The Best of 2017, Our Staff Picks From a Big Year in Pediatric Health Care

December 26, 2017
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What. A. Year. It might be an understatement to say that a lot has happened this year – even if you’re only looking at the world of pediatric health care and research. The Pediatrics Nationwide team has had the privilege of covering many of these important topics. Below you will find highlights from each staff writer – what he or she thought were some of the important (and fun!) stories of the year. We hope you enjoy this look back as we pause, take a deep breath and get ready to jump into 2018!

Abbie Roth

The much-anticipated results of the phase 1 study of gene replacement therapy for spinal muscular atrophy type 1 were a major highlight of 2017 and a major milestone for the field. Jerry Mendell, MD, principal investigator in the Center for Gene Therapy at Nationwide Children’s saw his first patient with SMA 50 years ago. Now, he has led a monumental trial of a therapy that shows promise in extending the lives of these patients.

Read: Phase 1 Study Shows Promise of Gene Replacement Therapy for Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1


Basic science is full of mysteries and surprises. This year, Lauren Bakaletz, PhD, and her team published a breakthrough paper describing the surprising mechanism by which nontypeable Haemophilus influenza – a common culprit of otitis media – ejects DNA and DNABII protein into the biofilm matrix. This is the latest in a long line of mysteries Dr. Bakaletz and her team have been unraveling regarding NTHI biofilms.

Read: Mechanism for Expulsion of DNA from NTHI Described


Most pediatricians and family practice physicians don’t go into practice expecting to treat someone who is being subjected to human trafficking, but as we learned from Megan Letson, MD, MEd, division chief of Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, as many as 300,000 children are at high risk for trafficking each year in the United States. And up to 88 percent of trafficked youth are seen by a physician.  By asking the right questions, looking for the warning signs, and having a plan to take action, physicians are in a unique position to save these lives.

Read: Human Trafficking: How many victims have you treated?


Jeb Phillips

United States health care policy was unsettled (and unsettling) for much of the year. Many medical professionals wanted their voices heard, but they weren’t sure how best to communicate with government representatives. So the chief executive of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Steve Allen, MD, put together this practical guide. Phone call or email? Should I use my professional title? With no end in sight to the policy debates, the tips Dr. Allen provided will continue to help anyone advocating for their patients.

Read: How to Advocate for Patients With Legislators


A large health care institution can be so focused on cutting-edge research that everyday conditions – like urinary tract infections seen in an urgent care – may seem like afterthoughts. Joshua Watson, MD, and Dipanwita Saha, MD, demonstrated that if you apply quality improvement strategies to those everyday conditions, you can have a big effect.

Read: How to Reduce Unnecessary Antibiotic Use for UTI in Urgent Cares


I’m still not sure I would call colorectal surgery “pretty,” but the illustrations accompanying this feature about a complex case are evidence that surgery is an art. Marc Levitt, MD, director of the Center for Colorectal and Pelvic Reconstruction at Nationwide Children’s, said these drawings from our Pediatrics Nationwide illustrator Mandy Root-Thompson were the best he had ever seen.

Read: In Sight: Three Procedures, One Surgery


Kevin Mayhood

Common health problems often spur complex solutions. Lauren Bakaletz, PhD, director of the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis, and colleagues are taking the user-friendly path, developing a vaccine for nearly ubiquitous middle ear infections and delivering prevention through the skin — from a button-sized bandage stuck behind the ear.

Read: Needle-free Immunization Prevents Experimental Otitis Media


Medically-complex children are a small minority of Medicaid patients nationally but consume 40 percent of Medicaid’s pediatrics budget. Nationwide Children’s Garey Nortiz, MD, and Sean Gleeson, MD, showed that a population-based quality-improvement initiative results in better and less expensive care for this population.

Read: Intervention for Medically Complex Children Improves Health, Saves Money


Health equity isn’t as simple as providing all patients equal access to care. Deena Chisolm, PhD, director of the Center for Population Health and Equity Research, argues that because a number of variables affect health care quality and outcomes, true equity is doing what it takes to give all patients equal access to the same results.

Read: Second Opinion: The Equity Equation