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Franklin Medal, March for Science, Extra-Uterine Support Device, Bullying Declines, Violence Prevention Initiative

Published on May 5, 2017 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 4 months ago


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A march, a medal, and a media blitz: In this week’s research news, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia investigators made their mark in the history of progressive science in big, bold ways. Here is our rundown of one CHOP expert’s participation at the momentous March of Science, another researcher’s recognition by a beloved science museum, and the womb-like support system that lit up mainstream media because it gave fetal lambs the chance to live.

Dr. Douglas Wallace Honored With Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science

In 1875, the city of Philadelphia was the hub for innovation and manufacturing in the U.S., and its Franklin Institute – right at the heart of it all – began to recognize scientific achievements through its awards program. The Institute’s Committee on Science and the Arts went on to select recipients that included Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, Bill Gates, and more. This year, that Committee awarded the 2017 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science to Douglas Wallace, PhD, founding director of the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine at CHOP. The Franklin Institute presented Dr. Wallace with his medal at an awards ceremony and dinner May 4 and honored his achievements in a symposium entitled “Mitochondria: Our Origins – Our Diseases.”

Dr. Wallace pioneered the field of mitochondrial genetic medicine – first by studying a type of DNA not commonly examined in the 70’s (mitochondrial DNA) and later demonstrating that we inherit mtDNA only from our mothers. His investigations into mtDNA have led to discoveries about how our ancient ancestors migrated, how mtDNA underlies inherited disease, how mtDNA mutations can cause complex diseases, and more. You can read our Q&A with the world-renowned expert in Bench to Bedside, and learn more about the Franklin Medals online.

Dr. Paul Offit Marches for Science

From the Norwegian Arctic to sweltering Mexico City, over 600 cities across the world held organized rallies April 22 to spread awareness about the importance of science education and research funding. Philadelphia’s own March for Science had a very special keynote speaker: Paul Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center at CHOP. Dr. Offit discussed why we must prioritize science research and knowledge dissemination in today’s political and social landscape.

“We need to explain the value of science, in this age of anti-enlightenment, when science seems to be losing its position as a source of truth,” said Dr. Offit in coverage of the event.

Dr. Offit, an outspoken vaccine advocate and internationally recognized virology expert, has written extensively about the importance of keeping parents informed about vaccine research, including ways in which researchers can help in that process. Dr. Offit co-invented the rotavirus vaccine and was also a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can read Dr. Offit’s guest blog from earlier this year on Cornerstone.

Extra-Uterine Support Device Gains Traction In Mainstream Media

When a CHOP research team unveiled their creation of a fluid-filled, womb-like environment earlier this month, the Nature Communications study made waves in popular media. The artificial womb allowed eight fetal lambs to grow and survive for up to four weeks after leaving their mother’s uterus, with lungs and organs developing normally. As an innovative idea with far-reaching implications, the breakthrough reached everyone from National Geographic and Popular Science to the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, along with dozens of mainstream outlets in between. While more research must be done before utilizing the bio bag for human babies, the research offers hope for extremely premature babies and would-be parents. Get a more detailed look at the artificial womb with our own coverage on Cornerstone.

CHOP Experts Weigh In On New Bullying Statistics

The big bully’s day on the playground is over, according to a new study led by CHOP researchers that suggests rates of mean-spiritedness in children have declined over the course of a decade. In the study published online in PediatricsTracy E. Waasdorp, PhD, MEd a research scientist at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at CHOP, analyzed data from almost 250,000 students in elementary, middle, and high school from 2005 and 2014. The students had filled out a series of surveys that asked them to report whether they felt bullied, perpetrated a bullying incident, witnessed someone being bullied in the last month, and several other related questions. Between 2005 and 2014, fewer students reported that they witnessed bullying (66.4 percent vs. 42.7 percent) and reported bullying decreased from 28.8 percent to 13.4 percent.

Two CHOP clinicians also weighed in on the paper in an accompanying Pediatrics editorial. Stephen S. Leff, PhD, psychologist at CHOP, and Christopher Feudtner, MD, director of the department of Medical Ethics at CHOP, commended the new study’s rigor and also suggested that more work must still be done, especially when it comes to measuring the impact of a single bullying event, like cyberbullying.

“The good news is the rates of bullying are decreasing over time,” Dr. Leff said. “To sustain this trend, we need to help schools choose evidence-based programs that are feasible to conduct and are a strong match for their school. Creating a culture of safety and respect is possible, but it means taking the power back from the bullies and giving the message that a school is a safe and engaging learning environment for students, teachers, and families.”

Violence Prevention Initiative Wins Hospital Charitable Services Award

Our efforts to reduce aggression in and out of schools continues to gain traction: Last week, the Hospital Charitable Services Awards program, sponsored by Jackson Healthcare, recognized the Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) at CHOP as one of 10 “Programs of Excellence.” Every year, Jackson Healthcare awards $10,000 to a set of recognized programs that demonstrate an innovative and sustainable commitment to improving community health. CIRP experts designed the VPI as an evidence-based, community-involved effort to reduce both the incidence and impact of aggression on children and families. While current research continuously refines, defines, and improves the Initiative, it has a variety of “VPI Signature Programs” focused on education and interventions in school and clinical settings. Learn more about the VPI on Cornerstone, and read the Jackson Healthcare press release online.


This week on Cornerstone, we took a snapshot of research about teens with autism getting their driver’s license, gave a sneak peek of the upcoming Pediatric Academies Societies Annual Meeting in sunny San Francisco, dove in-depth into the artificial womb, and heard from Bryan Wolf, our Chief Scientific Officer, about a collaboration between the Center for Autism Research and CIRP.

Here are our headlines from our April 21 edition of In the News:

  • Extended Breastfeeding Styles Differ for Every Mom
  • Consortium Finds Ways to Improve Survival Rates for Children on Mechanical Circulatory Support
  • CHOP Expert Explains Recommended Vaccine Schedules for Washington Post
  • Digital Facial Recognition Can Diagnose DiGeorge Syndrome
  • Dr. Beverly Davidson Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Dr. Gil Binenbaum Receives AAPOS Young Investigator Award

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