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Measuring Flexible Thinking, Managing Concussions, Tech Addiction, 2017 Pew Scholar, U.S. News & World Report

Published on June 30, 2017 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 4 months ago


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Every good researcher needs a sturdy set of tools: Whether it’s a new technology that drives efficiency, the financial support that accompanies an award, or simple advice from a research mentor, all of these resources make collective breakthroughs possible. This week in research news at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, read about how our investigators helped design new tools to measure cognitive flexibility, studied the usefulness of electronic tools in the CHOP EPIC health record system, and received prestigious honors that provide them with the resources to drive children’s health forward.

CHOP Collaborates to Develop the ‘Flexibility Scale’ for Children With Autism

From sustaining attention to managing change, the ability to think flexibly can help a child thrive in social settings, including how they interact with friends and classmates at school. Now, a new assessment scale developed by CHOP and Children’s National Health System investigators will allow clinicians to measure the link between cognitive flexibility and social function in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The Flexibility Scale consists of a 27-item report that asks parents questions based on their child’s everyday activities, such as the need to perform activities in a routine order or their ability to take turns. The parents of 177 children with ASD and 57 without ASD took the questionnaire, and the researchers published the findings in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. If clinicians can integrate the Flexibility Scale into their treatment of children with ASD, they can gain powerful insights into how inflexible thinking impacts a child’s daily life, and then design stronger intervention programs.

“Until now, our ability to capture both the strengths and problems related to being inflexible has been limited,” stated Benjamin Yerys, PhD, clinical psychologist at the Center for Autism Research (CAR) at CHOP, in a press release. “This study is the first step in creating a questionnaire that can help clinicians assess where children’s inflexibility is impairing their daily lives, and it could potentially be used to measure treatment progress.”

Learn more in the Children’s National press release, or read the study abstract online.

New Study: Electronic Health Record Tools can Strengthen Concussion Management

Electronic health record (EHR)-based tools make it easier for clinicians in a broad healthcare network like CHOP to perform and document diagnostic assessments. Just how much easier? According to a new study from CHOP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when researchers provided clinicians with an EHR-based clinical decision support tool called Concussion SmartSet (along with an in-person training session), they discovered an increase in two recommended strategies for managing concussions.

First, there was an 85 percent increase in clinicians who documented a ‘vestibular oculomotor exam,’ often used to assess balance, vision, and movement. There was also a 129 percent increase in clinicians who reported return-to-play and return-to-school discussions with patient families. The Concussion SmartSet template is found in EpicCare®, CHOP’s EHR system. In the post-intervention period of the study, 95 percent of the documented exams were those recorded in Concussion SmartSet – highlighting just how useful the EHR tool was for facilitating exams and documentation. We previously wrote about the introduction of SmartSet on Cornerstone.

“The EHR platform allowed us to provide clinical practice guidance across our geographically and socio-economically diverse network, and promote systematic implementation and documentation of emerging recommended practices,” stated Kristy Arbogast, PhD, lead author and co-director of CHOP’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention. “We want all patients to get ‘CHOP-level care’ no matter where they enter our system.”

Learn more in the press release or read the study abstract, published in Clinical Pediatrics, online.

CHOP Immunologist Awarded Pew Scholar Designation

Perhaps one of a researcher’s most valuable tools are the prestigious honors that give them the financial resources to continue driving breakthroughs. Last week, the Pew Charitable Trusts announced immunologist Jorge Henao-Mejia, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at CHOP and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, as one of their 22 national Pew Scholars in Biomedical Sciences for 2017. The Pew Scholars Program launched in 1985, and since then, it has enabled over 900 early-career biomedical scientists to pursue innovative research. New scholars are announced every year. With an award of $240,000 distributed over the course of four years, Dr. Henao-Meija and his lab will be able to further investigate how gene editing tools like CRISPR CAS-9 can help scientists establish the molecular mechanisms behind chronic inflammatory conditions such as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer.

"I am deeply honored to be selected as a 2017 Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences," stated Dr. Henao-Mejia in a press release. "It is both gratifying and humbling to become part of the truly outstanding group of Pew Scholars."

We covered Dr. Henao-Mejia’s exciting Nature study, which investigated the importance of RNA molecules for maintaining good immune health, in a Bench to Bedside article.

Read the press release about Dr. Henao-Mejia’s most recent award here.

Study Finds Technology Addiction May Lead to Distracted Driving

‘Don’t Text and Drive:’ It’s the mantra we use to keep roads safe, given the mounting evidence that cell phone use increases the risk for a car crash. Now, a multi-institute study that includes Dennis Durbin, MD, Chief Clinical Research Officer at CHOP, is looking into the potential reasons why novice drivers (who are at a reportedly higher risk for car crashes) might be reaching for their cell phones in the first place.

In the study published in Accident Analysis and Prevention, 47 parent and teen pairs filled out a survey that measured their symptoms of cell phone addiction, their perceived risk of cell phone use while driving, and how frequently they used their cell phones while driving with family or friends, and driving alone. The reports revealed that stronger symptoms of cell phone addiction coincided with more frequent cell phone use while driving in both teen and parent drivers. Teens reported more severe cell phone addiction symptoms. The findings may help guide researchers to design more effective tools to encourage engaged and mindful driving. Previously on Cornerstone, we discussed research led by Dr. Durbin into how driving with risk-taking friends can impact the rate of crashes and near-crashes.

Read the press release for the new study and its highlights online.

CHOP Tops U.S. News & World Report Rankings for Children’s Hospitals

In case you missed the good news, U.S. News and World Report announced their 11th annual Best Children’s Hospital rankings earlier this week. CHOP ranked a solid second place on the Honor Roll, which recognizes pediatric centers that deliver high-quality care across multiple specialties. Our individual departments earned accolades, as well: The diabetes and endocrinology program as well as the pulmonology program at CHOP both ranked first in the nation. Meanwhile, neonatology, gastroenterology and GI surgery, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, and urology ranked second place in the nation.

Learn more about the high honors in our write-up on Cornerstone.


Recently on Cornerstone, we covered Dr. Douglas Wallace’s prestigious new honor from Johnson & Johnson, the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research. We also spoke with Susan E. Levy, MD, MPH, to discuss the importance of shared decision-making between pediatricians and patients’ families.

Catch up on our headlines from our June 16 edition of In the News:

  • CHOP Hosts Yearly Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Kickoff Event
  • Dr. Jodi Mindell Weighs in on New Infant Sleep Study
  • Huffington Post Features CHOP Research Into Military Family Child Abuse
  • Nurse-Led Study Finds That Vibrating Device Can Reduce Pain in the Emergency Department
  • Study Finds Teens with ADHD Have Lower Crash Risk Than Previously Reported

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