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Franklin Park woman honored by Lupus Foundation

| Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 8:09 p.m.
Dr. Susan Manzi of Franklin Park speaks during the Lupus Foundation of America’s National Advocacy Awards Dinner on June 16, 2015 in Washington. She received the National Advocacy Leadership Award from the organization.
Courtesy of Lupus Foundation of America
Dr. Susan Manzi of Franklin Park speaks during the Lupus Foundation of America’s National Advocacy Awards Dinner on June 16, 2015 in Washington. She received the National Advocacy Leadership Award from the organization.

Dr. Susan Manzi of Franklin Park has received the National Advocacy Leadership Award from the Lupus Foundation of America for her efforts in research and patient care.

The award was presented in June during the Lupus Foundation of America's National Advocacy Awards Dinner in Washington.

Manzi, 55, is the Department of Medicine chairwoman and the co-founder and co-director of the Lupus Center of Excellence at Allegheny Health Network.

“I have worked with Dr. Manzi for nearly 25 years,” said Dr. Mary Chester Wasko, chief of the Division of Rheumatology at Allegheny Health Network.

“She has always been a tireless advocate for her patients, and her innovative research has helped to provide new tools for the diagnosis of Lupus and new options for the treatment of this challenging disease.”

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that attacks healthy cells in the body. While most prevalent in women ages 15 to 44, men and children can have lupus, too.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, more than 1.5 million Americans have lupus, and there are 16,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Manzi has focused her career on the treatment of lupus and has not looked back.

“I became interested in the disease as a physician in training because of curiosity of why the immune system would attack itself and particularly target young women. From that time on, I spent my career focus on trying to better understand the disease and try to improve the lives of patients with Lupus,” Manzi said.

Manzi has published more than 100 pieces of research on lupus and similar afflictions during her career.

“I spent my entire career taking care of patients with lupus and conducting research in lupus, and so being recognized as an advocate for patients with this disease is really a privilege,” Manzi said.

Fifteen years ago, she began to collaborate with the co-director of the Lupus Center of Excellence, Dr. Joseph Ahearn, on a better way to diagnose this disease.

“(It) resulted in a blood test that was licensed by a company and now is commercially available for patients across the United States. That makes me very happy that we can improve the accuracy of diagnosing lupus based off of 15 years of research,” Manzi said.

The Avise SLE test, launched in 2012, provides a way to determine if a patient has lupus rather than another autoimmune disease. SLE stands for systemic lupus erythematosus.

“Her guidance and support as a member of the National Board of the Lupus Foundation of America has been unparalleled. And, her compassion and unwavering commitment to her patients and all people with lupus makes her the outstanding thought leader she is,” Sandra Raymond, president and CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America, said about Manzi.

Despite her research efforts related to lupus, Manzi said, the most important thing to her still is the patients.

“Every time I see a patient and can do something to improve their quality of life, that is a big impact for me,” Manzi said.

Kyle Gorcey is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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