When young research trainees come to Jason Stoller, MD, for a little guidance, he often tells them that to be successful, you must surround yourself with other successful people who are passionate about pursuing similar research interests. The 2017 Eastern Society for Pediatric Research (ESPR) Annual Meeting taking place March 24 to 26 in Philadelphia is an ideal opportunity to put that advice into action.
Dr. Stoller, who is an attending neonatologist in the division of Neonatology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will officially become president of the ESPR at the spring meeting. His research passion is improving the care of developing babies to promote their neurodevelopmental outcomes so that they can go on to have happy, healthy, productive lives.
The ESPR has about 250 members from the northeastern region of the U.S. and parts of Canada who represent diverse pediatric specialties, including neonatology, cardiology, and emergency medicine. Under its umbrella organization, the Society for Pediatric Research, the ESPR is dedicated to investigators’ career development and disseminating research focused on advancing child health.
“I enjoy seeing the very interesting, high quality research that is presented each year,” Dr. Stoller said. “The number of abstracts we’ve had between platform and poster presentations has exploded. It’s especially a good opportunity for research trainees and young investigators to meet other people locally and regionally who have similar research interests.”
Five hundred presenters are expected to attend this year’s meeting. Benard Dreyer, MD, director of the division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine, is the plenary speaker. He will focus on issues related to poverty, immigrant children, and child health.
In addition to generating excitement about the latest pediatric research findings, several awards are presented to young faculty and trainees, including travel awards to offset the cost of participating in the meeting. A Mentor of the Year Award is given to an outstanding teacher who has had a major impact on developing research skills in trainees and launching productive research careers. This year the award is going to Judy Aschner, MD, physician-in-chief at The Children’s Hospital of Montefiore, Bronx, NY.
“Supporting young trainees is so important,” Dr. Stoller said. “It’s getting harder to have sustained success in today’s research world, so we need to nurture people who are dedicated to research in any way we can.”
Several of the abstracts that Dr. Stoller’s team submitted to the meeting are related to their implementation of a bedside ultrasound program to improve care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at CHOP. The idea behind this new initiative is to train physicians to use ultrasound for diagnostic studies and to guide procedures, such as putting in peripherally inserted central catheters (PICC lines) more safely and successfully without needing to expose babies to multiple X-rays.
Another application for bedside ultrasound in the NICU is to improve success rates of lumbar puncture, also known as spinal taps, that may be needed to diagnose meningitis or a metabolic disorder. A special needle is placed into the infant’s lower back to reach the area around the spinal cord and retrieve a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid to be sent for testing. Dr. Stoller has been recruiting patients for about six months for a study that is comparing a traditional approach to lumbar puncture, in which the physician feels for anatomical landmarks to position the needle correctly, to a new method that uses ultrasound to find the best spot prior to the physician inserting the needle.
“It can be a difficult procedure, so we want to see if ultrasound can help,” Dr. Stoller said. “The success rate without ultrasound is 40 to 50 percent, so there is plenty of room for improvement.”
As the ESPR’s new president, Dr. Stoller’s job is not only to build enthusiasm for the Annual Meeting, which will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Philadelphia Center City. He also aims to revamp the society’s website, ensure that members’ interactions with the society are seamless, and help grow the regional society along with finding new ways to fulfill the national society’s mission. Dr. Stoller has been an ESPR member since 2008 and previously served as a council member and treasurer. He also is an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.