Text Size: A- A+ Facebook Twitter LinkedIn YouTube

Breaking News

Pledge the Gift of Life

Each year, the lives of thousands of people across the country are saved because someone made the choice to become an organ donor. In April, Allegheny Health Network is honored to celebrate National Donate Life Month and pay tribute to all of those who have bestowed the precious gift of life to another through organ donation. Visit AHNdonate.org to learn more and register to be an organ donor.



Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014


West Penn Allegheny Health System Recruits Nationally-Recognized Research Bioengineer

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Kelly J. Shields, PhD, a  University of Pittsburgh bioengineer who has made significant discoveries regarding mechanisms that may trigger early onset of cardiovascular disease, has joined West Penn Allegheny Health System’s (WPAHS) research program.

Dr. Shields spent several years at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) focused on research to determine the cause and potential cure for accelerated progression of cardiovascular disease in individuals with the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). She will continue these efforts at WPAHS, working with research scientists in the Lupus Center of Excellence and Allegheny Singer Research Institute (ASRI).

“Dr. Shields has made considerable strides in uncovering information about how cardiovascular disease begins and brings an impressive portfolio of research to West Penn Allegheny,” said Joseph Ahearn, MD, Chief Scientific Officer of ASRI and Co-founder of the Lupus Center of Excellence. “We are pleased to welcome such a promising and accomplished investigator to our team.”

Dr. Shields is the seventh expert in lupus and autoimmune diseases from UPMC to join the West Penn Allegheny staff since 2010. Earlier this year, WPAHS appointed Fotios Koumpouras, MD, as Medical Director of its Lupus Center of Excellence. His recruitment followed that of Dr. Ahearn and Susan Manzi, MD, Co-Founder and Director of the Lupus Center of Excellence. Rheumatologists Amy M. Kao, MD, MPH and Mary Chester Wasko, MD, MSc, and research scientists Chau-Ching Liu, MD PhD also joined the WPAHS team.

In the past year alone, Dr. Shields’ research has been featured on the covers of two different journals. Her work also was selected during a recent international competition for the cover of all 2012 issues of Nature Reviews in Rheumatology.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in patients with SLE and studies have shown that women with SLE tend to have increased vascular stiffness and higher levels of serum complement protein.

Dr. Sheilds’ primary interest is in the processes that contribute to arterial stiffening, one measure of cardiovascular disease. Through research in mice, Dr. Shields has shown that arterial stiffening is largely related to the amount of fatty tissue existing outside the vascular wall and the subsequent production of complement protein which binds to these walls.

Dr. Shields has developed an innovative protocol for studying this process in humans, using electron-beam computed tomography to quantify perivascular fatty tissue surrounding the aorta and examine subsequent cardiovascular disease progression.

“Dr. Shields’ background and training have allowed her to develop a translational research approach that aligns perfectly with our work at the Lupus Center of Excellence,” said Dr. Manzi who serves as Chair of the Department of Medicine at West Penn Allegheny Health System in addition to her role within the Lupus Center of Excellence.

“Her combination of ‘benchtop’ research coupled with ‘bedside’ epidemiological studies in our patient population have the potential to yield emergent therapies to control cardiovascular disease in lupus patients as well as other at-risk individuals.”

Dr. Shields earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Grove City College, followed by both a master’s and a doctoral degree in biomedical engineering from Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Shields was chosen to participate in the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute cardiovascular training program through the University of Pittsburgh. As part of the program, she recently completed a second master’s degree in epidemiology from the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.

In addition to her applied research, Dr. Shields will serve as an assistant professor at Temple University School of Medicine’s clinical campus at WPAHS.

West Penn Allegheny’s Lupus Center offers advanced, comprehensive clinical care for patients with autoimmune and rheumatic diseases. Led by a pre-eminent team of physician scientists, the Center is at the leading edge of clinical and translational studies designed to advance the understanding and treatment of these diseases.

Well-respected nationally for its participation in leading medical research and contributions to the advancement of medicine, ASRI is the research arm of West Penn Allegheny Health System and has been managing and conducting research for 34 years.

# # #

For more information, contact:
West Penn Allegheny Health System
Tell us who you are:

What areas do you use on our website?*
(select more than one if it applies)

Did you find what you were looking for?

Would you refer others to our website?

Can we contact you for future questions?

CAPTCHA math question:* 2 + 5 =

Thank you for completing the West Penn Allegheny Health System website survey.
We value your feedback and comments.