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Retreat highlights pediatrics research at Vanderbilt

Jun. 9, 2015, 1:04 PM

Every day, physicians at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt are looking for new and effective ways to care for their patients. Often that mission is carried out through clinical, basic and translational research across the institution and disciplines.

Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., an expert on neglected tropical diseases, shares his research with Department of Pediatrics faculty.

The Department of Pediatrics annual research retreat on May 22 at Children’s Hospital brought those scientists together to reflect on the work they are doing and to hear from one of the world’s leading researchers in pediatrics, Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Hotez spoke to a full audience in the Children’s Hospital theater, detailing his research surrounding neglected tropical diseases, such as roundworm and hookworm, that plague some of the world’s poorest nations and also effect the United States population. Nearly one in six people, including a half billion children in the world, suffer from seven of the most common, disabling neglected tropical diseases in the world, but there is very little awareness and understanding of these diseases.

“Dr. Hotez is an international leader in in neglected tropical diseases and serves as an inspiration to the next generation of pediatric physician scientists,” said Michael R. DeBaun, M.D., vice chair for Clinic Research in Pediatrics and J.C. Peterson Professor of Pediatrics.

The retreat also featured a “Data Blitz” session where various research studies were presented in rapid succession.

“We wanted to improve the opportunity to highlight the outstanding research being conducted by our pediatric fellows and junior faculty,” said DeBaun.

During the event, two physicians, Leigh Howard, M.D., MPH, and James Cassat, M.D., Ph.D., were named the 2015 Turner-Hazinksi Award winners. The award provides grants to support research by young pediatric faculty members.

Howard’s current and future research will focus on the epidemiology of respiratory illnesses in young children in the Peruvian Andes, the interaction of viruses and bacteria in the nasopharynx, and the impact of these viral-bacterial interactions on respiratory disease pathogenesis.

Cassat, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, will use his award in a new inter-departmental research collaboration to comprehensively determine the cytokine profiles of skeletal cells in response to bacteria. By working with faculty in the Departments of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering, he hopes to establish a translation pipeline to create custom immunomodulatory drug delivery scaffolds to protect bone during infection or inflammatory disease.

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