Message from the Chair

My second year began with the graduation of a superlative class of residents, the product of untold hours of study, practice, mentoring, and devotion. Commencement marks the opening of new vistas of possibilities previously unrealizable, literally “beginning now only at the end.” I see and feel the inspiration and potential of Pediatrics at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and know no bounds. And yet, it is humbling to take stock surrounded by so much accomplishment. Even by our standards—to become the worldwide leader in pediatric health care, education, and discovery—so far have we come, and yet so far to go.

The end of all our efforts is for children's health; tending to the health and well-being of children justifies efforts in education and research. Thus, progress is measured in terms of child health. In Pediatrics, a victory is a young person graduating from high school on time, healthy, and thriving. Children rightly deserve no less.

To the children in our care, victory is all important. It is similar for our students and trainees working to earn the next level of responsibility. But for faculty and staff, the metaphor in which we reveal ourselves is not winning wars or playing to win. We are not heroes in their struggles; we are planters and tenders of trees, under whose shade we do not expect to rest. We are servants, healers, teachers, and seekers. We labor, ultimately, for others. We are stewards entrusted with futures well beyond our own: the lives of patients, the preparation of our own surpassers, and the advancement of biomedical innovation. We work for the benefit of those who need us most while wishing that they never have cause to call on us, but when they do, they spare us not a backward glance as they race off into futures still theirs because we saw them past their need for the hope of doing so.

“We are stewards entrusted with futures well beyond our own: the lives of patients, the preparation of our own surpassers, and the advancement of biomedical innovation.”

We suffer no lack of seeds to plant. Tending seedlings is unrelenting and insistent; we do the best we can with what we have and always look to have better to offer. We reach out to the community as many times as it takes to foster relationships that advance child health. We stand meticulously measuring fluid into rows of tubes, working toward providing a better future. We put on one more smile to recruit another family to participant in a study.

All too often, we get but one shot per seed, and then, each is not watered but once. So, sometimes we are forced to settle for hope, but, mostly, we make progress. Clinically, we have a decent handle on acute and chronic care, and thus the responsibility to move past decent and pivot toward caring for health in addition to tending to illness.

We are seeding research under the slogan, “Healthy Minds. Healthy Bodies. Healthy Families.”

  • For “Healthy Minds,” the Children’s Neuroscience Institute will focus on the preservation of brain function following acute brain injury and brain cancer. The thrust will be the discovery of diagnostics, therapeutics, and rehabilitation practices.
  • For “Healthy Bodies,” the Institute for Infection, Inflammation, and Immunity, the I4Kids, will pursue the complexities of personalized vaccination, diabetes, the microbiome, and congenital infection.
  • For “Healthy Families,” the Children’s Community Health Collaborative will study the barriers to implementation of evidence-based community health interventions. Targets include acute asthma, violence reduction, nutrition, and opioid issues.
  • We are installing a translational core facility called sciVelo-CHP to facilitate development and shepherd biomedical discoveries and inventions to bedsides and communities. Bioinformatics and biorepository core facilities are on the way.

The seeds of health research are going into the ground as The Pittsburgh Study. We are looking for the determinants of health. The Framingham Study is why everyone knows the word cholesterol. Following that model, the Pittsburgh Study will be why everyone knows the words that determine child health. This will be a longitudinal, birth cohort, population health study of Allegheny County with as many cohorts and as broad a spectrum of data as we can assemble. When we find gems, they will be spun off as targeted interventions.

In pediatrics, a win wears a smile and holds a diploma, and with the rest of the graduating class is ready to commence with what comes next. We are looking to run up the score!

For the year to come, our sleeves are rolled up, an amazing array of seeds is already in the ground, more have been added in the past year, and there are many more to come—seeds of care, seeds of education, and seeds of discovery. I offer the pages that follow as a witness to the works underway and as a glimpse of the fruits to come from our expanding grove. Turn the page and tour the arbor!

Hail to Pitt!

Terence S. Dermody, MD

Vira I. Heinz Professor and Chair of Pediatrics
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Physician-in-Chief and Scientific Director
UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh