Luke Chelluri, MD, MPH Retires After 33 Years at UPMC and Pitt

For more than three decades, clinical professor of Critical Care Medicine Lakshmipathi “Luke” Chelluri, MD, MPH has been a beacon of calmness in the ICU and a physician dedicated to translating his clinical findings into practice. His retirement from the Department of Critical Care Medicine on December 31, 2020 brings to a close an esteemed academic career at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh.

“Luke’s long-standing QI interest has permeated his leadership as an ICU director, his research and his teaching,” said Derek Angus, MD, MPH, who is Mitchell P. Fink Endowed Chair of the Department of Critical Care Medicine. “He has been both a role model and a mentor—we are all the better for Luke’s involvement in our careers.”

In 1987, Dr. Chelluri was appointed an assistant professor in the Anesthesiology Department at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Surgical ICU, a post he held for 11 years. He went on to hold numerous medical director roles at UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Mercy hospitals and the Pittsburgh VA Medical Center.

Colleagues have described him as the consummate critical care professional: wise, kind, thoughtful and empathetic with a gift for calmly managing hectic ICU situations. Generations of trainees have modeled their own leadership style on his.

Dr. Chelluri’s academic career has been dedicated to translating his clinical research into practice through rigorous quality improvement. Early in his career his NIH study on the long-term outcome from critical illness in the elderly led to a landmark 1993 JAMA paper showing that patients continue to suffer long after they leave the ICU. The paper changed the direction of the field. He followed that work with a ground-breaking study looking at long-term outcomes of informal caregivers.

“Luke’s contributions have been enormously influential,” said Douglas White, MD, MAS, who is the UPMC Endowed Chair for Ethics in Critical Care Medicine. “His work on long-term outcomes of critical illness—and the impact of critical illness on family members—identified problems with healthcare delivery in ICUs that spawned a generation of researchers who have focused on these problems.”

More recently, Dr. Chelluri’s interest turned to the welfare of staff and implementing support structures. The result was the development of a physician assistance program for the entire UPMC system.

Dr. Chelluri completed his medical training at Andhra Medical College in India and critical care fellowship at Albany Medical College of Union University followed by three years as the associate director of the Medical-Surgical ICU at SUNY Health Science Center of Syracuse. He earned a Master of Public Health degree from the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.