Remembering SaM Associate Director Mike Barmada

Mahmud Muhieddine, Michael Barmada, PhD born November 14 1969 in Detroit, Michigan, currently residing in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, passed away Friday, December 2, 2016 at Shadyside Hospital after an impressive battle against gastroesophageal junction cancer, surrounded by his closest family.

As a computational geneticist, using his experience on the cutting edge of personalizing medicine, Mike developed a mouse avatar to customize chemotherapy, sequenced his tumor and himself for full genome comparison, implemented the ideal exercise, diet and supplements for whole body support, participated in a vaccine trial and was a recipient of an exciting new immuno oncologic therapy. Disappointingly, there were no differences between the tumor and himself, no known gene amplification or protein overexpression, no target at which to aim his impressive abilities. He did find genes that predisposed him to this and other cancers along with multiple early onset cancer genes. While he persevered with awe inspiring optimism, much of the last two and a half years have been a gift of time wrought by Mike’s considerable talent and connections.

Mike was a graduate of Falk School, Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins and University of Pittsburgh.

Growing his scientific career over 20 years at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health apace with his field, at the beginning of high throughput data and data intensive computing and analysis, using the cloud as a research tool long before we used it to store selfies, garnering grant funding at a steady rate, mentoring over 30 masters, doctorate, medical students and faculty, Mike taught genetics, bioinformatics and analysis at the graduate and post graduate level and adjunct institutions. He served on over 25 committees since 2001 and served as Director, Bioinformatics Resource Center, Institute for Personalized Medicine, since 2012, Associate Director, Center for Simulation and Modeling since 2012, Director, Center for Computational Genetics, GSPH since 2004, Director, Department Computational Resources Division, Department of Human Genetics, GSPH since 1999. It was his greatest joy and honor to be a teacher. He took that show on the road with Dan Weeks via the India-US Research Training Program in Genetics funded by Fogarty International Center, NIH. Mike was a PSIAA certified ski instructor teaching at Hidden Valley throughout the 1990’s. In every interaction Mike cherished the minds of his family, friends, collaborators, coworkers, fellow volunteers and students. His tremendous heart had room for affection for so many who have already reached out to the family.

In his personal life, Mike’s determined efforts to hold his cancer at bay while researching novel methods for a cure bought the family time to make memories. Showing his children around the south of France was his dream vacation; sitting in Vesuvio in Cannes sharing a pizza was perfection. Reaching out to his brothers to deepen those relationships became a priority that has resulted in satisfying connections sadly cut short. Substituting as a Boy Scouts of America scout master for a few years led Mike into unexpected delight as he grew to know himself and our sons to a depth that he commented on with unbridled pleasure and great pride when Bisch achieved the honor of Eagle Scout. A parent volunteer from 2009-2013 for The Little Green Machine, South Fayette’s marching band with Bisch on saxophone, the friends he made warmed his heart and continue to surround us with love. The gift of a piano from his parents gave him years of joy listening to Gabrielle, a young age beginner, master songs and fill the house with music. He watched her confidence grow as she applied her deep empathy to a career in nursing, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Pitt Nursing in 2015. During Michael’s years at Central Catholic Mike has been consistently amused at the development his quick wit, ease of learning and musical talent. He was very excited by the endless possibilities for his brilliant and empathetic children and will be watching over their progress with pride and admiration.

Family was more important to Mike than anything by far. He loved every minute spent biking, swimming, walking the beach, crammed into airplane seats, kayaking, watching movies and sitting around the dinner table. Every minute spent together was cherished and reminisced about. He would be reminded of a treasured friend, a laugh or a magical moment and comment with affection. His memory stretched back to early childhood. Survived by his wife Christina (nee Daneker), daughter Gabrielle Amira, sons Bischer Richard and Michael Dorian, parents Bicher and Mamdouha, brothers Fady and Sami and their wives Carlin and Elizabeth, grandmother Yvone Ahdab, uncle Misbah Ahdab, aunt May Ahdab Scicluna and her husband Michael, cousin Nona Yehia Sullivan and her husband Mark, cousin Nabil Yehia, mother in law, Eileen M Daneker, brother in law Steve Daneker and his wife, Mike’s dearest friend, Rebecca, sister in law Jennifer Evans and her husband, his friend and co-worker, Ryan. Predeceased by daughter Mary-Claire in 2008

Please join us in celebrating his life with a memorial service at 23 Parran Hall in the Graduate School of Public Health, 130 De Soto Street (facing Fifth Avenue) Pittsburgh PA 15261 on Saturday the 17th of December at 3 pm with light refreshments to follow. All are invited to share their insight as we record this event for his children. They have many decisions to face in a life without dad and many of you hold the key to a side of Mike they would have experienced throughout their lives. Contact Christina through Mike’s email at Barmada@me.com if you plan to participate so we can schedule presenters accordingly.

In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to Mike’s Go Fund Me account to supplement Michael’s college expenses. We are greatly blessed to have academic tuition at the University of Pittsburgh available to him despite Mike’s untimely passing. The cost of books, fees, room and board are not included.

 

“To know the mighty works of God; to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power; to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful working of His laws, surely all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance can not be more grateful than knowledge.”

~Copernicus