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National Pancreas Foundation to Honor Allegheny Health Network Physician, Nurses and Patient at Annual Gala

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

PITTSBURGH – Individuals who contribute to the Western Pennsylvania pancreas community in significant ways, including doctors, nurses, volunteers and patients, are recognized each year at the National Pancreas Foundation’s ‘Courage for a Cure’ Gala.  At this year’s event, to be held September 14 in Pittsburgh, caregivers exclusively from Allegheny Health Network (AHN) will be honored, together with one of the heroic patients who benefited from their expertise, skills and compassion.  

Shyam Thakkar, MD, Director of Endoscopy and the AHN Multidisciplinary Pancreas Center, will be recognized at the gala with the Courage of Care award; AHN nurses Deah Davis, RN, BSN, and Pamela Nero, RN, BSN, CGRN, will receive Compassionate Care awards; and patient, Michael Zock, will receive a Hero of Hope award in recognition of his courageous and successful battle with severe acute pancreatitis and the work he has done to educate others about the disease.

“As a true leader in the field of pancreatology with a relentless commitment to his patients, we are extremely pleased to honor Dr. Thakkar with the Courage of Care award. Further, we are grateful to have as part of our community Deah, Pam and Mike who go above and beyond in driving awareness about pancreatic diseases,” said Patter Birsic, Co-founder of the National Pancreas Foundation and Chair of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter.

The Multidisciplinary Pancreas Center (MDPC), part of AHN’s Allegheny Center for Digestive Health, brings together specialists from gastroenterology, surgical oncology, medical oncology and radiology to provide comprehensive care for patients with pancreatic cancer and other pancreatic diseases. Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths, and often does not have symptoms until it is at an advanced stage, at which point it is much more difficult to treat.

Recognized by the National Pancreas Foundation as a Center of Excellence for pancreatic care, the MDPC at AHN is nationally known for its novel use of leading-edge technologies and minimally-invasive, robotic-assisted surgical techniques for the treatment of pancreatic tumors and pancreatitis.

Zock’s treatment began at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) in January 2017 for severe acute pancreatitis – a sudden inflammation of the pancreas that resulted in an infection. Instead of the complex surgery typically used to treat this condition, Dr. Thakkar performed a series of advanced, minimally-invasive endoscopic procedures to clear Zock’s infection and return him to health.

“My family and I are forever grateful to Dr. Thakkar and his team. When my health was in real jeopardy, Dr. Thakkar promised me the very best treatment from beginning to end. That’s exactly what I got,” said Zock.

Davis, the nurse leader of the MDPC team, serves as the AHN team captain for the “PurpleStride Walk to End Pancreatic Cancer” and helps to organize the annual NPF and AHN Pancreas Fair. Nero, who works within the gastrointestinal or “GI” lab at AGH, is highly regarded for passing along her abundant knowledge and passion for care to new staff, associates and fellows. She is the President of the Pennsylvania Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates – a professional organization of nurses and associates dedicated to the safe and effective practice of gastroenterology and endoscopy nursing.

The gala will be held at the Fairmont in Downtown Pittsburgh. Proceeds from the gala benefit the National Pancreas Foundation Regional Research Grant Program. To learn more, visit


About National Pancreas Foundation

The National Pancreas Foundation (NPF) was founded as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in 1997. Since that time, we have made it our mission to significantly influence the pancreatic research community and provide much needed information and resources to patients who are courageously battling pancreatic disease. NPF is headquartered in Bethesda, MD, and has a volunteer-based network of State Chapters supporting local fundraising, education and outreach efforts.