Our Mission

The goal of the University of Pittsburgh Pepper Center is to increase scientific knowledge that will lead to better ways to maintain or restore independence to older persons. We strive to promote this independence by optimizing balance and mobility and reducing injurious falls through disciplined inquiry and translational research. We train young investigators from multiple disciplines within a vibrant intellectual and collaborative environment and serve as a resource and partner to other investigators, institutions, and the public.

Core Descriptions

Leadership Administrative Core (LAC)

The Leadership/Administrative Core is responsible for the organizational, communication, budgetary, and regulatory functions of the Pepper Center.

Learn More
Learn More

Clinical and Population Outcomes Core (CPOC)

Provides recruitment assistance, cohort study resources, and clinical research expertise to promote a multidisciplinary approach to the assessment of balance and mobility in Pepper clinical research studies. The CPOC encourages research activity with older adults in the community and long-term care and has various resources available through the Pepper Research Network on Aging.

Learn More

Data Management, Analysis and Informatics Core (DMAIC)

The DMAIC provides centralized data management, statistical analysis services, and informatics expertise to Pepper affiliated investigators to address the unique issues involved in studying balance and mobility in older adults.

Learn More
Learn More

Integrative Systems Core (ISC)

The Integrative Systems Core provides state of the art facilities that support research spanning neuroimaging, biomechanics, physiology, and biology.

Learn More

Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core (PESC)

The Pilot/Exploratory Studies Core promotes and supports innovative multidisciplinary research related to balance, mobility, and aging. The PESC partners with other groups [i.e., Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and Aging Institute]

Learn More

Research Education Component (REC)

The Research Education Component of the Pepper Center supports the development of independent investigators who wish to conduct age-related balance and mobility disorders research. These investigators will have expertise in basic, translational, and clinical approaches and will lead and participate in collaborative multidisciplinary projects.

Learn More

Biology of Mobility and Aging Core (BMAC)

The Biology of Mobility and Aging Core (BMAC) is a new Core within the Pepper Center. It has been established to facilitate the translational gap from basic research at the bench to the clinic, by providing Pepper Center investigators unprecedented access to state-of-the-art instrumentation, resources, and intellectual and technical expertise in aging biology and translational science.

Learn More

Leadership

Susan L. Greenspan, MD

Anne B. Newman, MD, MPH

  • Pepper Center Co-Principal Investigator
  • Leadership Administration Core
  • Department Chair, Epidemiology
  • Katherine M. Detre Endowed Chair Population Health Sciences
  • Director Center for Aging and Population Health
  • Professor Epidemiology, Medicine, and Clinical and Translational Science Institute
  • Contact: newmana@edc.pitt.edu
  • Website »

Neil Resnick, MD

Jennifer Brach, PhD, PT

Daniel E. Forman, MD

Fabrisia Ambrosio, PhD, MPT

Steven Albert, PhD, MS

Andrea Rosso, PhD, MPH

Caterina Rosano, MD, MPH

Mark Redfern, PhD

Subashan Perera, PhD

Charity Moore Patterson, PhD, MSPH

Toren Finkel, MD, PhD

  • Leader, Biology of Aging Core
  • Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology
  • G. Nicholas Beckwith III and Dorothy B. Beckwith Chair in Translational Medicine
  • Director, Aging Institute of UPMC and Pitt
  • Website »

Stacey Rizzo, PhD

Pepper Scholars

The Pepper Center promotes the development of new investigators through a multilevel progressive training program including career development activities, education and training opportunities, and support for pilot research. The Research Education Component (REC) provides various levels of support to Novice Scholars, Pepper Scholars, Young Investigators, and Visiting Scholars.

Read More

Current Pepper Scholars

Mary Kotlarczyk, PhD

Mary Kotlarczyk is a Research Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Associate Director of the Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Center. Her research focuses on enhancing musculoskeletal health and mobility among older adults. She is particularly interested in how sarcopenia and osteoporosis impact physical function among older adults residing in long-term care communities.

