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Highmark Foundation grant supports enhanced care, expanded reach of Allegheny Health Network's Lupus Center of Excellence

May 24, 2017 | Pittsburgh, Pa.

PITTSBURGH (May 24, 2017) —The Lupus Center of Excellence at Allegheny Health Network (AHN), part of the AHN Autoimmunity Institute, has been awarded a $90,000 grant from the Highmark Foundation in support of a novel approach to reaching and caring for underserved and underrepresented lupus patients.

Lupus is a debilitating autoimmune disease that predominantly affects young women and minorities, particularly African Americans. An estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. are living with some form of the disease and approximately one in every 250 African Americans is impacted. Lupus has no cure and can affect nearly any part of the body resulting in many different symptoms. However, those most commonly experienced include aching joints, unexplained fever, weight loss, skin rash, shortness of breath, chest pain, hair loss, fatigue, and more.

"We are extremely grateful to the Highmark Foundation for its support in our fight against this chronic and potentially fatal disease," said Susan Manzi, MD, MPH, chair of AHN's Department of Medicine, director of the AHN Lupus Center of Excellence, and medical director of the Lupus Foundation of America. "While we care for people from all over the world who are living with lupus, we are committed to providing patients in our region with increased access and the highest level of care."

Developed in line with the National Public Health Agenda for Lupus, the program will provide specialized, lupus-focused education to both health care providers and members of the community who are at highest risk of developing the disease.

A number of AHN rheumatologists will uniquely function as "lupologists" following advanced training to use lupus-specific instruments and tools that allow for earlier diagnosis of lupus and better monitoring of a patient's condition over time.

At Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), AHN will hold a series of educational sessions for providers that are focused on enhancing knowledge regarding lupus, its management, and unique care situations given the disease's preferential affliction of young women.

Research has shown that nearly two-thirds of the general public has limited or even no knowledge about what lupus is. To drive awareness in the Pittsburgh region, specifically in underserved and underrepresented communities, Dr. Manzi and other AHN lupologists will present in-community, lupus-focused forums geared toward minority patients. Educational materials tailored to a diverse patient population will be disseminated at the forums, AHN facilities, and other events/venues throughout the region.

"We are pleased to support Allegheny Health Network's Lupus Center of Excellence through this grant to help raise awareness and improve the care and quality of life for people living with lupus, especially among communities most affected by the disease," said Highmark Foundation President Yvonne Cook. "This grant is a great example of how the Highmark Foundation funds programs and interventions that address the most prevalent chronic diseases facing the most vulnerable in the regions it serves."

About the Allegheny Health Network

Allegheny Health Network (, part of Highmark Health, is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater western Pennsylvania region. The Network is composed of eight hospitals, including Allegheny General Hospital, its flagship academic medical center in Pittsburgh, Allegheny Valley Hospital in Natrona Heights, Canonsburg Hospital in Canonsburg, Forbes Hospital in Monroeville, Jefferson Hospital in Jefferson Hills, Saint Vincent Hospital in Erie, West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, and Westfield Memorial Hospital in Westfield, New York. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, cardiovascular disease, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women’s health, diabetes, and more. It also is home to a comprehensive research institute; Health + Wellness Pavilions; an employed physician organization, home, and community-based health services; and a group purchasing organization. The Network employs approximately 17,000 people, has more than 2,800 physicians on its medical staff, and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine, and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

About the Highmark Foundation

The Highmark Foundation is a private, charitable organization of Highmark Inc. that supports initiatives and programs aimed at improving community health. The Foundation's mission is to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for individuals who reside in the communities served by Highmark Inc. The Foundation strives to support evidence-based programs that impact multiple counties and work collaboratively to leverage additional funding to achieve replicable models. For more information, visit


Candace Herrington
Allegheny Health Network

Kristy Cramlet
Highmark Health