The Late Dr. Roberta Pentney Remembered for Extensive Research into Alcoholism

Published January 18, 2023

Dr. Petney.

It is with a heavy heart that I share the loss of a beloved member of our Jacobs School family. We recently learned of the passing of Roberta J. Pentney, PhD.

A professor of anatomy and cell biology, and former interim chair of the Anatomical Sciences Department, she was a professor emerita since 2003. She died Jan. 5, 2023, in San Francisco, Calif., at the age of 85.

Dr. Pentney devoted her career to studying chronic alcohol abuse and brain function, finding that continuing exposure to alcohol can alter brain structure and lead to serious disorders. “What actually happens,” she wrote, “is that the alcohol damages or destroys the parts of the cells that send and receive information. This causes problems with the way the cells communicate with each other and results in some of the impairments of intoxication,” such as the decline in motor coordination evidenced in alcoholics.

Dr. Pentney is a graduate of the College of Notre Dame in Belmont, Calif., with a bachelor's degree in biology. She completed PhD research in biology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Her neuroanatomical training as a post-doc was with Malcolm Carpenter, MD, at Columbia University. As principal investigator on more than a dozen studies, her research was extraordinarily well-funded with grants received from such groups as the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Well respected by her peers and students, Dr. Pentney received the Dean’s Award for Service to the School of Medicine in 1998 and a Commendation of Excellence for her teaching by medical students, in 1996 and 2003. Over the course of her career, she authored or co-authored more than 60 articles, five book chapters and over 30 publishable abstracts.

Dr. Pentney was also recognized by her students for her strong mentoring skills and her ability to make each of her students into the best they could be with a thesis or dissertation that was more than acceptable. Her writing and experiment planning were meticulous and benefited the students who were lucky enough to be in her laboratory. Dr. Pentney was a role model for students and young faculty alike at a time when there were very few examples of professor-level female faculty in the medical school.

We at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences join the Buffalo medical community in mourning the passing of Dr. Pentney. I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.