Patricia Cluss, Ph.D., is the Director of STANDING FIRM. Retired from her faculty position in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, she continues her professional work as a licensed psychologist and consultant for regional nonprofit and health-related organizations. At Pitt, she engaged in research and program development in partner violence, smoking cessation for special populations, and pediatric obesity and published a number of articles about partner violence in academic journals. Dr. Cluss has been an expert member of the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Intimate Partner Violence Homicide Review Team and a consultant for a PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency-funded research project at the University of Pittsburgh that is describing the methodology and impact of batterer intervention programs in the region. Dr. Cluss is a consultant at the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh and directs the STANDING FIRM initiative there.

You can reach Patricia at or 412-894-4571

Associate Director

Susan Nitzberg, MPH, serves as Associate Director for STANDING FIRM. She has extensive experience with community and non-profit organizations. She has held numerous leadership positions in organizations such as Persad Center, National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section, Family Hospice and Palliative Care, Union Aid Society, the Child Health Association of Sewickley and many more. Within NCJW, she spearheaded domestic violence programs and initiatives. Formerly, she served as Vice President, St. Clair Hospital. She is a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh. In 2013, she received a Women of Achievement Award.

You can reach Susan at or 412-894-4570

Employer Services Coordinator

Karen L. Merrick, LSW, ACSW, is the Employer Services Coordinator for STANDING FIRM. Karen has more than 25 years of experience in the field of employee assistance, providing clinical counseling services and account management. Her skills and expertise are in the areas of management consultation and training with emphases on developing relationships, promoting resilience, and managing organizational change. Karen was previously a senior account manager with Life Solutions, UPMC’s employee assistance program. As the UPMC Team Coordinator, she led a team that provided EAP account management services to all UPMC hospitals/business units, including presenting trainings/workshops to leaders and managers on intimate partner violence.

You can reach Karen at or 412-894-4569

Program Associate

Catherine Gutowski is the Program Associate at STANDING FIRM. She has extensive experience in operational and program support within the education, technology and not for profit sectors, both in the United States and overseas. Outside of STANDING FIRM, Catherine volunteers regularly with the American Red Cross as a Disaster Services Caseworker, as well as for her local school PTA as Communications Coordinator.

You can reach Catherine at or 412-894-4568