I'm guided by the desire to make our world-class physician-scientists and cutting-edge technology more accessible to all families. As a neurologist and hospital leader, I believe science has practical implications and can offer real hope for improved care of patients.
My commitment to both research and medicine was reflected in my decision to pursue both an M.D. and PhD. at the University of Cincinnati. I then trained in pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital and child neurology at Washington University in St. Louis. Early on in my career, I longed to find a problem for which basic science would have a major impact on improving care and chose to focus on childhood brain tumors.
I have focused primarily on the treatment of children with medulloblastomas -- the most common malignant brain tumors in kids. Given their malignant behavior, treatment of these tumors is extremely aggressive, involving a protracted course of chemotherapy and radiation to the entire brain. Survivors are left with life-altering cognitive deficits.
The advent of technology that could rapidly monitor the activity of all genes throughout the human genome gave me the opportunity to study the tumor samples in depth. Thus, clinical practice informed a research breakthrough: we discovered that the molecular profiles of tumors predict the treatment response of medulloblastomas much more accurately than clinical criteria that were in use at the time. This finding allowed us to classify brain tumors by their molecular features, better predicting outcomes for patients and allowing us to increase treatment of poor outcome tumors while decreasing treatment of tumors that respond to therapy in order to improve the cognitive outcome of survivors. We also are able to introduce therapies that target molecular mechanisms, enabling further reduction or even elimination of less specific and damaging chemotherapy and radiation. These research and clinical experiences led, in 2010, to my appointment as the Director of the Boston Children’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center.
In the clinical arena, I worked toward the establishment of our multidisciplinary Brain Tumor Center in 1992 and helped to grow it to one of the largest such programs nationwide. After becoming Boston Children's Hospital's Neurologist-in-Chief in 2005, I have dedicated my efforts toward better coordinating care for our patients, many of whom have complex needs. Under my direction, families now come into integrated systems for autism, learning disabilities and many other disorders of the brain. I have also been instrumental in advocating for the establishment the hospital's shared service center. This has streamlined registration and billing, making Boston Children's Hospital a more nimble, patient-centered organization. I am proud to have made the experience of coming to the hospital an easier one for families of children with complex needs.