The outlook for child health research – both in federal funding and at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) – is a bright one, was the message from speakers at the 10th anniversary of MGHfC Pediatric Research Day. In a talk aimed at the next generation of early investigators and clinician-scientists, keynote speaker Diana Bianchi, MD – director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) – urged participants to look at the funding glass as “half-full.”

Bianchi discussed challenges and opportunities related to child health research during the March 20 event at the Starr Center. She correctly predicted the healthy rise in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding in the omnibus budget bill subsequently passed by Congress and also described an array of online tools provided by NICHD and other federal funding sources. Bianchi encouraged young investigators to reach out directly to NIH program directors early in their careers and to broaden their search for federal pediatric research funding, which has grown from $3.28 billion in 2011 to $4.18 billion in 2017.

David Torchiana, MD, Partners HealthCare president and CEO, spoke about the vital role that pediatric research plays at the MGH. “You’re punching above your weight,” said Torchiana. Total funding for pediatric research at the MGH was approximately $90 million in 2017, making up nearly 10 percent of the total research budget of $912 million.

Faculty keynote speaker Randy Buckner, PhD, director of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Division, proposed that many ailments are caused or mediated by the fundamental mismatch between our brain’s evolution in an intimate hunter-gatherer society with tightly proscribed relationships and roles and the complex, modern society that “we’ve evolved into.”

Four junior faculty members also presented talks. Peggy Settle, RN, PhD, nurse director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, described a research study that led to implementation of a successful infant-driven feeding method. Lauren Fiechtner, MD, director of the Center for Pediatric Nutrition at MGHfC, talked about the importance of including parental feedback and direct participation in a weight management study on children. Vibha Singhal, MD, pediatric endocrinologist, presented on marrow fat and bone across the nutritional spectrum; and Hongmei Mou, PhD, of the MGH Center for Regenerative Medicine, talked about the development of a stem cell model to study airway diseases.

More than 150 posters were presented, and travel awards were given to Jafari Gholamali, MD, PhD; Vibha Singhal, MD; and Mai Uchida, MD. Thirteen finalists also were selected to submit applications for an MGHfC pilot and feasibility award.  

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