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BearNet News - Summer 2010

Clinical Translational Science Award

On July 14, 2010, Children’s National was awarded a prestigious Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health. This award is the first CTSA in the country given directly to a children’s hospital, and the first with a specific focus on children’s health. The grant will add additional support to the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Children’s National, and is another significant step for Children’s National Medical Center. Through NIH funding like this, as well as private support through the Sheikh Zayed Institute, Children’s Research Institute is poised to make major advances in children’s medicine.

The CTSA provides approximately $20 million over the next five years to the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Children’s National, in partnership with the George Washington University. The CTSA will foster greater research collaboration between the two institutions and other CTSA institutions nationally, with a focus on children’s health. The CTSA is designed to foster more streamlined communication between lab, clinical, and community research studies to expedite translating research findings into improved care.

The award is separated into three areas of study, all with an emphasis on health disparities:

  • Diseases of childhood
  • Childhood diseases that persist into adulthood (i.e., adults living with childhood diseases long term—for example, congenital heart disease)
  • Diseases of adulthood that begin in childhood (i.e., obesity/type 2 diabetes)

Jill Joseph, MD, PhD, is the principal investigator of the CTSA and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Children’s National. Dr. Joseph described the effort by stating, “Both Children’s National and The George Washington University have invested significant resources in investigating and understanding the health needs of the children and families of metropolitan Washington.”

“The families of our area, and across the country, have already benefited from what we’ve learned about better clinical treatments and improved community education for common diseases like asthma. We look forward to even greater breakthroughs in providing that care, now bolstered by new research collaborations with consortium institutions,” she added.

Congratulations to Mark Batshaw, MD, chief academic officer, Children’s Research Institute, Dr. Joseph, the Children’s Research Institute team, and all staff on this great accomplishment. <

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Children’s National’s Muscular Dystrophy Research

For over a decade, Children’s National Medical Center has been at the forefront of advancing research for a variety of muscular dystrophies including the most common and fatal form, Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Leading this effort at Children’s National is Eric Hoffman, PhD, the scientist that first discovered the gene that causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Dr. Hoffman and his team of geneticists have been working to ascertain novel therapeutic treatments for this generation of Duchenne muscular dystrophy’s victims.

On June 24-27, Dr. Hoffman, director of the Center for Genetic Medicine, spoke at an international conference on muscular dystrophy in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Hoffman gave two presentations on genetic modifiers and corticosteroid derivatives while Children’s National’s Kanneboyina Nagaraju, PhD, DVM, spoke about Children’s National’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy mdx testing facility.

From June 27 – July 3, Children’s National staff volunteered at the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camp for children with various muscular dystrophies held at the Camp Maria Retreat Center in Leonardtown, Maryland. Children’s National staff and approximately 20 patients had a great time at the camp and are already looking forward to next year. The MDA’s summer camps nationwide were cancelled in 2009 due to concerns about the H1N1 flu, so everyone was particularly enthusiastic that this year’s camp would proceed as planned. 

On July 19, the Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne hosted its 7th Annual FORE Duchenne Golf Tournament. The event raised more than $100,000 to fund research at Children’s National focused on advancing therapeutic approaches for this generation of children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The next event hosted by the foundation in support of Children’s National will be the 10th Annual Dining Away Duchenne on September 21, 2010. For more information about  Dining Away Duchenne or to support Duchenne muscular dystrophy research and Children’s National, please e-mail or call phone number 1-703-683-7500.

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Children’s National to Participate in National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

In May, Congress passed a resolution designating September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Children’s National was proud to endorse this bipartisan legislation sponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and George V. Voinovich (R-OH) and Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Kay Granger (R-TX).  To commemorate the month and bring attention to this important issue, the hospital is planning several special events in September.

On September 17th, Children’s National will hold a Step Workshop at the hospital. At least 50 District of Columbia public middle school students are expected to participate in the workshop, which is sponsored by the Children’s National Obesity Institute, the National Step Show Association and Whole Foods Market. The students will learn about the history of stepping, watch a culinary demonstration by Chef Egg from Whole Foods, and work together to develop a step mini-routine.

On September 25th, Children’s National will host the inaugural District of Columbia Family Wellness Day to celebrate National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. This event will be in collaboration with We Can! from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, the National Children’s Museum, and Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theater Program. The goals of Family Wellness Day are to increase awareness of the childhood obesity epidemic, encourage physical activity and healthy eating in both children and adults, and emphasize that family behavior must change as a unit to be most effective.

Since the mid-1970s, obesity rates in the United States have increased dramatically for both children and adults, raising concerns about the implications on the health of Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate annual expenditures related to overweight individuals and obesity to be more than $264 billion – exceeding the cost of tobacco-related illnesses.

“In 2007 the Trust for America’s Health first reported that ‘today’s children are likely to be the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents,’” says Evan P. Nadler, MD, co-director of Children’s National’s Obesity Institute, “yet little progress has been made toward addressing the childhood obesity epidemic. It’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Hopefully, National Childhood Obesity Awareness month combined with the First Lady’s ’Let’s Move’ campaign will bring needed attention and resources to organizations like the Obesity Institute to help design significant and sustainable solutions to this crippling disease.”

