Allegheny Health Network Autoimmunity Institute - CrossBridge
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Allegheny Health Network Autoimmunity Institute

Allegheny Health Network Autoimmunity Institute

Bill Conlan from CrossBridge had the opportunity to visit the AHN Autoimmunity Institute in Pittsburgh along with Bonnie Feldman ( Here is the story as told by Bonnie Feldman ….

We were pleasantly surprised to meet Dr. Joseph Ahearn. Humble and soft spoken, he and his wife, Dr. Susan Manzi are a team with a long history of dedication, creativity and scientific excellence finding new ways to better serve autoimmune patients.Patients can be seen by multiple specialists, sequentially or simultaneously.  As shown above, there are 12 different specialties, including but not limited to, allergy, cardiology, dermatology, gastroenterology, genetics, infusion therapy, nephrology, nutrition and behavioral health, rheumatology.  You can also see the focus on autoimmune diseases: Lupus, RA, Celiac, and IBD.

This was so unlike my most recent appointments at other institutions, which were a series of expensive and time-consuming one-on-ones with various specialists (rheumatology, endocrinology, infectious disease, sleep medicine, ENT and physical medicine, etc.). Sadly, although my team of specialists there mean well, their system is not designed for efficient collaborative care. For example, it took multiple emails and days to get the answer to my simple question of whether I should get the new Shingles vaccine. In order for me to get their multiple perspectives, I must act as the team lead, project manager, and secretary.  Given my medical training this is doable, but what about patents who did not go to medical/dental school?

How wonderful for patients to finally get the streamlined care collaboration and coordination that we know is important to our long-term wellbeing.

Designing for team collaboration – a huddle hallway with the research team nearby

As location matters in real estate, so it does in collaborative team work.  Dr. Ahearn has created an open work space for the teams, so that they can “huddle” together to discuss the needs of particular patients.  These “huddle” sessions can take place while the patient is being examined or afterward.

Other team members include a nurse practitioner, outcomes specialists, research study coordinators, clinical pharmacologist and a biostatistician. Having researchers close to the clinical team can streamline the clinical trial process for both sponsors and patients, especially by putting the research in the familiar care setting.

An entrepreneurial approach to find better biomarkers and reduce misdiagnosis

Drs. Ahearn and Manzi were early pioneers in improving care for Lupus patients, focused on developing better biomarker-based diagnostics and identifying misdiagnosis. They are the creators of the Avise test, an advanced Connective Tissue Disease (CTD) differential diagnostic designed for patients with positive ANA test results or those concerned that they may have lupus or related CTD conditions.

With their entrepreneurial experience in creating new lab tests, they and their team at the AHN Autoimmunity Institute will focus on research to improve the sensitivity and specificity of the diagnostic tests for the various autoimmune diseases and other immune mediated diseases, using lab-on-a chip technology.


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