Our Physicians and Researchers


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.


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.

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.

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.

Kristen Veraldi, MD, PhD

Dr. Veraldi is a graduate of the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, where she earned her MD and her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. She completed her internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, MI and her fellowship in Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, CO. After completing an additional post-doctoral research fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh, she joined the faculty and is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine. Dr. Veraldi is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Disease, and Critical Care Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians. Dr. Veraldi provides care for individuals with interstitial lung diseases at the UPMC Comprehensive Lung Center. In addition to her clinical activities, Dr. Veraldi serves as a member of the University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board and is actively involved in research projects focused on the molecular mechanisms of pulmonary fibrosis, including characterizing how alterations in the normal cellular stress response contribute to aberrant extracellular matrix production by lung fibroblasts in systemic sclerosis-associated pulmonary fibrosis.

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.


Zengbiao Qi, PhD

Dr. Zengbiao Qi is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma in Biochemistry in 2001. After graduation, he joined Immunobiology and Cancer programs in Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in 2001 to study the effect of E proteins on the development and signaling of thymocytes. He joined PACCM as a Research Associate in Dr. Anuradha Ray’s group in 2004 and was promoted to Research Assistant Professor in 2007. He joined the Scleroderma Center in June 2011 as a senior research specialist and is responsible for identifying serum autoantibodies and is providing the help for physicians with their research relating to immunology, molecular biology and biochemistry.

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.

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.

Maureen Laffoon

Maureen received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1993. She has worked in the medical field for over 20 years and began her research career in the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh in 2008. She is the Director of Communications as well as a Clinical Research Coordinator. She creates the Collagen Connection newsletter and is responsible for the content on the Center’s website. You may see her in the Scleroderma Clinic where she requests that patients donate blood for our research projects or recruiting for our clinical trials.

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. 

Kristi Kong

Kristi is a graduate from Bucknell University with a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences. She has had research experience in multisensory perception and in biopharmaceutics using mass spectrometry. In October 2018, she joined the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh as a Translational Research Coordinator.

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.

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Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology Offices

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3500 Terrace Street
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