For Immediate Release

Ann Miller, Media Relations
(727) 892-8592

News Release

Celebrating A Multimillion Dollar Team

Reception Brings Together Researchers and Major Benefactors
of the Children's Research Institute
at All Children's Hospital & University of South Florida

St. Petersburg, FL - Well-known individuals -- all-stars in their fields -- have been signed to positions backed by literally millions of dollars.

No, this is not major league sports. This is research that may someday save the lives of children worldwide, taking place right here in St. Petersburg, FL at the Children's Research Institute (CRI). Researchers who have recently accepted appointments to CRI Endowed Research Chairs through All Children's Hospital and the University of South Florida will have a chance to meet the generous donors who will fund their work at a special reception at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg. The invitation-only dinner, set for 6:30 PM on March 18th, will provide an opportunity for six researchers to highlight the focus and latest findings of their investigations. Their audience will include some of the region's most generous and influential individuals whose contributions will fuel the researchers' work. More than $18-million in gifts matched by the state of Florida has created endowments with investment proceeds to fund researchers such as:

  • John Sleasman, M.D. - A pediatric immunologist and expert in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in children and adolescents. As a leader in pediatric HIV research, Dr. Sleasman brings more than $2-million in grants from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the impact of HIV on the immune systems of children and adolescents. Collaborating with Dr. Sleasman on the NIH grants is Maureen Goodenow, Ph.D., a molecular geneticist whose work in the laboratory focuses on the impact of genetic variation on the clinical course of HIV infection. The work of Drs. Sleasman and Goodenow is further supported at the CRI by the Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust. This trust established the Robert A. Good Chair in Immunology. The Chair honors All Children's own Robert A. Good, Ph.D., M.D., D.Sc., a pioneer in modern immunology and bone marrow transplantation, who has been a Dana trustee since 1982.
  • Lisa Simpson, M.D., M.P.H. - Formerly the Deputy Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a $300 million research Agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A board-certified pediatrician and national leader in the field of child health services research, Dr. Simpson brings the expertise gained from years of working on the national stage to the University of South Florida. In addition, she serves as the Associate Director of the Institute for Child Health Policy (ICHP), University of Florida, which has offices in the Children's Research Institute. Dr. Simpson will be establishing a multidisciplinary program to improve the quality and outcomes of children's health care by researching the needs of patient populations such as children with asthma and assessing the effectiveness of various treatment approaches. Dr. Simpson's federal work led the to development and implementation of such successful initiatives as quality assessment & improvement programs and evidence-based practice programs. Her research efforts will be supported through the All Children's Hospital Guild Chair in Child Health Policy. The Guild - some 800 volunteers who assist the Hospital Foundation in providing resources for children's care - has established an endowment from which investment proceeds will be earmarked for Dr. Simpson's work.
  • Kersti Linask, Ph.D. - A doctorate-level researcher in the cellular, molecular and developmental biology of the heart. Dr. Linask's work focuses on the earliest stages of heart development, such questions as how the fetal heart develops from a straight tube to a four-chambered heart. She brings a $1.25-million grant from the National Institutes of Health, as well as funding as an American Heart Association Established Investigator. Her work at the CRI will receive further support through the David and Janice Mason Chair in Heart Development. David Mason co-founded the Hops Grill & Bar Restaurant concept, now part of the national restaurant group Apple South. While a member of the All Children's Hospital Board of Trustees, Mr. Mason and his wife Janice became parents of twin girls, one of whom was immediately rushed to All Children's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for treatment of a congenital heart defect.
  • James Huhta, M.D. - A recognized leader in the field of fetal heart function and disorders. Dr. Huhta's investigations focus on the early detection of congenital heart disease using fetal echocardiography for prenatal diagnosis. Outcomes research will track the benefits of such early detection and management of pediatric heart disease. A long-term research goal will be the possible use of fetal surgery to repair significant heart defects before birth. Through the Andrews/Daicoff Chair in Perinatal Cardiology, Dr. Huhta's work will benefit from an endowment established by the late Sarianne Andrews, a long-time friend of All Children's Hospital. Mrs. Andrews' late husband Ed was an inventor and entrepreneur who befriended a young George Daicoff while he was still at the University of Chicago Medical School. Dr. Daicoff went on to direct All Children's Pediatric Heart Surgery program for two decades. Mrs. Andrews made her generous bequest to All Children's research efforts in honor of her husband and his friendship with Dr. Daicoff.
  • Darlene Calhoun, D.O. - A neonatologist whose research focuses on disorders of infection-fighting white blood cells in newborns. Dr. Calhoun brings funding from several private foundations as well as a $600,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund her CRI studies. One of these studies seeks to understand how the placenta produces and passes along growth factors that help an infant's immune system develop and how intrauterine infections interfere with that process. Further funding will come through the Rothman Chair in Developmental Pediatrics. Thelma Rothman and her late husband Maurice, founders of the Kane's Furniture chain, have been long-time supporters of All Children's, with Mrs. Rothman serving on several hospital boards throughout the years. Their generous donations created an endowment to fund Dr. Calhoun's work.
  • Robert Boucek, Jr., M.D. - Program director of the Pediatric Cardiac Transplant Program at All Children's Hospital and USF. Dr. Boucek's research aims to understand how "tolerance" of a transplanted heart or organ might be achieved. Young infants who receive a donor heart often need less immune suppressing drugs to ward off organ rejection than do older children or adults. Looking at the interaction of immune cells from the donor organ with the immune cells of the recipient, Boucek's team hopes to track the early indications of tolerance and determine whether immunosuppressive drugs can be reduced or eliminated. For the past three years, this work has been funded through Dr. Boucek's position as the Steven & Sonia Raymund Endowed Investigator in Pediatric Cardiology. Mr. Raymund, Chairman and CEO of Tech Data Corporation, is also the current chairman of the All Children's Hospital Board. He and his wife Sonia generously created an endowment funding Dr. Boucek's work.
  • Gary Litman, Ph.D. - A molecular geneticist noted for his research on the genetic structure and origins of antibodies. Dr. Litman has directed the Molecular Genetics Lab at All Children's Hospital/USF since 1990. His lab has made several contributions to the Human Genome project, mapping previously undiscovered genes. Dr. Litman's studies aim to further understanding of the human immune system by focusing on the origins of immunity in more primitive animal models such as fish. Since 1990, his work has been funded in part by a prestigious ten-year Merit Award from the National Institutes of Health, as well as proceeds from the Ann & Andrew H. Hines Jr. Chair in Molecular Genetics. Both Ann and Andy Hines have served as members of the All Children's Hospital Board. Andy is a former president of Florida Power and Chairman of Florida Progress. Ann has served as a trustee of St. Petersburg College and been active in many community organizations. Their donation provides the endowment to fund Dr. Litman's work.

Media interested in covering the March 18th event at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort are asked to contact Ann Miller, Media Relations Manager for All Children's Hospital, at (727) 892-8592. We will also gladly facilitate interviews of individual researchers for those unable to attend the March 18th event.