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Vaccine Hesitancy, Beating Neuroblastoma, Brain Biomarkers for Autism, Medicaid Reforms, 2017 Richard King Trainee Award, Best U.S. Pediatric Program

Published on March 24, 2017 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 4 months 1 week ago


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In times of uncertainty, a dose of positive news reminds us that making progress through difficult situations is possible — our Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia research community does it every day! Whether it’s researchers who push the barriers of current autism diagnoses, an 8-year-old survivor who fought off a shrewd cancer, or physicians who act as policy watchdogs to protect children’s health, this week’s roundup of brave headliners will inspire you.

PolicyLab Speaks Out on Vaccine Hesitancy

Despite overwhelming evidence that vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent serious disease, an anti-vaccination movement is on the rise. In defense of pro-vaccine research and the millions of lives it has saved, Kristen Feemster, MD, an associate professor of Pediatrics and faculty member of PolicyLab, penned a new post that unpacks why parents might hesitate to vaccinate their children, and she suggests possible policy changes to help parents get the right information. “Combining and scaling up these efforts can encourage greater vaccine acceptance, increase vaccination rates and work with parents to protect the current and future health of our children,” Dr. Feemster writes. Read the post and the accompanying Evidence to Action brief on PolicyLab’s site.

Eight-year-old Neuroblastoma Survivor Reflects on Cancer Journey

In a heartwarming CBS News Sunday feature, journalist Tracy Smith offered a progress report for Edie Gilger, a former CHOP patient diagnosed with neuroblastoma, cancer of the nerve tissue, at just 6 months old. Today, Edie is cancer-free, 8 years old, and carefree as can be. With the help of an experimental drug offered in a clinical trial led by Yael Mossé, MD, a physician at CHOP, Edie fought off the growing tumors in her spine and belly. She has this to say about the drug that can now help many more children battling neuroblastoma: “I’m very lucky that they made that medicine … because if they didn’t make that medicine, I would be in heaven.” Read more about Edie’s success story on CBS News Sunday or on CHOP’s main site.

Excess Brain Fluid Could Help to Predict Autism Years Earlier

We are continuously learning more about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) every day. Could brain imaging help predict a baby’s ASD risk years before signs of ASD show up? New research from CHOP’s Center for Autism Research (CAR) and the Infant Brain Imaging Study network suggests the answer is yes. In a recent paper published in Biological Psychiatry, researchers found that an excess amount of cerebrospinal fluid between an infant’s brain and skull in their first year of life correlated with ASD development two years later. The study complements two other recent CHOP papers that remarkably link brain changes during infancy, such as rapid growth or atypical neural patterns, to ASD. Discovering biomarkers for autism would help doctors initiate interventions for children at risk as early as possible.

Medicaid Reforms Should Address Children With Complex Conditions

The 10.2 million adults and children struggling with serious disabilities and relying on Medicaid could lose out big if the federal health program’s proposed reform is put into play. That’s the root of a new PolicyLab blog post from Sophia Jan, MD, a pediatrician who specializes in special healthcare needs at CHOP; Ahaviah Glaser, JD, director of Health Policy for the Office of Government Affairs at CHOP; and Rebecca Kim, an MD/MPH student at the University of Pennsylvania. In the post, the authors explain that the reformation might not address critical needs for children with serious disabilities or illnesses. Physical and occupational therapy, private-duty nursing, ventilators, and other assistive technology are only the start. “Lawmakers will confront many difficult decisions in the coming weeks and months, but whether to pursue reforms that will inevitably cut access to care for our most vulnerable populations should not be one of them,” the authors write in the post. Read “How the Wrong Medicaid Reforms Could Devastate Young People with Complex Medical Needs” on PolicyLab.

CHOP Fellow Receives 2017 Richard King Trainee Award

Rebecca Ahrens-Nicklas, MD, PhD, a fellow in the divisions of Human Genetics and Metabolism at CHOP, was awarded the 2017 Richard King Trainee Award by the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics. Dr. Ahrens-Nicklas received the award for her manuscript titled, "Morbidity and mortality among exclusively breastfed neonates with medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency," which was published in the May 2016 issue of Genetics in Medicine. "I am honored to be the recipient of this year’s Richard King Award,” Dr. Ahrens-Nicklas stated in a press release. “… I hope that this award helps to draw attention to the critical issue of how to protect our patients with inborn errors of metabolism in the neonatal period.”

CHOP Ranked Best Pediatric Program in Nation

Last but certainly not the least, CHOP’s department of Pediatrics was once again ranked number one amongst all medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. It’s a title we have held for five consecutive years, along with ranking first or second place for 14 years straight. U.S. News based this year’s rating on data and surveys, with factors like peer reviews, primary care rate, research activity, and MCAT scores taken into account. “This ranking is a reflection of the impressive talent among our faculty, trainees, and staff and the tremendous support from the Hospital in creating a remarkable environment for clinical and academic work,” said Joseph St. Geme, MD, Physician-In-Chief.  You can learn more about the good news on Cornerstone.


This week on Cornerstone, we reflected a lot on progress, too: We revisited the Research Institute’s Navigator, Katherine Yang-Iott in a quick Q&A and welcomed a blog post from guest blogger, Meghan Marsac, PhD, a pediatric psychologist at CHOP, who wrote on how trauma-informed care training has developed in the last few years.

And here are our top headlines from our March 10 segment of In the News:

  • Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Names CHOP Patient a 2017 ‘Hero Ambassador’
  • 20thAnnual Pediatric Cardiology Conference Discusses Cost-Conscious Care
  • CHOP Partners With Drexel’s Urban Health Collaborative to Dig Into Big Data
  • JAMA Study Identifies Predictive Model for Neonatal Early-Onset Sepsis (EOS)Keep up with our news, stories, and updates in real time by following us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedInOr subscribe to our newsletter to get an email sent every other Friday by signing up here.