With the aim of advancing pediatric research, a group of families and individuals at Weill Cornell Medicine has made it their mission to improve children’s health.
The Children’s Health Council, founded in 2014, provides support to physicians and scientists as they pursue discoveries that tackle some of the most prevalent health issues facing children and adolescents today.
As a physician-scientist, Dr. Neera Gupta, director of research for the Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program and associate professor of pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine, whose current research is in pediatric Crohn’s disease, understands the importance of pediatric research in patient care.
“It’s an amazing feeling when you see a child in the clinic and you know you can do something to help them,” says Dr. Gupta. “The potential to be able to improve the lives of children drives my passion for caring for pediatric patients and for research. Without advancing research, we can’t advance clinical care.”
Dr. Gupta’s patient data informs her research as well as that of other colleagues within the Department of Pediatrics, such as Dr. Amy Tsou, instructor in pediatrics at Weill Cornell, who also studies pediatric disorders, specifically inflammatory bowel diseases. Dr. Tsou received partial funding for her research through the Children’s Health Investigators Fund, an eff ort led by Children’s Health Council members that funds pediatric research throughout Weill Cornell Medicine.
“As a pediatric physician-scientist, my goals are to utilize insights obtained at the bedside to inform my research and translate scientific discoveries at the bench in ways that directly benefit the children who inspire my work,” says Dr. Tsou. “I am grateful for the Children’s Health Investigators Fund and its generous support, which has allowed me to pursue my research program.”
By shedding light on pediatric issues and highlighting the connection between quality research and excellent care, Council members hope to bring the need for increased funding into the spotlight, and to continue bringing the best care to patients.
“The Council will play a key role in the development of the next generation of scientists, and also serves as a way to provide people with information on advances in science and highlight work that’s being done at Weill Cornell Medicine,” says Dr. Gerald Loughlin, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and the Nancy C. Paduano Professor of Pediatrics at Weill Cornell, who was a leader in the Council’s formation. “Our goal is to support research to develop new therapies for illnesses that affect children.”
In addition to funding research in the Department of Pediatrics, the Children’s Health Investigators Fund supports researchers in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Gale and Ira Drukier Institute for Children’s Health.
Another recent research project funded by the Council is led by Dr. Shannon Bennett, assistant professor of psychology in clinical psychiatry, Dr. Faith Gunning-Dixon, associate professor of psychology in psychiatry, and Dr. Conor Liston (MD ’08), assistant professor of neuroscience and of psychiatry, experts in the assessment, treatment and neuroscience of anxiety and depression across childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. Their study is the first to utilize cutting-edge brain imaging techniques developed at Weill Cornell to identify patterns of brain network connectivity in adolescents and young adults with anxiety and depression. Their work may lead to innovations in the assessment and treatment of these disorders during childhood.
“The Children’s Health Council is in a unique position to bring research findings and solutions directly to patients at Weill Cornell,” says Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “These passionate individuals and families are poised to make a beneficial impact on a wide variety of childhood ailments and diseases and benefit children for generations to come.”
Beyond funding research, the Council holds several events annually to increase public knowledge of children’s health topics and shed light on the importance of pediatric research. Children’s Health Council Discovery Panels, for example, provide public discussions led by top Weill Cornell physicians on a variety of topics relevant to pediatric health, ranging from immunity to sports injuries. The Council’s annual Family Science Day allows families and their children to participate in hands-on activities led by Weill Cornell graduate students.
“It’s empowering to be part of the discussions at these events and to hear from phenomenal researchers and doctors,” says Christina Truesdale, chair of the Council. “The Council members share a passion for children’s health research. It’s a wonderfully warm and caring community. We hope to keep kids healthy, and if they’re sick, to find the best ways to treat them.”
Casey Weiss, vice chair of programming for the Council, emphasizes the importance of education at the Council’s events. “We are showcasing the amazing talent of the physicians and researchers at Weill Cornell, while educating the community about the support that is necessary to make these incredible advances in pediatric research possible.”
As the Council looks toward the future, members hope to continue to increase participation and widely spread awareness of the pediatric research they support, says Mara Feil, vice chair of membership for the Council. When she and her husband, Brian Feil, became parents nearly three years ago, their perspective on how they could give back changed.
“Becoming parents really opened our eyes to the importance of funding pediatric research and we wanted to be a part of that eff ort,” says Mrs. Feil. “The Council is composed of incredible people. It’s truly a group for everyone who shares a common purpose: improving the lives of children.”
If you wish to join the Children’s Health Council, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-962-9566.