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In the News: Forbes Ranking, Cancer Research Funding, Mask Mandates, Mental Disorders

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February 18, 2022
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In the News

Starting off In the News this week is a big congratulations to CHOP for its No. 1 ranking on Forbes' 2022 list of America's Best Large Employers. Read about CHOP President and CEO Madeline Bell's opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the need for cancer research funding. Learn about a donor campaign for pediatric surgery. Finally, round out your news reading with studies about the impact of mask mandates early in the COVID-19 pandemic, and deep learning algorithms to diagnose mental disorders in African Americans.

CHOP Tops Forbes Ranking of America's Best Large Employers

Madeline Bell

CEO Madeline Bell

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia ranked Number 1 on Forbes' 2022 list of America's Best Large Employers. The recognition highlights CHOP's implementation of various programs designed to help employees navigate the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as flexibility in scheduling, bringing back retired nurses, and offering subsidized childcare. Forbes partnered with a market research firm to survey Americans working for businesses with at least 1,000 employees. Learn more about how CHOP supports its employees in a Forbes article featuring President and CEO Madeline Bell.

"The most important thing that I've learned is the critical importance of leadership's physical presence," Bell said in the article. "Every single day, I know that something I do, and every person who works here does, is going to improve the lives of children and their families. And that's a higher calling, and I think keeps us all very united and very connected."

Madeline Bell Talks Cancer Research in Philadelphia Inquirer

In a recent opinion piece published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bell discussed the need for more cancer research funding. The opinion was a response to President Joe Biden's announcement of the relaunch of his "Cancer Moonshot." Initially launched in 2016, the mission of Cancer Moonshot is to accelerate the rate of progress against cancer.

"Today, cancer research needs a new 'moonshot,'" Bell wrote. "Relative to the scope of the need, cancer research remains deeply underfunded. Without a renewed focus on cancer – particularly pediatric cancer, which afflicts the youngest and most vulnerable – and stronger and sustained investment from Congress and the White House, we could stall on the essential progress set in motion 50 years ago."

Read the full opinion piece.

Masks Mandates Associated With Reduction in County-level COVID-19 Case Incidence Early in Pandemic

David Rubin, MD, MSCE

David Rubin, MD, MSCE

Researchers in PolicyLab at CHOP found that in counties that introduced a mask mandate early in the pandemic, there was a 33% lower COVID-19 case incidence in the six weeks after the mandate was masked compared to counties without mandates. The study, which appeared in Health Affairs, is the largest to assess the impact of masking mandates in the United States. It included data from nearly 400 diverse counties. The researchers also found differences in counties based on population density and political leaning.

"As we continue to discuss how well mitigation measures have worked throughout the pandemic, we need to recognize the variability in effectiveness of mask mandates over the course of a pandemic in different communities," said David Rubin, MD, MSCE, director of PolicyLab at CHOP and senior author on the study. "While it is difficult to extrapolate these findings to later stages of the pandemic when fatigue with public restrictions was greater, the results suggest mask mandates may be effective as a time-limited measure for local leaders to consider during periods of high case incidence or when hospitals are strained."

Find out more about the study in the PolicyLab press release.

Dollar-For-Dollar Matching Gift Campaign Will Fund New Discoveries to Transform Personalized Pediatric Surgical Care

Holly Hedrick, MD

Holly Hedrick, MD

An anonymous donor matched donations up to $2 million to support the "Addy and Lily Fund for Transformational Surgical Care." The fund will support Holly Hedrick, MD, attending surgeon in the Division of Pediatric General, Thoracic and Fetal Surgery at CHOP, and her team, who successfully separated conjoined twins, Addison (Addy) and Lilianna (Lily) Altobelli, whose journey made national headlines and inspired the anonymous donor. In addition to supporting families in need of surgeries, the funds will aid in research endeavors.

"We are truly grateful for the Altobelli family's advocacy and the generosity of this donor," said Monica Taylor-Lotty, chief development officer at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation. "The donations from this campaign will accelerate new discoveries and transform pediatric surgical care to ensure the best possible outcomes for children."

See the CHOP press release to learn more about the campaign.

CHOP Researchers Use Deep Learning to Find Genetic Causes of Mental Health Disorders in African American Population

Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD

Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD

A new study from the Center for Applied Genomics at CHOP showed that a deep learning model has promising accuracy when helping to diagnose a variety of common mental health disorders in African American patients. The tool could help distinguish between disorders and identify multiple disorders, allowing for early intervention and for patients to receive more personalized treatment. The findings appeared in Molecular Psychiatry.

Senior author Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Applied Genomics, and his team generated whole genome sequencing data from 4,179 patient blood samples of African American patients, including 1,384 patients diagnosed with at least one mental disorder. The deep learning model, which looked for the burden of genomic variants in coding and non-coding regions of the genome, demonstrated 70% accuracy in distinguishing patients with mental disorders from the control group. The model also identified multiple genomic regions that were likely to be involved in the development of mental disorders.

"Most studies focus only on one disease, and minority populations have been very underrepresented in existing studies that utilize machine learning to study mental disorders," Dr. Hakonarson said. "By identifying genetic variants and associated pathways, future research aimed at characterizing their function may provide mechanistic insight as to how these disorders develop."

Learn more about the study findings in the CHOP press release.

ICYMI

Catch up on our headlines from our Feb. 4 In the News:

  • Pioneer in Fetal Surgery Dr. Alan W. Flake Receives Prize in Developmental Biology
  • Chemo-resistant Mesenchymal Cells in Neuroblastoma Potential Targets for Immunotherapy
  • Penn/CHOP Cares Program Supports Researchers with Caregiving Responsibilities
  • Protein Profiles Dysregulated in Patients with MIS-C
  • Fourteen U.S. Institutions Join Patient-centered Study of Adult Congenital Heart Disease

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