General News
Posted October 16, 2013
Second Annual Research Symposium at All Children’s Hospital Showcases Important Collaborative Efforts

Research Symposium
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An array of complex, cutting-edge projects shared the spotlight Friday, Oct. 10 at the second annual All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine Research Symposium in the OCC Building. Yet the event could be summed up by a simple concept: collaboration.

The day-long gathering brought together clinicians and researchers from All Children's, Johns Hopkins, the University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center, as well as private physicians, for presentations on an array of topics: cardiology, cardiac surgery, obesity, anesthesiology, critical care, surgery, hematology, oncology, bone marrow transplant and more.

Throughout the morning and afternoon, participants and guests strolled through a conference room of the Outpatient Care Center, studying the poster displays. They also had the opportunity to hear a handful of oral presentations by researchers whose projects were selected to be presented verbally to the full group.

In the end, a pair of University of South Florida researchers earned the two awards from more than 50 entries:  USF's Michael Fant, M.D. and his four-person team that also included Suzanne Jackman, M.D. of All Children's, won the top honor for basic research. Meanwhile, USF medical student Christie Atchison - whose nine-person team included Ernest Amankwah, PhD, Irmel Ayala, M.D., and sponsor Neil A. Goldenberg, M.D., PhD  of All Children's - was singled out for excellence in clinical and translational research.

"I think it's fantastic that there are USF ties on both of these awards," said Dr. Goldenberg, Director of Research at All Children's and Co-Director of the ACH-JHM Pediatric Stroke Program. "When you look at all the abstracts, there's a really nice distribution across different universities involved and private physicians. All are connected in some way to ACH and the ACH community. To me, that's really an exciting part of it, and that's what it really needs to continue to be if we're going to really reflect all the research that's connected here focusing on children."

Dr. Goldenberg measured the success of the event not only by the greater numbers it enjoyed in its second year, but by the joint efforts of researchers from so many distinguished sources.

Dr. Jacobs and Dr. Brands"We really had a great launch a year ago, with a lot of participation particularly from the ACH community and some participation from USF and Moffitt," he said. "So it was really important to see that this would be sustained beyond the initial enthusiasm, post-integration (with Hopkins). It was great to see that we actually had a pretty significant rise in research submissions for abstracts for this symposium, and that the quality of that work was really excellent."

Ultimately, 27 projects were selected to be presented, and four of those were chosen to be featured in oral presentations. And unlike last year, two awards were given out instead of one. The awards were determined by an independent judging panel, which scored various criteria of all the different poster presentations.

"We ended up having poster presentations on more work than we did last year," Dr. Goldenberg said. "We also found that because of the caliber of the work, we wanted to give out two different top abstract awards this year. Last year, we had a single category that lumped all types of research together. This time, we really wanted to distinguish between basic research and clinical and translational research, because of the amount and high caliber of the submissions."

The variety of places generating the submissions was particularly encouraging to Dr. Goldenberg.

"It was great to see the amount of participation outside of folks who are ACH employed," he said. "We had a fair amount of privately employed ACH community physicians in some of our private practices. But we also had a really great showing from the USF Department of Pediatrics, predominantly researchers who are based on the St. Pete campus."

Dr. Goldenberg also noted that there was strong participation from Moffitt - a center which counts All Children's as its only pediatric affiliate. The variety of sources, he added, "were reflected in the abstract poster presentations and the oral presentations and even some of the awards."

Dr. Fant, who works in the USF research building on the ACH campus, won for a project titled "Plac 1 (Placenta-specific 1) is Widely Expressed in the Developing Embryo and Essential for Normal Brain."

"He was looking at a marker called Plac 1 that is involved in placental development and he showed some exciting new data that this protein from the gene has a role in normal development of brain tissues," Dr. Goldenberg said. "And in fact, it seems to be involved in a lot of other organs in development."

"As a USF professor, it really is another great example of the innovation that is happening in Tampa Bay and how it has implications for child health based in the ACH community," he added.

Dr. Fant echoed Dr. Goldenberg's excitement over the collaborative efforts showcased in the Research Symposium. "It's extremely important," he said. "There are too many smart, bright folks on both sides are doing great things. And the potential that comes out of those interactions and collaborations can make two good things even better."

He also credited the work of ACH's Dr. Jackman, saying, "She was actually the Fellow who took it on to characterize the mouse model. It was her work that first identified the brain observation that we made, so a lot of the stuff we did built upon her work. She's a stakeholder in the things we're doing now."

Dr. Goldenberg learned of Atchison and her impressive hematology work through USF Chair of the Department of Pediatrics Dr. Patricia Emmanuel. Atchison was hoping to conduct clinically oriented research in hematology and oncology.

"She seemed to have an emerging interest in clotting disorders," explained Dr. Goldenberg, "So I started to mentor Christie in a project that looked at risk factors  for the development of thrombosis in kids hospitalized here, hoping that that would be generalizable knowledge for other children's hospitals around the country."

Atchison's project was singled out at USF among a highly competitive field of entries, giving her a national grant to continue her research. The grant required that she work with a hands-on mentor, and Dr. Goldenberg was glad to assist.

"I definitely really lucked out being able to work with him and collaborate with All Children's," she said. "USF has its own (pediatric) residency but it doesn't have a children's hospital. So being able to collaborate with All Children's was my dream for this year."

So was being recognized last Friday among such a distinguished field. "I submitted the abstract just hoping to get a poster," she said. "I was surprised to get an oral presentation. I'd never done one before. So that was exciting by itself, because I was the only student presenting. I didn't expect anything else, so I was completely surprised when I won."

Added Dr. Goldenberg: "The project is a nice example of Dr. Emmanuel being very collaborative in reaching out on behalf of Christie to identify me as a potential mentor. And then you have a USF med student working with a JHU faculty member and focusing on ACH based data. I think it's really a great example of that kind of collaboration."

 Reflecting on the second symposium, Dr. Goldenberg says the sharing of research efforts bodes well for the future of children's health.

"It's really gratifying because I think one of the key goals that I've had - and I know that (ACH President and Vice Dean) Dr. Ellen has as well - is that we really establish a community of researchers that benefits the children in the region and beyond the region," he said. "To do that successfully, particularly in rare diseases in children or pediatric medicine more generally, you really need to take a collaborative approach and leverage all your strengths.

"There are great strengths here at ACH, USF, and Moffitt. And bringing JHU into the mix has been a tremendous gain. But we want to make sure that the work we accomplish isn't limited by too much attention to the hat someone wears as far as the university affiliation."