Breaking Barriers: UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute Employees Honored

By: Courtney Caprara

Gender stereotypes are well-documented in the medical field, but today’s practitioners are leaving them in the past.

At this year’s Pittsburgh Heart Ball, hosted by the American Heart Association Great Rivers Affiliate, two UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute employees were honored for exceptional contributions to their fields, defying gender stereotypes in the process.

Dr. Flordeliza Villanueva – Peter J. Safar Pulse of Pittsburgh Award Recipient

Villanueva, director of non-invasive cardiac imaging at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute and director of the Center for Molecular Imaging and Image-Guided Therapeutics, became the first woman to receive the Pulse of Pittsburgh Award, which is named after the late Dr. Peter J. Safar, the “Father of CPR.” Presented since 2003, the award recognizes a physician who has made an outstanding commitment to fighting heart disease and stroke.

“The American Heart Association has played a pivotal role in my career, supporting my research since I began my cardiology fellowship at the University of Virginia and staying with me every step of the way,” Villanueva said. “I am honored to be the first woman to receive this award and to be part of the community that is working together to advance cardiovascular research, provide quality care and promote disease prevention.”

Villanueva began her career at UPMC in 1992, and since then, she has helped transform Pittsburgh into one of the world’s premier centers of ultrasound and ultrasound contrast agent research. She has focused her research on the use of microbubbles, or miniscule particles of gas that can be used in conjunction with ultrasound imaging to view blood flow in the heart. Future research will focus on using microbubbles as a method of minimally invasive, image-guided drug delivery.

Timothy Powell, R.N.- Mary Ann Scully Excellence in Nursing Award Recipient

A unit director at UPMC Presbyterian, Powell became the first man to receive the Mary Ann Scully Excellence in Nursing Award, which was established to honor an individual nurse for his or her lifetime accomplishments in the field of cardiovascular nursing.

Powell’s path to cardiovascular nursing began 29 years ago when he accepted a job in UPMC’s payroll department. After two years, he became a cardiovascular unit secretary at UPMC Presbyterian, working full time while using UPMC’s tuition benefits to attend nursing school. After holding cardiovascular nursing positions at UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital and UPMC Mercy, founding the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute’s Children’s Health and Nutrition Goals and Education (CHANGE) Program and helping to start the Community Outreach and Cardiovascular Health (COACH) Program, he is back where his nursing career began, using his skills to bring efficiency and innovation to his unit.

“A lot of patients come to us without knowing they have a heart condition,” Powell said. “As nurses, we are able to provide them with helpful interventions, as well as education for a healthier lifestyle. I do what I enjoy every day, and to be recognized for my work is incredibly humbling.”

To learn more about UPMC’s cardiovascular research and programs, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute website.