in Medical Technology from Carlow College. Before coming to Pitt in January 2019, Eileen was the Histocompatibility Lab supervisor at the Institute of Cellular Therapeutics, part of Allegheny General Hospital’s research department.

Kaila Schollaert-Fitch

Kaila is originally from Youngstown, Ohio and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Cincinnati, where she participated in basic cancer research during and after her undergraduate studies.  Kaila also earned a Master’s degree in Microbiology from Indiana University (Bloomington) where she conducted thesis research on bacterial toxins, and supplemental research on bacterial fossilization in marine environments.  Following her graduate training, Kaila worked in the Allergy and Immunology division at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital studying eosinophilic disorders.  She transitioned to clinical research at Cincinnati Children’s in 2015, and served as a coordinator for the Biorepository for Childhood Neuromuscular Disorders as well as multiple Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy clinical trials. Kaila joined the University of Pittsburgh Scleroderma Center in May 2016, and works as a clinical research coordinator for Dr. Torok.  She currently coordinates the National Registry for Childhood Onset Scleroderma as well as additional ongoing and upcoming pediatric scleroderma studies at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Tracy Tabib, MS

Tracy is a senior lab specialist in the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology (DRCI) at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt).   She is a graduate of Duke University (MS) and American University (BS) where she engaged in cancer research.   In May 2016, she joined the DRCI.

Contact Us

Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology Offices

S700 Biomedical Science Tower
3500 Terrace Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
412-383-8000  |  Email Us

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