19th Annual Safar Symposium Welcomed Freedom House 2.0

The 19th Annual Safar Symposium, held as a hybrid event on May 26-27, 2021, introduced attendees to Freedom House 2.0, in addition to the symposium’s traditional program of investigator presentations, a keynote address, multi-departmental trainees’ research day, and the WISER simulation lecture session. Freedom House 2.0 (FH2.0) is a 21st century iteration of the paramedic training established by Peter Safar in the late 1960s that led to the creation of the Freedom House ambulance service in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

Early in his tenure at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Safar recruited and trained unemployed African American men from the Hill District to become paramedics for the fledgling ambulance service. Their life-saving EMS skills would help to reduce the death rate of the critically injured and sick during transportation to hospital. Freedom House ambulance service was the first such service in the US and became a national model for ambulance services across the country.

“Peter Safar would have loved to know that two of his earliest Freedom House paramedic trainees—Mitchell Brown and John Moon—spoke at the Safar Symposium about the early days of the Freedom House ambulance service,” said Patrick M. Kochanek, MD, MCCM, who is director of the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research and co-chair of the Safar Symposium with Aman Mahajan, MD, PhD, MBA, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine. “I was thrilled that the symposium committee members were equally enthusiastic to hear real-life stories about Peter Safar and his vision for an ambulance service built and run by people from the Hill District.”

Hollywood is also interested in the Freedom House Ambulance Service. Actor James McDaniel and his writing partner Derek Jennings hope to produce a television series about Freedom House during the 1960s. McDaniel believes that Freedom House is a “story about triumph of an interracial group…that changed the world” and it should “be universally known.” This Los Angeles Times story provides further details on Freedom House and the TV project.

At the symposium, the Freedom House 2.0 segment featured three speakers who gave “Personal Views from the Beginning” about the original Freedom House. They were Mitchell J. Brown, a former Freedom House paramedic and former Columbus City council member; John Moon, a former Freedom House paramedic and the retired assistant chief of EMS for the city of Pittsburgh; and Phil Hallen, president emeritus of the Falk Foundation, who collaborated with Peter Safar to help fund the program.

Medical director for Freedom House 2.0, Emily Lovallo, MD, talked about “Lesson Learned from Freedom House 2.0’s First Year and a Look to the Future.” She is an emergency medicine assistant professor at UPMC. Watch the FH2.0 presentations.

Launched in late 2020, FH2.0 aims to recruit, train and employ first responders from economically disadvantages communities. FH2.0 was launched by UPMC and UPMC Health Plan and funded by a grant from Partner4@work, the public workforce investment board for Allegheny County.

The 41st Peter and Eva Safar Annual Lectureship in the Medical Sciences and Humanities was delivered by Geoffrey Ling, MD, PhD, CEO of On Demand Pharmaceuticals. His presentation was entitled “Say Yes to a Different Attitude to Help Advance Patient Care.” Watch the 41st Peter and Eva Safar Lectureship.

The Nancy Caroline Fellow Award for outstanding fellow investigator was won by Jonathan Pelletier, MD (mentors: Robert Clark, MD and Christopher Horvat, MD, MHA), and the S. William Stezoski Technician Award was won by Jeffrey Cheng who works in the lab of Anthony Kline, PhD.


The Multi-Departmental Trainees’ Research Day drew 58 junior investigators from across campus. Best abstract winners were:

Tyler Nelson, BS, BA, medical student (mentor: Bradley K. Taylor, PhD), won 1st award for Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine for “Spinal neuropeptide Y1 receptor-expressing interneurons represent a therapeutic target for the treatment of neuropathic pain.”

Heather Allen, PhD, postdoctoral fellow (mentor: Bradley K. Taylor, PhD), won 2nd award, for Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine for “Parabrachial Neuropeptide Y Y1 Receptors Modulate Neuropathic Pain in Mice”

Aybike Korkmaz, MD, PhDc, postdoctoral fellow (mentor: Hϋlya Bayır, MD), won the Critical Care Medicine award for “Myeloperoxidase deficiency limits the generation of pro-inflammatory PUFA-containing lysophospholipids after controlled cortical impact.”

Nicholas Case, NRP, undergraduate student (mentors: Patrick Coppler, PA-C; Clifton Callaway, Md, PhD; Jonathan Elmer, MD, MS), won the Emergency Medicine award for “Simple and Interpretable Methods for Automated Quantification of Cerebral Edema Severity.”

Sarah Svirsky, PhDc, predoctoral student (mentor: C. Edward Dixon, PhD), won the Neurological Surgery award for “Characterization of hippocampal CA1 dendritic spine density and morphology and GluA1 expression 2 weeks after controlled cortical impact in rats.”

Piper Rennerfeldt (mentor: Corina O. Bondi, PhD), won the Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation award for “Positive effects of α7 nicotinic acetylcholinergic receptor modulation and environmental enrichment on sustained attention, cholinergic neurotransmission, and systemic inflammation after controlled cortical impact injury.”