The Obesity Institute was established in 2008 to facilitate institutional collaboration across research, clinical care, prevention, advocacy, and clinical education and training focused on childhood obesity. The Obesity Institute brings together the hospital’s talent, ideas, and creative energy in order to develop an innovative and strategic approach to addressing the childhood obesity crisis here in the nation’s capital and across the country. Read more about National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month by visiting the organizers’ website,

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Senate Holds Hearings on “The State of the American Child”

On Thursday July 29th, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions’ (HELP) Subcommittee on Children and Families held the third in a series of hearings on “The State of the American Child.” The hearing, chaired by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), continued to look at the challenges American children face and the impact of federal policies on them.

As the chairman of the HELP Committee, Senator Dodd began this series of hearings in early June with the ambitious goal of addressing all the challenges which face children today, from the effects of childhood obesity and asthma, to confronting the increasing rates of high school dropouts. The first hearing served as a platform from which to establish the main concerns for American children. From USA Today reporting that 1 in 5 kids live in poverty, to the negative effects of the recession on families, Senator Dodd proposed the creation of a national commission on the status of children. He hoped that this would become a structure linking data to legitimate results, and called for additional hearings to bring testimonies which show grassroots-level successes in improving children’s quality of life.

The second hearing held in New Haven, Connecticut was a witness panel that included members of some of the most successful child advocacy programs in the state. Programs represented included the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University, Child FIRST program at the Bridgeport Hospital, the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, and the New Haven Home Recovery program.

A third hearing featured a panel of representatives from the executive branch, including  Howard K. Koh, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services. In his testimony, Dr. Koh stated that “the health and status of children has improved in many ways over the last several generations…we are at near high record levels for childhood immunizations, decreasing number of perinatally acquired AIDS, decline in adolescent birth rates, and an increase in health insurance coverage rates for children.”

While noting the recent successes in children’s well being, the witness panel and attending senators noted that children today still face many major challenges. The translation of increased childhood obesity rates into increased adult obesity rates, infant mortality, injury, and violence as leading causes of death in children, early sexual activity causing transmission of sexually transmitted diseases in adolescents, as well as asthma, autism, and other development disorders continue to affect children’s quality of life.

Certain federal campaigns were noted for their initial success, from the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign, which seeks to help children and families adopt healthy, nutritious lifestyles to the Head Start program, which provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parenting services to low income families and their children. Enriching early learning and committing monetary aid to the nation’s lowest performing schools continue to be major goals of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education, in order to address the greatest achievement gaps in the nation.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) brought attention to the issues of tobacco addiction in children and changing play habits of children in order to combat obesity. Senator Dodd supported the issue with the grave statistics of 3,500 adolescents a day who begin smoking, along with the economic model of 3,500 people dying per day as a result of smoking. He emphasized the importance of keeping a legislative focus on issues impacting our children .

Senators and witnesses emphasized children’s health as the most important issue in the realm of “The State of the American Child.” Senator Dodd concluded by stating that “this is a subject matter which we were able to delve in with bipartisan support, and my hope is to get back to that spirit in order to do everything we can to give children a decent start in life.”

“The State of the American Child: The Impact of Federal Policies on Children”.

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2nd Annual Legislative Advocacy Day


Participants at the 2nd Annual Legislative Advocacy Day
On April 28, 2010, Children’s National held its second  annual Legislative Advocacy Day for faculty and staff. The program featured four sessions illustrating different dimensions of legislative advocacy and empowering Children’s National employees to be effective advocates for the institution and the patients and families we serve. 

Jerome Paulson, MD, FAAP, kicked off the day with a grand rounds presentation entitled, “Climate Change, Children’s Health, & Advocacy.” Dr. Paulson, medical director for national and global affairs in the Child Health Advocacy Institute and co-director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health & the Environment, discussed the health impacts of climate change on children, described his advocacy activities, and explored the role of the pediatrician as advocate.

Faculty and staff were treated to a lively and interactive session on best practices in legislative advocacy led by William Kreisberg, vice president of Schrayer and Associates, Inc. Mr. Kreisberg gave a “crash course” on writing letters and emails to elected officials and meeting face-to-face with legislators or members of their staff. After mastering the best practices, participants engaged in mock meetings, putting their new skills to the test.

The third session featured Capitol Hill staff sharing an insiders’ perspective on effective advocacy and the internal operations of a Capitol Hill office. Manuel Jimenez, MD, health and disability fellow for Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and David Heil, chief of staff to Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX), gave a bicameral, bipartisan perspective on the most effective strategies to employ when advocating on Capitol Hill and how Children’s National employees can most effectively advocate for their issues. The speakers offered perspectives on what gets their attention, who gets their attention, and how decisions are made by providing insights on the most effective letter-writing strategies and tips about having meetings with legislators. It was a particularly informative session because Dr. Jimenez and David Heil not only work on Capitol Hill, they are “insiders” at Children’s National as well. Dr. Jimenez is a former resident at Children’s National and Dave Heil is a parent of a Children’s National patient.

The day concluded with a presentation by Anita Chandra, Dr.PH, MPH, of the RAND Corporation and Ruth Fisher, MS, MBA, executive director of Advocacy and Community Affairs at Children’s National, on the findings of the community pediatric health needs assessment. The report, entitled Health and Health Care Among District of Columbia Youth, is a comprehensive study of the health and health care of the 100,000 youth who reside in the District of Columbia. Children’s National is using the study to inform health policy decisions and help to efficiently and effectively target resources to address the most imminent needs in the community.

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Congressional Recess

Congress is currently on its District Work Period through September 14 at which point it will resume votes and continue its regular voting schedule. The entire 2010 Legislative Calendar is available on-line. The District of Columbia City Council is on summer recess and will reconvene on September 15.

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