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New services tackle childhood infectious diseases

Jul. 17, 2014, 9:14 AM

Two new services focused on treating infectious diseases in children started this month at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, including one that cares solely for children with compromised immune systems.

The Peter F. Wright service is dedicated to the care of immunocompromised children, while the Kathryn M. Edwards service focuses on children with routine infectious diseases.

Vanderbilt has had an infectious diseases consult service at Children’s Hospital since 1974, when its infectious disease division was established, said Terence Dermody, M.D., director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. But he cited a need for an independent, more focused service to care for children with compromised immune systems.

“Over the past several years we’ve appreciated that the acuity of care, especially for immunocompromised hosts, is such that we really needed to develop another service dedicated primarily to caring for those children,” he said.

The new service affords an opportunity to provide better care and collaborate more closely with colleagues, he said. It also provides more possibilities for teaching, training and research.

“We don’t have lots of protocols for infectious disease complications in that population,” Dermody said, “so we thought that the new emphasis would provide us with an opportunity to lead in this area, from collaborating with other academic centers with large pediatric populations who might be interested in similar problems, to developing protocols and studying the most effective therapies going forward.”

Daniel Dulek, M.D., the director of the Wright service, said the service would collaborate to prevent and treat infection with Children’s Hospital teams focusing on pediatric transplant, hematology/oncology, rheumatology, cardiology, gastroenterology and immunology.

Children’s Hospital physicians perform more than 70 pediatric transplants each year, which can be life saving, but can also leave immune systems compromised. That can also occur during treatment of inflammatory diseases with immunosuppressive medications or from primary immunodeficiency. Infection is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in these children.

“The establishment of these two clinical services will expand our clinical footprint and allow for new opportunities in quality improvement, patient care access and collaboration with other teams,” said Cecelia Di Pentima, M.D., MPH, medical director for the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.

The two new services honor a pair of physicians who are world leaders in pediatric infectious diseases and vaccine science. Edwards is Sarah H. Sell and Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program. Wright established the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and served as its director for 34 years until his move to Dartmouth University, where he is Professor of Pediatrics.

Dermody is Wright’s successor.

“That’s been a dream of mine since I became division director in 2008, to establish these services,” he said. “For me, part of this dream was to recognize the extraordinary contributions of our preeminent leaders. Peter and Kathy established the foundation of everything we do in pediatric infectious diseases at Vanderbilt.

“Our whole division wanted to recognize their contributions in some way, and we couldn’t think of a better way to do it than to name our new services after Peter and Kathy,” Dermody said.

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