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October 2013 Newsletter

Blurring the Line

The days when research was done in neat little circumscribed areas of study are long since gone. Traditional departments, divisions, and sections no longer describe the “home” for modern research. Research is multidisciplinary and takes place in the community or at the bedside as often as in the laboratory. Here’s a small snapshot of some of the unconventional research we do at URMC Pediatrics!

Community and University Pediatricians as Collaborators

Many of the clinical research studies done in Rochester involve the collaborative efforts of pediatricians and nurse-practitioners at the University and in community private practices. These studies examine in whole populations of children and families the real health issues they face every day. For example, a study led by Stephen Cook, M.D., M.P.H. is aimed at changing the incidence of childhood obesity in our community. He has enlisted the collaboration of pediatricians in some of the region’s most prominent practices to identify and intervene with families to break the vicious cycle of obesity by using motivational interviewing and practice-system change and measuring the outcomes of this intervention.

The work of Kenneth McConnochie, M.D., M.P.H. tests the power of telemedicine to connect children and families with their pediatricians wherever and whenever they get sick. Using telemedicine to enable a pediatrician to see the inside of the painful ear or hear the repetitive cough may mean that a parent does not have to leave work to pick a child up from the school nurse’s office. It may mean expedient treatment by that child’s pediatrician, rather than treatment that evening by a physician who is meeting the child and family for the first time in an emergency room. Large decreases in child absence due to illness and in emergency room visits have been demonstrated.

Laura Shone, M.S.W., Dr.PH. is a health policy and health care delivery expert whose most recent research focuses on the power of health literacy to enhance the health of populations and optimize the cost and accessibility of health care. She works with general pediatricians who care for children and adolescents and, together, they are defining “best practices” to help children and families understand their health and health care needs. Partnering with pediatricians makes Dr. Shone’s work immediately relevant for the children and families she hopes to help.

School Nurses and Staff as Collaborators

If we are to make an impact on the lives of children and families, we must do research where they live, work, and play. Jill Halterman, M.D., M.P.H. is working to decrease the frequency with which children use the emergency room or need to be hospitalized for asthma attacks. She is hoping to keep kids healthy and in school where they belong. Her partners in this endeavor are the nurses and staff at the Rochester City School District. Her research is bound to make a difference in their real world!

Tristram Smith, Ph.D. designs and tests behavioral and pharmacological strategies aimed at helping children with autism and attention deficit disorders attain their full potential in school and at home. These interventions must be administered in these environments day after day. As a result, parents and teachers are Dr. Smith’s mission-critical collaborators in these studies. Without their implementation of the interventions and without their feedback and observations, this work could not be done.

Students as Collaborators

Performing research on a University campus that includes undergraduates, graduate and medical students, post-doctoral and clinical fellows, and visiting high school students means that most of our faculty welcome students into their laboratories. Sometimes, even the students newest to the world of research end up as coauthors and collaborators. The laboratory of David A. Dean, Ph.D. is home to post-doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate students. His cutting-edge work on targeted delivery of genes to specific cells and organs holds the promise of correcting metabolic disorders and compensating for environmental and other acquired insult and injury. His students and trainees are often his coauthors on published abstracts, papers, and national and local meeting posters.

Kate Ackerman, M.D. is trying to understand the genes and pathways that orchestrate the development of specific organs, especially those that cause critical illness in young children. Her collaborators and coauthors have included both undergraduate and graduate students from outstanding universities around the U.S. The Ackerman Lab has a translational focus, and non-medical students are introduced to disease concepts and medical care structure and culture as a way to facilitate and encourage future careers in biomedical research.

Student collaboration in research takes place on the units of Golisano Children’s Hospital, too. Eric Biondi, M.D. performs comparative effectiveness research in pediatric hospitalist medicine. His work is defining “best practices” for diagnosis and treatment of children whose acute or chronic health problems require hospitalization. Dr. Biondi’s collaborators often include University of Rochester medical students, each of whom brings a unique set of skills, interests, and knowledge to the research table. These students learn first-hand the importance of research for ensuring that tomorrow’s care is better than anything we can imagine today.