Alumni Association Names Distinguished Alumni Fellows

Issue Date: 
February 18, 2013

The University of Pittsburgh Alumni Association has named Catherine U. Dischner (NURS ’79), assistant deputy under secretary for health for organizational integration in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Johanna M. Seddon (A&S ’70, MED ’74), professor of ophthalmology at Tufts University and director of the Ophthalmic Epidemiology and Genetics Service in the New England Eye Center; and Tom R. Slone (CGS ’88), chair and CEO of Touchstone Communications, as Distinguished Alumni Fellows for 2013. Dischner, Seddon, and Slone will be honored during the University’s annual Honors Convocation at 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, in Carnegie Music Hall, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland.

The convocation is designed to honor, in addition to Distinguished Alumni Fellows, outstanding undergraduate, graduate, and professional student academic achievement; student leadership; and faculty and staff accomplishments. In the latter category, the ceremony recognizes the recipients of the 2013 Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award, Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award, and the Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the Community and in Service to the University.

Brief biographies of the alumni honorees follow.

When DischnerCatherine U. Dischner graduated from Pitt’s School of Nursing in 1979, she and her mother, Janet Ruth Lewis Utz (NURS ’47), were among the first and very few pairs of mothers and daughters to have both earned a degree from that school.

Dischner began her career as an active-duty nurse with the United States Navy, rising to become a captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, tending to the health needs of military personnel, their families, and veterans. 

In 1984, Dischner accepted a position as staff nurse at a community hospital in Kansas. Over the course of her nursing career—interrupted several times by calls to return to active duty, most notably during Operation Desert Storm—she took on increasingly administrative roles. Working for Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States, Dischner served as clinical coordinator for medical-surgical specialties and primary care, acting medical facility administrator for two large tertiary ambulatory care centers, and regional quality coordinator for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Dischner has also held the positions of nurse manager/project manager for Inphynet Physician Group at the emergency department and medical acute care clinic of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and nursing systems analyst at UPMC South Side Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Since 2001, Dischner has served as a member of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where she has held the positions of deputy director for the Office of Healthcare Transformation, clinical director of nursing for primary care, and director of clinical support in the Office of Patient Care Services. In her current role, Dischner oversees the health care needs of millions of veterans.

Dischner is a member of a number of prominent organizations, including the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, the Emergency Nurses Association, the Naval Reserve Association, and the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States (AMSUS).

Her outstanding contributions have earned Dischner many prestigious awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award from Pitt’s School of Nursing and the Joel T. Boone Award, presented by AMSUS.

As anJohanna M. Seddon undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, Seddon spent her summer breaks working as an operating room assistant, observing a number of eye surgeries.

After completing her Bachelor of Science degree from Pitt, Seddon was awarded both a Pennsylvania Senatorial Scholarship and a Henry H. Clark Medical Education Foundation Scholarship to continue her studies in Pitt’s School of Medicine. After earning her Pitt MD, she went to the Harvard School of Medicine, where she obtained a Master of Science degree in epidemiology. Seddon used her training in ophthalmology and epidemiology to found and develop the Epidemiology Units for Clinical Epidemiologic Research at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Seddon’s groundbreaking research has led her to discover the role that nutritional, environmental, genetic, biological, genetic-environmental, and behavioral factors play in age-related macular degeneration—the leading cause of blindness in developed nations—as well as in other diseases of the eye. Notably, Seddon has identified 10 of the 20 macular degeneration genetic variants discovered to date.

A pioneer in the field of ophthalmic epidemiology, Seddon has published extensively, presented invited talks at conferences and scientific society meetings, and is a member of many prominent professional societies, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the American Medical Women’s Association. Seddon has also held leadership positions with the Massachusetts Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

Seddon has received many honors for uncovering the underlying factors contributing to the loss of vision in older adults and her extraordinary contributions to the field of ophthalmic research, including the inaugural Maurice F. Rabb Jr. MD Award from Prevent Blindness America, the George N. Wise Memorial Award from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, the Senior Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Honor Award from the American Society of Retina Specialists, and the 2012 J. Donald Gass MD Beacon of Sight Award from the Florida Association of Retinal Experts.

A veteranTom R. Slone of the United States Air Force, Slone worked as a groundskeeper and assembly-line worker before joining Associates First Capital Corporation as a management trainee in 1967. There Slone rose through the corporate ranks, assuming positions of increased responsibility, among them senior executive vice president of U.S. consumer finance operations and president of consumer operations. In those roles, Slone was responsible for $33 billion in assets and 14,000 employees, with operations in the United States, the United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, Ireland, and Canada.

Slone enrolled in Pitt’s College of General Studies in 1985 and continued his studies there even after being transferred to Texas, flying to Pittsburgh on the weekends to attend classes. In 1988, Slone received his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology.

Slone and three other executives founded Touchstone in 2002 to provide offshore business process outsourcing solutions to the financial services industry, including lead generation, real estate processing, bankruptcy processing, and collections for major companies in the United States and United Kingdom.

Slone remains actively involved with a number of charitable organizations, including H.O.P.E. Farm, Inc., which seeks to “Help Other People Excel” through after-school programs providing young boys with opportunities for enrichment and mentoring. Slone has also been a longtime volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. At Pitt, he established the Tom R. Slone Scholarship to provide financial assistance to College of General Studies students who are active in Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Slone also developed a unique program for a group of young H.O.P.E. Farm pupils: a 21-day trip to 10 baseball stadiums, a trip he chronicled in his 2011 book, Grounders: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey of Baseball, History, and Mentoring. Slone has been honored with the American Financial Services Association Distinguished Service Award and has been named a University of Pittsburgh Legacy Laureate, one of the most prestigious honors granted to a Pitt alumnus. He is a director on Pitt’s Alumni Board and a member of the University’s College of General Studies Board of Visitors.