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In Loving Memory of

Dr. Uma Rao

Oct. 13th, 1945 – Apr. 7th, 2020

Tributes to Uma

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A Tribute to My Sister Uma

My sister was a curious, dynamic, and extroverted person who won and sustained a great many friendships that lasted her lifetime. She loved her friends and kept them close. She was a remarkably generous and kind person who deeply cared about those around her. 

Her life-changing impact in the field of Pathology will never be forgotten. Uma will always be remembered for her fierce dedication and passion for her work, her brilliance and significant contributions to the medical field.

Remembering Uma Rao, MD

Uma Rao, MD was a cornerstone member of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (or UPCI, now the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center). Within a few years of the founding of UPCI by Ronald Herberman in 1986, she joined the Melanoma Program with John M. Kirkwood, MD. 

Together, they instituted weekly pathology reviews that rapidly became a focus of education and quality control for multiple studies of the Melanoma Program at UPCI, and for ECOG’s (now ECOG-ACRIN’s) Melanoma Committee after 1989. 

Tree of Friendship by Dr. Yashoda Rao

A friendship tree was planted of five girls -Uma, Rama, Vathsala, Vijaya, and Yashoda- in front of one of the classrooms of Mysore Medical College in 1962.


Nicoletta Villa-Sella

I will always cherish the weekends we spent together going to the theater or the opera and sharing views and conversations on the inexhaustible number of external affairs subjects that Uma mastered. I miss you, my friend!

Dr. Rupi Grewal

Uma was a dear dear friend who I miss so much. She was just such an amazing person!

I first met her in 1994 – I was a clinical fellow looking for a research project and was told she was a helpful prof. And how very true that was!! She helped get my first publication!

The first time I met her, she took such a genuine interest in my life and ambitions. I was alone in Pittsburgh and she included me in her life and became such a dear friend. I would share all my joys and worries with her and she was always there to listen and support.

She was an incredibly generous person. We travelled and had such fun on these holidays. For all her amazing accomplishments she was an incredibly humble person. I had to go online to find out about her new accomplishments! She was as an incredible person, greatly respected pathologist and teacher and trainer, wonderful artist, and a very dear friend who will be missed forever!


Dr. George K. Michalopoulos, Chair, Dept. of Pathology

Uma Rao left a strong, loving and indelible memory in our department. As Chair of the Department of Pathology, I consider her presence in our department as one of the most academic and also most collegial opportunities the department has ever had. Uma was happy in all her academic activities. She trained many of today’s pathologists in bone and soft tissue and melanoma diagnostics; she published high quality papers that have left a lasting positive mark in the field; she guided technical staff to always do things better. But, more than all of the above, for me, the most important aspect of my relationship with Uma, is that she and I considered each other as close friends!

We often discussed human life and its challenges, outside of the university and the hospital. She would send me important articles written by philosophers and commentators, and I did the same. Her absence, from all of this, still hurts. We all miss her very much.


Debbie Vesper

During our many times together through a friendship over 35 years Uma shared her knowledge about medicine, science, diversity in cultures, politics, religion, food, travel, books and movies and more. She embraced diversity, reveled in her family and friends’ accomplishments and celebrations and amazed us with her joyous childlike wonderment in nature. A true friend through life’s peaks and valleys, through laughs and through tears, Uma brought a light to our lives that will forever burn bright. We miss our dear friend and keep her loving family in our thoughts and hearts. Love always. Debbie, Dennis and Den

About Uma

Dr. Uma N. M. Rao, MD, suddenly passed away at home on April 7, 2020 at the age of 74. We remember her for her brilliant mind, sharp wit, sense of humor and fierce dedication to her work.

Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Rao held 176 refereed articles and publications, 37 published abstracts and presentations, and numerous chapters in books.

Beyond her work, Dr. Rao had a wide range of interests, from her passion for the arts and history, to her love for western classical music. However, as those who knew her personally can attest, nothing piqued Dr. Rao’s interest as much as the people in her life.

By those people, Dr. Rao will not only be remembered for her brilliance and significant contributions to the medical field, but her exceptionally charitable nature, love for those around her, and lively spirit.

After graduating from Mysore University in 1968, Dr. Rao moved to the United States shortly after in 1970. Dr. Rao’s professional accolades extend to the highest and most respected levels in the medical fields of Pathology, Melanoma and Sarcoma. 


She was the Clinical Associate Professor of Pathology at the State University of New York (SUNY) from 1989 to 1992, where at the same time, was the Associate Chief Professor of Pathology at Rosewell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY.

From 2000 to 2019, Dr. Rao was a Professor of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) School of Medicine, as well as Director of Bone-Soft Tissue and Melanoma at the Center of Excellence, BST Fellowship Director, and Pathology Coordinator at UPMC Shadyside for the Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program in Pittsburgh, PA.

She was awarded the title of “Clinical Professor Emeritus” from UPMC/UPP. Most recently, Dr. Rao was the Chief Research Pathologist at the Gynecologic Cancer Center of Excellence, The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine in Maryland.

She will forever be remembered for her significant contributions to the field of Pathology, Melanoma and Sarcoma, and is sorely missed by her family and friends. 

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