Lena K. Makaroun, MD, MS

Lena Makaroun is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and a core investigator at the VA Pittsburgh Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion. Her research focuses on social determinants of aging health and elder abuse. Specifically, her current work aims to broaden our understanding of multi-faceted contributors to elder abuse risk and susceptibility in order to improve elder abuse detection in the health care setting. Her ultimate goal is to develop evidence based interventions to address elder abuse and improve quality of life for this vulnerable population.

Emily Rocha, PhD

Emily Rocha is a Research Assistant Professor in the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases in the Department of Neurology. Her research focuses on new age-dependent changes in autophagy and lysosomal degradation pathways. Her goal is to understand how these age-related changes contribute to the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

Samaneh Farsijani

Samaneh Farsijani, Ph.D.

Dr. Farsijani completed a PhD in Human Nutrition at McGill and is completing her post-doctoral training and an MPH in Epidemiology and Aging at Pitt. She will become a Research Assistant Professor in 2020. With a strong foundation in nutritional chemistry and cellular biology, she has studied the effect of dietary protein on muscle in older adults. She is now interested in the interface between dietary pro¬tein, gut microbiome, and muscle in older adults. She plans a career as a translational scientist studying epi¬demiology, and the impact of biological and nutritional interventions on aging, muscle, mobility, and physical function. She will utilize data from the SOMMA study (Study of Mobility and Muscle Aging), which will deter¬mine aspects of muscle quality that lead to muscle disability in 875 adults above age 69 whose gait speed is <1m/sec. SOMMA will provide data on body composition, strength, and mobility. It includes performance testing, muscle biopsy, and imaging to assess mitochondrial dysfunction, autophagy, and muscle innervation.

Pepper Research Network on Aging (PRNA)

The mission of the Pepper Research Network on Aging is to promote and foster inclusion of older adults living in the community and across the continuum of care in University of Pittsburgh research studies. Older adults have traditionally been underrepresented in biomedical research, leading to a lack of evidence-based treatment for the population with the highest disease burden. The United States alone is home to over 40 million older adults, and adults over 65 years of age constitute 17% of Allegheny County. Due to aging of the Baby Boomer population and lack of representation of older adults in clinical research, there is a serious ethical obligation to search for advancements in care for this population through research inclusive of all adults, regardless of age and health status.

The PRNA aims to increase scientific knowledge to help maintain or restore independence in older persons by assisting University of Pittsburgh investigators with age-inclusive clinical research through partnerships between long-term care facilities, senior communities, community organizations, University partners, investigators, and physicians.

The PRNA expands knowledge about treatment of older adults through research studies ranging from double-blind clinical trials to qualitative studies about residents’ experiences in long-term care.

Our Research Registries

The PRNA maintains two registries that recruit and enroll older adults who are willing to be contacted about potential research opportunities.

Community Registry:

The University of Pittsburgh Claude D. Pepper Older Adults Independence Center Research Registry has been in operation since 2005 and has enrolled over 2,200 community-dwelling adults over 60 years of age.

Over 100 studies from various University departments have used the registry as a resource for recruitment. Learn more about using the Community Registry for recruitment

Learn more about becoming a registry participant ›

Senior-Living Registry:

The Platinum Registry for Senior-Living Residents is the only one of its kind and is inclusive of the frailest older adults with the greatest co-morbidities and disabilities. This registry recruits and enrolls older adults who reside in long-term care, senior communities, senior high rises, and those who attend an adult day program. The Platinum Registry has been in operation since 2016 and has fostered relationships with over 40 facilities and their residents.

This registry also recruits senior-living facilities and adult day programs as sites for future research studies. Participating sites agree to consider hosting research programs at their facility to eliminate the barrier of transportation that is prevalent for many older adults. Learn more about using the Senior-Living Registry for recruitment.

Learn more about enrolling in the Senior Living Registry ›