Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, Named Associate Director of Population Sciences

As part of our strategic planning and our evolving plan to enhance diversity, we are realigning our leadership to better serve our community. We have consolidated our three population-based Associate Director (AD) roles into two: AD for Community Outreach and Engagement (Dr. Monica Baskin) and the newly created AD of Population Science for the next CCSG renewal in 2026. 

Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPHAfter a national search and with agreement of our External Advisory Board, we are pleased to announce Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, as our new Associate Director (AD) of Population Sciences at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Dr. Schmitz served as the AD of Catchment Area Research for the last year and did an outstanding job. We are delighted to refine her leadership role to oversee our two population science programs, working closely with Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention (CEP) and Biobehavioral Cancer Control (BCC) program leadership and staff to roll out new initiatives designed to enhance our population sciences research portfolio.

Dr. Schmitz is an exercise oncology researcher and professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Pitt’s School of Medicine as well as the director of UPMC Hillman’s Exercise Oncology efforts. She focuses on the role of exercise on physiologic and psychosocial outcomes for people living with and beyond cancer.

Her recent accomplishments include serving as PI of three large NIH-funded trials that extend from the use of exercise for primary prevention of cancer (PA Moves), through assessing whether exercise may improve treatment tolerance in older breast cancer patients (THRIVE-65), to assessing whether a tablet based supportive care platform will improve survival or quality of life in advanced cancer patients in the rural setting.  Her prior work has been published in high impact journals including JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine, JCO, and CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, among others. 

Since Dr. Schmitz arrived at Pitt in 2022, she has published more than 45 PubMed-indexed manuscripts and overall has more than 350 publications with a Google Scholar h-index of 85. She also has been successful at changing oncology standards to include exercise oncology, principally through the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s Distinguished Scholar Award, the American College of Sports Medicine’s Citation Award, and the American Cancer Society’s prestigious Clinical Research Professor award. Most recently, she was inducted as an Honorary Fellow of the College of Royal Surgeons in Edinburgh, Scotland.  

Dr. Schmitz earned her PhD at the University of Minnesota, where she also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Epidemiology. In 2005, she joined the University of Pennsylvania as an Assistant Professor, and she obtained tenure and rose to the rank of full professor.  In 2016 she was recruited to Penn State College of Medicine, where she became a Distinguished Professor of Public Health Sciences. 

We are tremendously grateful to Dr. Jian-Min Yuan, MD, PhD for 10 years of leadership as AD for Population Science and Cancer Control. Based on his longstanding accomplishments and continued leadership contributions to UPMC Hillman, he will be appointed as special advisor to the Director and will remain a valued member of the UPMC Hillman senior leadership team. He will also continue as the Arnold Palmer Endowed Chair for Cancer Prevention, as well as Co-Leader of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Epidemiology Program.

We are delighted to have Drs. Schmitz as leader for our population science and Dr. Baskin continuing as leader of Community Outreach and Engagement. We are confident they will garner further transdisciplinary accomplishments and bring their unique lens of leadership to our population sciences programs at UPMC Hillman. 

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