University of Pittsburgh
June 19, 2007

Pitt Faculty Honored as Distinguished Professors

Title bestowed upon L. Dade Lunsford in neurological surgery and Angus W. Thomson in surgery
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-The University of Pittsburgh honored two faculty members from the School of Medicine as Distinguished Professors. Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg named L. Dade Lunsford a Distinguished Professor of Neurological Surgery and Angus W. Thomson a Distinguished Professor of Surgery. The appointments will become effective July 1 and were made based on the recommendation of Pitt Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor James V. Maher.

The rank of Distinguished Professor recognizes extraordinary and internationally recognized scholarly attainment in an individual discipline or field.

Biographical information on the faculty honorees follows.

L. Dade Lunsford

A faculty member in Pitt's neurological surgery department since 1980, Lunsford has achieved international acclaim as an expert in guided brain (stereotactic) surgery, a minimally invasive brain surgery technique. In 1981 Pitt became the first institution in the United States to have a dedicated intraoperative CT scanner for minimally invasive brain surgery. Since that time, more than 2,500 patients have undergone surgical procedures using this technique. Through Lunsford, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 1987 became the first hospital in the United States equipped with the Gamma Knife, a device for performing brain surgery without an incision. By using carefully targeted doses of radiation in a single surgical procedure, the device can destroy blood vessel malformations and tumors deep in the brain, eliminate pain conditions and certain movement disorders, and stop seizures. Lunsford directs UPMC's Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery, which houses the Gamma Knife. More than 8,350 patients have undergone Gamma Knife brain surgery at UPMC since 1987. In 2007, UPMC installed the newest generation of brain surgery CT scanner and will soon install the latest generation of robotic Gamma Knife.

Lunsford is the Lars Leksell Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. His professorship is named for the pioneering Swedish brain surgeon who invented the Gamma Knife. Lunsford has written more than 400 published articles and almost 200 book chapters and has served as editor or coeditor of six books. He has lectured locally, nationally, and internationally during his career. Lunsford also serves as program director for the neurosurgical surgery department's seven-year neurological residency training program and serves as neurosurgical consultant for the University of Pittsburgh's athletic teams. He was president of the UPMC Presbyterian medical staff from 1999 to 2001 and chair of the Medical School Council of Clinical Chairs from 2001 to 2003. Lunsford served as interim chair of Pitt's Department of Neurosurgery in 1996 then was chair from 1997 to 2006.

He also holds memberships in several professional organizations, including the Society of Neurological Surgeons; the American Association of Neurological Surgeons; the Congress of Neurological Surgeons; the American Academy of Neurological Surgery; the American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery (where he served as president); and the International Stereotactic Radiosurgery Society, which he cofounded and served as the inaugural president. Currently, Lunsford chairs the Medical Advisory Board of the International Radiosurgery Association. He also is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Lunsford earned his medical degree at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1974. He completed his surgery internship at the University of Virginia Hospital and his neurological surgery residency at the University of Pittsburgh. Lunsford studied with Leksell and renowned stereotactic surgeon Erik-Olof Backlund from 1980 to 1981 following a one-year fellowship in stereotactic and functional neurosurgery at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, one of Europe's most renowned medical universities.

Angus W. Thomson

Thomson focuses on understanding and improving the immune system's acceptance of transplanted organs, particularly livers. Thomson is the director of transplant immunology and associate director for basic research at Pitt's Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute. He also is a professor of immunology and molecular genetics and biochemistry at Pitt.

Thomson specializes in developing means to regulate the response of an individual's immune system to a transplant so that the body does not reject the new organ. His research focuses on understanding the role of particular immune system cells (called dendritic cells) in the body's acceptance of a transplant with the goal of developing more effective immunosuppressive therapies to improve long-term outcomes for transplant recipients. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have awarded Thomson numerous research grants for his work on the role and potential therapeutic applications of dendritic cells in transplantation. He also has served on the scientific advisory board of the NIH-funded Immune Tolerance Network and on the steering committee of the NIH's Non-Human Primate Transplantation Tolerance Research Cooperative Study Group since 2002.

Thomson is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's national academy of science and letters. The approximately 1,400-member society promotes science through grants and education. Fellows are peer-elected. Thomson also is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists.

Thomson served on the board of directors of the American Society of Transplantation from 2000 to 2003. He has also served on the society's awards, nominating, basic science, congress planning, and minority affairs committees, and is founding associate editor of the society's research publication, the "American Journal of Transplantation." In 2000, he received the society's Basic Science Established Investigator Award, which recognizes full professors who have made significant contributions to the transplantation field. Thomson also serves on the basic science and education committees of the Transplantation Society, an international organization promoting research and the advancement and ethical practice of organ transplantation. At Pitt, Thomson sits on the School of Medicine's executive committee and the selection committee for the Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award, an award he won in 2004.

Thomson has served on and chaired study sections for the NIH, the American Heart Association, and the Roche Organ Transplantation Research Foundation. He has published more than 330 peer-reviewed scientific articles and more than 100 reviews and book chapters, and edited or coedited 12 advanced textbooks, including those on immune cell biology.

Thomson earned a Bachelor of Science degree at Scotland's University of Aberdeen in 1970 and his master's degree in immunology at the University of Birmingham in England in 1971. In 1974, Thomson completed his PhD degree in immunology at Aberdeen while a faculty member in the medical school. He came to Pitt in 1990. Aberdeen awarded Thomson a Doctor of Science degree in 1986, and Birmingham presented him with a DSc in Medicine in 2004 for his achievements in immunology and transplantation research. Thomson received both "higher doctorates" after peers at the respective institutions reviewed his original published research.