Susanne Gollin Brings Expertise and Passion to Her Work in the Lab, in the Community, and at JHF

A Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and a Clinical Cytogenetics Consultant in the Pittsburgh Cytogenetics Laboratory from 1987 to 2019, Susanne Gollin, PhD, FFACMGG has built a multifaceted career as a researcher, teacher, mentor, inventor, and clinical cytogeneticist.

Dr. Gollin has been a member Board of Trustees at the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) since 2019 and during that time has served as a member of the Distribution Committee. During her service at JHF, she was involved in the Full Court Press for Seniors, providing her insights and supportive review for grant initiatives, including the Teaching Nursing Home initiative. She has also offered her expertise as an advisory board member of J Genes Pgh, a JHF-funded project which provided community education about Ashkenazi Jewish genetic disease to assure families have the information they need to make informed decisions about advancing their health and the health of future generations.

Both of Dr. Gollin's parents were physicians, and they inspired her to pursue science and live a life committed to helping others. Her father's battle with cancer inspired her future career and she went on to earn her BA, MS, and PhD in Biological Sciences, all from Northwestern University. Dr. Gollin credits her husband, Lazar M. Palnick, for enabling her academic successes by serving as a superbly supportive partner in building a healthy work/life balance. She retired and became Professor Emerita at Pitt in 2019 after 31 years of service to the University, including as a faculty member in the Department of Human Genetics at Pitt Public Health.

She has presented her research around the globe. Throughout her career, Dr. Gollin has focused on cytogenetic changes underlying diseases, including cancer, post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, and other rare tumors and inherited disorders. Dr. Gollin has been awarded federal, state, and foundation grants for research projects concerning genetic alterations in oral and other cancers.

Dr. Gollin is a founding fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics & Genomics, and a founding fellow of both the International Academy of Oral Oncology and the Indian Association of Molecular Pathologists. She has published 135 first authored or co-authored biomedical science journal articles, four book chapters, seven encyclopedia contributions, and six other publications, and has served as an editorial board member and referee for several scientific journals. She is co-inventor on six issued U.S. patents. Her laboratory developed more than 50 human tumor cell lines, a selection of the head and neck cancer cell lines are listed by the University as intellectual property and have been distributed to academic researchers around the world.

Michael Becich, MD, PhD, associate vice chancellor for informatics in health sciences and chair of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Biomedical Informatics, has never forgotten meeting Dr. Gollin at Northwestern University in the laboratory of Dr. Robert C. King, a geneticist, and a pioneer in studies of Drosophila oogenesis (fruit flies). Dr. Becich fondly remembers Dr. Gollin working in the lab as a graduate student studying ovarian tumors while he was an undergrad microscopy apprentice. Of that experience, he remembers Susanne as an inspiring mentor, who was always available to be of help and talk science.

"She's probably inspired dozens, if not hundreds, of other scientists along her career path. One thing about good mentorship she taught me was that you've got to take time with the junior people at all stages of your career," Dr. Becich said. "Susanne has a many scientific achievements, but she was also someone who gave back to science, was passionate about it, and she was outspoken to a point where you had to hear her voice."

Dr. Gollin has served as a major advisor to six doctoral students; 14 master of science students; mentored 31 undergraduate students carrying out research in her laboratory; supervised the research of 10 postdoctoral fellows, four visiting professors, and three postgraduate researchers; and trained many UPMC pathology residents, hematopathology fellows, and genetics residents and fellows in clinical cancer cytogenetics.

Some of those former students whom she has impacted have visited her recently as she battles metastatic breast cancer, including Rahul A. Parikh, MD, PhD, associate professor of medical oncology, The University of Kansas Cancer Center, a former doctoral student who drove 13 hours to Pittsburgh with family from Kansas City over the holiday. She was also touched by a visit in December in which a special lunch was delivered by four of her former students: Christa Lese Martin, Ph.D., Gollin's first doctoral student, now scientific director of Geisinger Medical Center; Shalini Reshmi, PhD, who works in the genetics laboratory at Nationwide Children's Hospital at The Ohio State University; Camille Rose Ragin, PhD, former postdoctoral fellow, now associate director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Fox Chase Cancer Center and professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program; Khadijah Mitchell, PhD, a post baccalaureate student in Gollin's laboratory, now assistant professor of cancer epidemiology at Fox Chase Center.

Not only touched by the lengths they traveled to visit her, Dr. Gollin was also touched by the kind words they shared, including Dr. Mitchell who said that Dr. Gollin was the first person who made her feel that she could earn a PhD and succeed in academic human genetics and cancer research.

In a career filled with seemingly endless achievements, beyond her Board service with JHF, Dr. Gollin has served on the Board of Trustees for the Women's Law Project, as a member and vice chair of the Allegheny County Board of Health, member of the Pennsylvania Cancer Prevention, Control, and Research Advisory Board, the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Advisory Committee at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on study sections for the National Institutes of Health, and as a consultant to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, where she was also a member of the Immunology Devices Panel, a Medical Devices Advisory Committee in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

JHF President and CEO Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD and Chief Operating Officer and Nancy Zionts, MBA fondly note that Dr. Gollin is always the first to arrive at Board meetings, whether in person or on Zoom, and always prepared with questions and guidance on what is on the agenda.

"There is much to learn from Susanne, and it's not only from her extraordinary talents in biology and genetics. Yes, she's a mentor to so many in her field, but also in two other passions: gardening and quilting," said Dr. Feinstein. "I take great pleasure in any advice she can provide and the beautiful things she creates in these avocations."

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