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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.

Celebration of Life - Dr. Uma Rao

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!

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