Program Alumni

Alexis L. Franks, MD

Alexis Franks, MD

NDD Graduate, 2018

Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
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I had an outstanding training experience in the NDD program at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The patient population is diverse, clinical exposures are broad, and faculty is exceedingly supportive of the residents. I felt like I had endless opportunities to develop my own specific career interests. In particular during my dedicated research training year, due to the program’s support and encouragement of me delving fully into my project, I was able to gain sufficient data and experience to be awarded an institutional K award, and I have subsequently begun my dream career as a physician scientist in the field of neurodevelopment. Additionally, from a clinical aspect, this program prepared me well to care for a multifaceted group of patients with unique therapeutic needs. I currently see patients primarily in the Neuro-genetics clinic, where I have the opportunity to work with children who have some of the most complex neurologic and neurodevelopmental conditions.

Jenna Gaesser, MD

NDD Graduate 2017

Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

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I first came to Children's as a 4th year medical student in September of 2010, fell in love with the hospital, people, and Pittsburgh, and now Children's Hospital is stuck with me forever.

Anuja Jindal, MD

Anuja Jindal, MD and familyNDD Graduate, 2016

Assistant Professor, Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego, California

I am so grateful to have completed my NDD training at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The residency program exceeded my expectations for a great education. I love the balance of neurology, child development, and pediatrics that my training afforded me. The faculty provided great mentorship and I could not have asked for a more supportive staff. I feel that I was in the best environment to help me explore my varied interests and shape my future practice. Exposure to a large, diverse patient population and opportunities to develop leadership skills by leading an inpatient team and managing my own patients prepared me for my new life as an attending physician.

Sarah Chagnon, MD

NDD Graduate, 2015

Assistant Profressor, Children's Hosptial of the King's Daughters, Norfolk, Virginia

I came to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh entirely because of the unique opportunity of the NDD program. There were only a select few programs in the country that provided this residency, and of those programs, Pittsburgh offered the most comprehensive training in all aspects of neurodevelopmental disabilities.

When I was trying to find the right fit for my training, I wanted to learn not only how to care for children with disabilities, but how to understand them. In my opinion, it’s not enough to know how to treat disabilities. We need to know the very basic underlying mechanisms of how the brain works normally, and how it dysfunctions, in order provide care to these special children in the fullest way possible. That is the benefit of the program at Pittsburgh. Through my training, I was able to spend time in all facets of the care of neurodevelopmental disabilities; from brain-cutting and reading histology through the Pathology department to following the physical therapy rehabilitation program for Traumatic Brain Injury. I was able to tailor my training to my interests and to the learning that I wanted and needed before feeling comfortable going off to treat my own patients.

There are very few programs in the nation that create neurodevelopmental specialists, and in my opinion, only one that fosters learning in such a comprehensive and individualized manner. I am forever thankful for the training, teaching and support provided by the excellent faculty at Children's. I am the doctor I am today because of the faculty and staff that shaped me in Pittsburgh.

Jodi Lindsey, MD

NDD Graduate, 2011

Assistant Professor, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown, West Virginia

There were a number of reasons that I chose to do my NDD training at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Some of the most important reasons included that they have one of the most established Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Residency programs and that it was a program that was flexible in allowing me to design some of my own training experiences tailored specific to my interests. I felt supported by the entire faculty and my peers, and I was privileged to train with such a diverse group of physicians. I also enjoyed working as a team leader on the medical teams and in the LEND program. Over my four years spent at Children's, I was able to build a specialized NDD practice, and I treasure the relationships with those patients and their families that grew out of that time. In addition, I was afforded the opportunity to develop my skills in translational research over the course of my last year of training, which is something that will help guide my future research and career interests. I am confident that these formative experiences will enable me to transition into my role as faculty at West Virginia University.

As for the city, I love the city of Pittsburgh. Having been raised in this area, I have always known and loved the kind and hard-working personalities of the people of Pittsburgh. The city has a lot to offer to both young couples/families and to young single professionals. There is a great cultural community as well as an abundance of individually-owned restaurants to try. The city is clean, safe, and provides very affordable living. And finally, the availability of outdoor and professional sports activities is just amazing, particularly if you enjoy skiing (or snow-boarding like me), hiking, biking, kayaking, or even whitewater rafting. I could not have imagined myself at another program or in any other city.

Robyn A. Filipink, MD

NDD Graduate, 2008

Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
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I am in my dream job. I am evaluating and following children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, teaching residents and promoting our new NDD specialty. My goal has been to combine my interest in neurology with my passion to take care of children and adults with disabilities. NDD has allowed me to realize this path of combining neurology, development and pediatrics while using a multidisciplinary approach.

My training at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, first as a pediatric resident and then as a NDD resident, prepared me well for my first faculty position. I am the Medical Director of the Fragile X clinic and follow children and adults with this genetic disorder and their families long term. This clinic incorporates the lifespan model that I learned during my training in both the pediatric and adult Down syndrome clinics. I am also a Co-Director of the Tourette Syndrome clinic, where I find it particularly special that I am able to follow patients who I first evaluated during my training. I founded our Movement Disorder Conference that offers residents a unique opportunity to critically assess and examine children with unusual clinical presentations. As an evaluating physician in the Autism Treatment Network, I have gained expertise in assessing children with ASDs. I am able to expand on NDD in my other Neurology and Child Development Unit clinics where I see a wide range of children including those with genetic syndromes, intellectual disability and behavioral issues.

Pittsburgh has been a great city to train in and a place my family now calls home. It offers an endless number of activities including sports, cultural events, shopping, museums, and places to go on sunny or rainy days.

Keith Coffman, MD

NDD Graduate, 2007

Associate Professor, Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, MO

I entered NDD training with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of complex neurodevelopmental disorders that affect children and adolescents. The training in NDD enabled me to achieve this goal with ease. The breadth and depth of exposure to the care of patients with neurodevelopmental disabilities is unmatched.

The research time within my NDD training allowed me to pursue a post-doctoral fellowship in Systems Neuroscience. This research training helped me to gain a deeper understanding into the neural control of movement and the pathophysiology of childhood onset movement disorders.

NDD training has allowed me to develop my career as a pediatric movement disorders physician with ease. It was absolutely the correct training path for my particular interests.