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Cathy Vitari, RN, BSN, AE-C

Cathy Vitari RN, BSN, AE-C
The University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute
Pittsburgh, PA


What is your current position?

I am a clinical research nurse The University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute @UPMC/UPSOM.  I do the nursing part of our industry and NIH studies as well as coordinate protocols.  I also work in the pulmonary clinic with Dr. Sally Wenzel and Dr. Fernando Holguin.  My responsibilities include patient education, being the contact person for their patients, phone triage, and other duties.

What are you passionate about in your work?

My passion is patient education.  I am a certified asthma educator (AE-C) which is a national certification that is open to all health care disciplines.  I encourage all those who have contact with patients to increase their knowledge about their condition and its' management, whether they be medical assistant, spirometry technicians,  nurses or fellows. I belong to the Association of Asthma Educators which is a multidisciplinary organization that promotes the greatest and latest in asthma education. I try to clear many misconceptions about asthma - it is not just a childhood disease; it is not always allergic; there are different kinds of asthma. I also work in a free clinic and a clinic for the underserved/underinsured.

Tell us about a memorable patient or student that you worked with?

I worked for four years with a farmer in his 60s from Iowa who had severe eosinophilic asthma. His overalls,  that he always wore, brought out the blue in his eyes.  He was a kind soul who persevered through many hospitalizations, which were mostly in Iowa.  There were innumerable long distance phone calls to offer support and explanation.  No matter how badly he felt, he always had a smile and a kind word.  His wife was one of the best caregivers I have ever seen.  He lived here in Pittsburgh for several months, awaiting a transplant.  The transplant was not successful due to rejection and infection. But he gave it his all.

Tell us about your latest or favorite research project?

I have just finished a pilot study on teaching inhaler technique, comparing usual technique to also using an In Check which measures the inspiratory flow which varies with inhalers.  It appears that when the patient has more than one inhaler, In Check significantly improves technique.

How do you spend your leisure time (yes, hopefully you have leisure time)?

I like walks in the woods and along the rivers here in Pittsburgh. I ride a bicycle and also ride on the back of my husband's motorcycle.  I love to read (I have plenty of time on my bus ride into work though I have to remember to look up once in a while since I have been known to miss my stop because I so focused on the book) and belong to a great book club.  I am active in my church.  I do cross-stitch, paint (oils, water color and acrylic), and sew.

Do you have children? Tell us about them.

My daughter Lauren is 28 and working in Orlando while going to nursing school. She has my grand-dog, Duke, an English bulldog.  My son Kyle is 22 and recently graduated from college.  He is teaching English in Thailand for a year. 

Do you have pets? Tell us about them.

I have two cats that we got from the shelter.  They are basically lap cats though one will fetch a ball.

How has your view of nursing changed over the years?

I have been a nurse for over 30 years, most of which was in oncology nursing.  The scope of nursing practice has changed and has so many options for positions and locations.  Nursing has become more specialized but also covers more of facets of the life spectrum and more than physical issues.

How long have you been a member in ATS?

I have been a member of ATS since 2007.

Do you have a mentor that has helped you?

Sally Wenzel has been an amazing mentor.  I have learned so much about the pathophysiology of asthma as well as its' treatment.  She has encouraged me to grow professionally. Kathy Lindell is also a mentor: she guided me through the pulmonary clinic and ATS.

What is the value of your membership in ATS ?

The value of my membership in ATS is mainly how it has expanded my view and knowledge of the pulmonary world.  I have learned an incredible amount about research and disease management on a national and international level.  I appreciate the support that my ATS and nursing colleagues have offered to me.


Last Reviewed: June 2016