Committed to Science, Tech, Engineering, Mathematics in Our Workplace and Community

Committed to Science, Tech, Engineering, Mathematics in Our Workplace and Community

The Research Institute expanded its awareness and support of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives. Efforts from the Office of Academic Training and Outreach Programs (ATOP) and iSTEM, an employee resource group, have made significant impacts internally and externally. Together, they support STEM education and programming across Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and beyond.

“When we all have a voice in STEM, there are no limits to what we can achieve,” said Paulette McRae, PhD, assistant director, Specialty Programs and Diversity.

ATOP’s backing of trainee populations within the Research Institute spans the educational spectrum including high school, undergraduate, and graduate students; and postdoctoral and physician fellows. CHOP-RISES, CRISSP, Discovery Day, and Young Men and Women in Charge Job Shadowing programs, are just a few of many STEM-focused programs administered through ATOP focused on our trainee populations and community engagement. 

iSTEM seeks to promote breakthroughs in child health by improving the cultural competency of the STEM professional community at CHOP, by creating avenues for our patients and families to be exposed to STEM, and by providing educational opportunities to underrepresented youth in our community. iSTEM volunteers serve CHOP employees and the future scientific pipeline by addressing gaps and disparities in the biomedical science, technology, engineering, and math workforce. This group also partners with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Immigration and Visa Services.

“ATOP and iSTEM are fully committed to enhancing diversity and supporting inclusion for our employees, trainees, patients, families, and community members,” McRae said. “Generating excitement and engagement in STEM areas lays the foundation for building a representative STEM workforce.”

Innovation Drives Six New Frontier Programs

Innovation Drives Six New Frontier Programs

The addition of six new centers as Frontier Programs made 2019 a banner year for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Frontier Programs are a trailblazing group of initiatives conducting visionary research that translates to cutting-edge clinical care. They offer answers often not available anywhere else in the world.

Meet the six new Frontier Programs:

Advancement of Hyperinsulinism Care and Research: Primary investigators Diva DeLeón-Crutchlow, MD, and N. Scott Adzick, MD, are building on CHOP’s status and experience as the world’s leading hyperinsulinism center. This program seeks to further innovate by using personalized medicine to treat patients with the condition in which insulin regulation fails, resulting in dangerously low blood sugar levels that can damage the brain.

Biomedical Optical Devices to Monitor Cerebral Health: With Daniel Licht, MD; Todd Kilbaugh, MD; and Wesley Baker, PhD; at the helm, this frontier program is developing and testing a first-of-its-kind optical device that could revolutionize cardiac resuscitation.

Complex Vascular Anomalies Program: Primary investigators Jean Belasco, MD, and Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD, are establishing a national leading center to care for complex vascular anomalies. They are creating an expert, multidisciplinary team to provide evidence-based care for patients with complex vascular anomalies and researching the genetic basis for these cases to help inform new therapeutic approaches.

Comprehensive Center for the Cure of Sickle Cell Disease and Other Red Blood Cell Disorders (CuRED): Scientific director, Stefano Rivella, PhD; clinical director, Janet Kwiatkowski, MD; and the rest of the CuRED team will be advancing CHOP’s position as a global leader in cell and gene therapies. The program will develop and deliver novel gene therapies and stem cell transplants to patients with red blood cell disorders in a family-centered clinic.

Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH): Lead investigators Holly Hedrick, MD, and Emily Partridge, MD, PhD, are leveraging CHOP’s standing as the largest CDH treatment center in the country. This program aims to become the international hub for the care of CDH and to eliminate morbidity and mortality through new research and the development of novel devices.

Epilepsy NeuroGenetics Initiative (ENGIN): Under the leadership of Ethan Goldberg, MD, PhD; Ingo Helbig, MD; Dennis Dlugos, MD; Eric Marsh, MD; Benjamin Kennedy, MD; and Sudha Kessler, MD; this program seeks to diagnose, treat, and cure epilepsy by expanding genetic testing to all children with epilepsy. Ultimately, the program aims to optimize medical and surgical care and drive development of precision therapies.

CHOP champions these programs and ensures they receive critical support to accelerate their progress. By investing in Frontier Programs that bring the best minds to the most challenging conditions, CHOP is once again redefining what’s possible.

Learning Health System Training for Junior Faculty Made Possible With AHRQ Grant

Learning Health System Training for Junior Faculty Made Possible With AHRQ Grant

With a five-year grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (ARHQ) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Christopher Forrest, MD, PhD, pediatrician and member of the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is enriching and expanding the efforts of PEDSnet, a multi-institute, national consortium of which he is principal investigator.

“This faculty development award allows us to develop the next generation of researchers who will advance our knowledge on the best ways to deliver healthcare to children and youth,” Dr. Forrest said.

By harnessing the learning health system (LHS) framework, PEDSnet uses collaboration, big data, and patient-centered outcomes research to improve the health and quality of care for children. Across its eight founding institutions, PEDSnet has created a 10-year, analysis-ready database for more than 6.2 million children. As one of 11 recipients of the $40 million award, CHOP, along with the other founding PEDSnet collaborating institutions, is using the funds to support faculty development.

