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Mariann Piano receives 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award

Mariann Piano

Renowned researcher Mariann Piano, PhD ‘88, MS ‘84, RN, FAAN, FAHA, received the 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award at commencement earlier this month, the highest honor given to a UIC College of Nursing graduate.

Piano, senior associate dean for research and Nancy and Hilliard Travis Professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, is an expert on the effects of unhealthy alcohol consumption on the cardiovascular system. Her scientific contributions have directly led to the understanding that alcohol is toxic to the heart, which has further shaped national policy, such as informing recommended limits for alcohol consumption.

“Dr. Piano is a dedicated leader, committed to broad-scale change,” wrote Vanderbilt Professor of Nursing Mary Jo Gilmer, PhD, MS ’78, MBA, RN-BC, FAAN, in her nominating letter. “Her pioneering spirit and work with youth has impacted clinical practice and led to a better understanding of the need for prevention and treatment of alcohol-related cardiovascular conditions.”

Piano is also professor emerita at UIC Nursing after a more than 30-year career with the college, starting out as a master’s degree student in 1984 and ending as Nursing Collegiate Professor and head of the Department of Biobehavioral Health Science in 2017.

“I am who I am, hugely because of my education at UIC and because of my strong mentors,” Piano said in a recent interview.

Piano has authored more than 85 journal articles and six book chapters on cardiovascular health and function, the adverse impact of alcohol and tobacco use on the cardiovascular system, animal models of alcohol abuse, and heart failure pathophysiology. As co-author on e-cigarette policy statements from the American Heart Association, she is helping to direct the national conversation on this emerging public health issue.

Piano began her career as an intensive care nurse at Advocate Christ Hospital on Chicago’s South Side, then took a job in the intensive care unit at the University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics, where she worked with patients with profound cardiovascular disease. Those experiences drove Piano’s research at UIC Nursing as both a graduate student and then faculty member.

Her current research focuses on the effects of binge drinking on the cardiovascular systems of young adults.

She is also an award-winning mentor and has served on more than 28 doctoral dissertation committees. Susan Corbridge, PhD ‘09, APRN, FAANP, FAAN, executive associate dean at UIC Nursing, was mentored by Piano when she was a PhD student. In her nominating letter, she says Piano’s leadership as a nurse scientist, educator and mentor is a boon to both the UIC College of Nursing and the field of nursing as a whole.

“Her outstanding contributions and national and international leadership will continue to strengthen our profession,” Corbridge wrote. “We can be extremely proud that she is a UIC College of Nursing alumna.”