PNA Spotlight: Dr. Pouneh Fazeli
This month the PNA Spotlight focuses on Dr. Pouneh Fazeli, a PNA
member who serves as Director of the Neuroendocrinology Unit in the
Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and an Associate Professor of
Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her undergraduate
degree from Harvard University, and her medical degree from the
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She also earned a Master of Public
Health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Fazeli completed her
residency training in internal medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New
York, where she served as chief resident. She then completed fellowship training in
endocrinology at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and was an attending
physician in the Neuroendocrine Unit at MGH before moving to the University of
Pittsburgh in 2019. She was kind enough to answer some questions from the PNA. Her
- What inspired you to choose your career path?
During college, I took a course on the topic of human reproduction. At the time, I was not thinking about going to medical school but after taking that course, I fell in love with hormonal feedback loops and decided I wanted to go to medical school to become an endocrinologist. During my medical school endocrinology rotation, I remember being amazed by the fact that a pituitary tumor (prolactinoma) could be treated with a pill. I also found the multidisciplinary team approach to the treatment of pituitary disorders exciting.
- What is the primary focus of your work/research?
I am Director of the Neuroendocrinology Unit in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Pittsburgh and work as part of a multidisciplinary team to treat patients with pituitary disorders, including Cushing’s, acromegaly, hyperprolactinemia and hypopituitarism. Together with our outstanding neurosurgery colleagues, we are able to provide each patient with a collaborative multidisciplinary treatment plan. I also have a research program that is focused on understanding neuroendocrine adaptations to fasting and undernutrition. Fasting has become a very popular means of weight loss and studying the changes in pituitary hormones that occur with fasting will help us better understand both the potential metabolic benefits of fasting and also the possible negative effects.
- What do you consider to be the future of your field?
Although there are a number of outstanding treatments, both surgical and medical, for patients with pituitary disorders, there is still a lot of work to be done. Why do these tumors develop? How can we prevent recurrences? What is the best way to follow patients with pituitary tumors long-term? These are a few of the questions that still need to be answered in our field. We are also now very lucky to have many new medical therapies that were not available even 15 years ago for the treatment of disorders including Cushing’s and acromegaly; therefore, understanding the best way to personalize care for patients so that we can both optimize their treatment and quality of life is a critical next step in our field.
- What should patients know about your field/what deserves more recognition/awareness?
Patients should know that it is important to seek treatment at a place where there is a comprehensive multidisciplinary team. Pituitary disorders require lifelong follow-up and therefore seeking treatment at an institution that is able to seamlessly provide comprehensive collaborative care is critical. Patients should also know that there are now many effective treatment options for individuals with pituitary disorders and they should seek care at a specialized center that will be able to provide them with all of the options so that they can seek the best treatment strategy for them. In short, they should seek a dedicated, multidisciplinary team that will be able to provide personalized care.
- What would you like to convey about yourself to your patients?
I really believe that it is an honor and a privilege to be a physician. I understand how truly difficult and life-changing it can be to hear that you have a tumor. My goal for every patient is to help them understand their disorder, what they should expect through treatment, and to work with them closely to come up with a personalized treatment plan. I also believe that communication – both between the patient and his/her physicians and between the physicians in the multidisciplinary team – is one of the most important and critical factors when helping patients understand their options and navigate through treatment. This is something that all of us strive for at our multidisciplinary center.
- Why did you get involved with the PNA and what is the extent of your involvement?
I have been so impressed with the advocacy and resources provided by the PNA. I joined the PNA because I felt it was important to be part of an outstanding organization focused on providing resources for patients with pituitary disorders and one that reflects the patients’ perspective.
Pouneh K. Fazeli, MD, MPH
Director, Neuroendocrinology Unit
Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism
Associate Professor of Medicine
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
200 Lothrop Street, BST W1061
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Tel: 412-648-9761; Fax: 412-648-3290