The PEDSnet Scholars career development program, under the guidance of Dr. Forrest, prepares promising junior faculty to conduct LHS research that will improve both care delivery and outcomes for children. It builds upon prior efforts of a multidisciplinary faculty with decades of experience in research mentorship as well as the resources of the eight nationally renowned founding pediatric academic medical centers. The first batch of junior faculty scholars began training in January.

These scholars will use new methods that leverage modern data systems and test interventions in pragmatic child/family-centered outcomes research studies, embedded in diverse delivery systems and communities. Their work will provide the evidence base for shared clinical decisions and effective delivery system interventions that will bring us closer to the goal of improved health for individual children and populations.

First-Of-Its-Kind Bioengineering Laboratory

First-Of-Its-Kind Bioengineering Laboratory

Research-scientist Ricardo Gottardi, PhD, joined Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in January to lead the new Bioengineering and Biomaterials Laboratory (Bio² Lab) dedicated to pediatric laryngology.

“I’m excited to be part of CHOP’s mission that drives the work in the Bio² Lab to engineer solutions for airway disorders so that discoveries in the lab reach patients and make a difference in children’s lives,” said Dr. Gottardi, assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine in the University of Pennsylvania.

His multidisciplinary team includes talented researchers from materials science, bioengineering, microbiology, genomics, and laryngology. Collaborating on clinical and research efforts, they offer engineering solutions for treatments of airway disorders.

Bio² Lab, the first-of-its-kind, is part of the Center for Pediatric Airway Disorders, a Frontier Program and one of the few centers in the country specializing in tracheal reconstruction, recurrent laryngeal nerve reinnervation, and a variety of other specialized airway procedures.

The lab takes a multiscale, multipronged approach to find optimal ways to regenerate organs, repair tissue, and prevent disease. While collaborating on tissue engineering and controlled drug delivery across CHOP, Bio² Lab is especially focused on novel drug delivery approaches to the upper airway, biomaterials for laryngotracheal cartilage engineering, and approaches to prevent and repair damage to the vocal folds.

The Growing Ranks of Nurse Researchers Integral Part of Research Institute

The Growing Ranks of Nurse Researchers Integral Part of Research Institute

The Research Institute is well on the way of growing its ranks of nurse scientists. In step with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s vision of leading a new era of pediatric research and innovation where we can all work together to solve the most challenging problems in child health, the Institute has created opportunities for researchers to situate their research within interprofessional teams, including nurse scientists.

“The increasing numbers of clinically based nurse researchers stem from our desire to provide nursing care that is second to none based on best available evidence,” said Martha Curley, RN, PhD, FAAN, who holds the Ruth M. Colket Endowed Chair in Pediatric Nursing at CHOP, and is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Through a new Colket Lecture Series, stellar nurse scientists who have impacted pediatric care are being showcased. This enables the Institute to recruit and encourage the best new nurse scientists to launch their programs of research at CHOP.    

“Nursing science supports our disciplinary perspective in keeping people healthy, in avoiding iatrogenesis, in creating healing environments, and in helping the most vulnerable to feel well-cared-for,” Dr. Curley said. 

Next year, 2020, marks Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday — our first nursing scientist who said: “The purpose of nursing is to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act,” Dr. Curley noted.

Streamlining Operations With New Research Administration Offices

Streamlining Operations With New Research Administration Offices

A restructuring of the Research Administration Offices occurred in 2019 with Michelle A. Lewis, Vice President, Research Administration and Operations, appointing visionary leaders to oversee several areas of the Research Institute: Pre-Award Research Administration, Post-Award Research Administration and Research Portfolio Management, Program Management, and Research Business Operations.

The goal of the reorganization is to ensure Research Administration is best serving the needs of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia researchers by increasing efficiencies, streamlining operations, and ensuring objectives align with the Institute’s strategic goals.

Brent Bell, CRA, Director, Pre-Award Research Administration: This office provides principal investigators and the CHOP research community with key resources to plan, develop, and prepare grant proposals, subawards, and other internally funded projects for successful implementation.

Liza Craig, MS, CRA, Director, Post-Award Research Administration and Research Portfolio Management: This area provides principal investigators and the CHOP research community with key resources to prepare budgets for new and existing research proposals, manage complex multi-million dollar research portfolios comprised of internally and externally funded research projects, and ensures all financial requirements are compliant with sponsor and institutional guidelines.

Anne Geary, Senior Program Manager, Program Management Office: This unit provides an approach to identify, prioritize, and successfully execute program and project initiatives that align with Research Administration’s strategic goals.

Robert DeNight, Assistant Director, Research Business Operations: This Research Administration office will lead, manage, and support the optimization of key operational business activities required to effectively administer and manage internally and externally sponsored research at CHOP.

The leaders in these four areas are partnering closely with Lewis and Institute senior leadership to ensure grant support services and all process improvement initiatives result in optimizing business operations.

“Together, we will ensure a partnership between faculty and administration is achieved and the objectives outlined in the strategic plan are fulfilled,” Lewis said. “Ultimately, all staff are committed to ensuring that our work is a source of optimism and ease for CHOP’s current and future researchers.”