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A new fund aims to spark innovations in diabetes research at Pitt

  • Innovation and Research
  • School of Medicine

November is National Diabetes Month, a time of year dedicated to addressing the epidemic that affects more than 37 million Americans and can result in blindness, kidney failure, stroke and more.

For the family of the late Frank Calandra Jr., the chronic disease is more than just a theme, it’s a painful memory and a motivator to fight back. After losing their beloved patriarch to diabetes complications in September 2022, the Calandra family decided to come together to advance diabetes research at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and with clinical partners at UPMC.

“My father did so much, for so many people,” said Kim Calandra-Tohme, Frank’s daughter and president of the Frank Calandra, Jr. Family Foundation. “He was well known in the community for his philanthropy; he loved to give back and enjoyed helping others. Underneath his tough exterior, he had a heart of gold, and throughout his lifetime, he made countless charitable contributions. If you were lucky enough to be his family or friend, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you — in fact, my mom used to say he would move mountains for his kids, and he did.”

This summer, the Frank Calandra, Jr. Family Foundation, led by Calandra-Tohme, foundation board chair Tony Calandra and co-chair Kara Calandra-Charbonneau, hosted the inaugural Frank Calandra, Jr. Golf Outing and Dinner at Longue Vue Club and Golf Course to raise critical funds to formally establish The Frank Calandra Jr. Research and Innovations in Diabetes Fund. The new fund will be used by Erin E. Kershaw, chief of Pitt’s Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, to further ongoing research initiatives within her laboratory.

An accomplished researcher and clinician whose expertise and leadership have propelled advancements in the field of endocrinology and metabolism, Kershaw leads a multidisciplinary team dedicated to unraveling the complexities of diabetes and developing innovative treatments. In addition to her role as division chief, she holds the Endowed Chair for Obesity and Diabetes Research and serves as an associate professor of medicine, furthering highlighting her profound commitment to tackling these pressing health challenges.

“My colleagues and I have committed our lives to treating people with diabetes, and we want to follow Frank’s lead in focusing on safety, innovation and most of all, people — putting people first,” Kershaw said at the golf event. “One area where you can see the immediate impact that this gift can have on people living with diabetes is a new educational program in Frank’s name that will support the next generation of doctors and scientists who are working diligently to prevent, delay or treat diabetes.”

Frank Calandra Jr. was well known for his longtime passion for using golf as a source of joy and inspiration. In addition to investing in UPMC’s signature annual golf event, Celebrity Classic, he also raised money in support of endocrinology and vascular research at both Pitt Medicine and UPMC.

The Calandra family ultimately decided to organize a golf outing to raise funds as a testament to the philanthropic legacy and memory of their father.

“I know that my father would be honored and humbled by the outpouring of support and love from the golf community, and we are grateful for the ways in which he touched our lives,” said Calandra-Tohme. “The impact of these contributions extends far beyond financial support provided … it will help bring us one step closer to a future free from the burden of diabetes.”

Learn more about the Frank Calandra, Jr. Foundation or to make a charitable donation. And save the date for next year’s Frank Calandra, Jr. Golf Outing and Dinner, which will be held June 10 at Longue Vue Club in Verona, Pennsylvania.


— Sierra Smith, photo by Victoria Douglass Photography