September 18, 2009

Future bright for Pediatrics: Gitlin

Featured Image

Jonathan Gitlin, M.D., delivers his state of Pediatrics address. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Future bright for Pediatrics: Gitlin

Vanderbilt's Department of Pediatrics continues to prosper and is building a strong and deep bench for both the care of children today and the discovery of answers to their medical problems in the future.

Speaking on Sept. 8 at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Jonathan Gitlin, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Maternal and Child Health and chair of Pediatrics, laid out the main areas of progress and focus for the upcoming year for the Department of Pediatrics.

He began with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

“That is what makes what we do here so special. This talk is about you; you are the future of Vanderbilt and child health,” Gitlin told the standing-room-only audience of staff and faculty.

On hand were Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, John Stein, president of the Children's Hospital Board, and Julie and George Stadler, co-chairs of the Campaign for Children and Mothers at Children's Hospital.

Gitlin has led the department for one year now, through a time of leadership change for both the Medical Center and University, and through a crash of the national economy.

“This is a storm we are still facing,” Gitlin said of the economy, but then pointed out that research awards continue to rise, making the department one of the best in the nation in terms of federal grants. “What we want to do is have every child have a positive outcome and the only way to do this is through discovery.”

He listed a number of research projects, giving special credit to Elizabeth Dykens, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, who is studying ways to address the stress facing parents of children with developmental disabilities; and Larry Markham, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, for his work exploring heart failure in children with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

He mentioned well-funded work like the ambitious global health projects headed up by Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health; and projects led by Kathryn Edwards, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, involving the current H1N1 vaccine trials.

Gitlin said the department is committed to the growth of new physician scientists. For example, a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will train 14 fellows over the next five years.

The Pediatric faculty grew by nearly 50 new members during the past year. Several divisions within the Department were named or restructured, including:

• the Division of Developmental Medicine, directed by Tyler Reimschisel, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics and Neurology;

• the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Pulmonary Medicine, directed by Paul Moore, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacology;

• the Division of Hospital Medicine, directed by Kris Rehm, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics; and

• the Division of Emergency Medicine, directed by Thomas Abramo, M.D., professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics.

Gitlin gave examples of clinical excellence and thanked the Emergency Department for its handling of what promises to be a challenging flu season.

“I can think of no other ED and no other hospital that can go from a norm of 170 visits a week to 280-plus in the space of two weeks and continue to function as well as they are functioning,” Gitlin said.

Gitlin also discussed new initiatives for diversity in the department, announcing that Denice Cora-Bramble, M.D., director of the Goldberg Center for Pediatric Health at George Washington University, would give grand rounds in honor of the late Robert Churchwell Sr., a civil rights journalist and father of Vanderbilt’s Kevin Churchwell, M.D., Keith Churchwell, M.D., and Andre Churchwell, M.D.

Finally, Gitlin talked about the emerging vision within the University that could sustain the commitment to discovery and clinical excellence into the future — the question of what it means to be human.

“This is the single remaining great question, one that ultimately drives the discovery behind personalized medicine and one that could distinguish Vanderbilt University for the next decade,” Gitlin said.