From the pediatric research bench to the patient bedside to the community
Snapshot: Pediatric Health Environment
The number of American children living with chronic health conditions has risen dramatically over the past four decades from a reported 1.8 percent in 1960 to 7 percent in 2004. The 2009 National Health Interview Survey1 reports that 16 percent of the nation’s 74.5 million children under age 17 are not in good health. In terms of quality of day-to-day living, propensity for chronic adult diseases and even lifetime earnings, pediatric diseases and disorders impose a high price on individuals and their families. The public costs, related to health care, education and public services, are just as steep.
Diligent, applied pediatric research can help improve children’s lives and mitigate long-term costs of childhood diseases and disorders. The Dell Pediatric Research Institute (DPRI) at the University of Texas at Austin was founded in January, 2010 to conduct the level of groundbreaking translational research, innovative medical education, and leading-edge clinical programs this goal requires.
The Dell Pediatric Research Institute: State-of-the Art Investigative Program
The vision for DPRI is to enable advances that lead from the research bench to the patient bedside to the community, innovating new national protocols that deliver the best patient care, reduce the incidence of disease and profoundly improve lives. Designed to create a collaborative environment across fields of study, the 160,000-square-foot research facility houses both offices and laboratories for up to 28 senior faculty members and their research teams. DPRI scientists work at this state-of-the art investigative research facility to advance the understanding of childhood diseases and disorders including childhood obesity, cancer, genetics, birth defects, brain injury, nutritional science, epilepsy and autism.
Impact: From Bench to Bedside and Beyond
To directly connect the research bench with the bedside, world-class scientists like DPRI’s Dr. Richard Finnell collaborate with clinicians at the nearby Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. Dr. Finnell and other research scientists participate in Medical Center health clinics, counsel families, and assist with clinical training. This partnership enables medical center physicians to put research to work for patients to treat and prevent diseases. A deeper understanding of the relationship between obesity and cancer, for example, creates opportunities for DPRI researchers to share information with colleagues on subjects ranging from genetics to detection to strategies to encourage healthy eating. Meanwhile, hands-on work with medical center patients enables DPRI scientists to design more sophisticated research programs into the underlying mechanisms that govern susceptibility to childhood disorders.
The joint collaboration allows both organizations to specialize for maximum impact: The Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas focuses on diagnosing and treating child health issues, while DPRI researches cause and effect, correlations between childhood diseases and disorders, and the environment or behaviors that may contribute to these conditions.
Future Outlook: Advancements in Global Childhood Health
Austin, the nation’s 15th largest city, does not have a medical school, but with the foundation of DPRI, some of the top research talent in the country is coming to Central Texas. The caliber of the multidisciplinary faculty collaborating to improve the health of children in Central Texas and beyond is remarkable, and includes internationally known cancer researchers, vaccine delivery experts, researchers dedicated to address nutrition and cancer risk; nutritional scientists, pediatric geneticists and neurosurgeons. Ongoing DPRI research is supported by grants from the government and private sources. Additional funding partner relationships will support further investment in the institute’s programs, laboratories and research initiatives.
“We are excited about the potential for these high-caliber scientists to do work that will translate to the bedside, and eventually improve the health and lives of children in our community and the overall population,” said Dr. Aliya Hussaini, Grant Officer, Health Portfolio at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.
“These facilities place Austin at the leading edge of pediatric health research, which not only serves the Central Texas community, but delivers key learnings and translational research with worldwide reach and implications,” continued Hussaini. “Between the Dell Pediatric Research Institute, Dell Children’s and other institutions like the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living, Austin is quickly becoming a center of excellence for childhood health and research expertise, and we have the great privilege of contributing to positive change in the lives of children in our community.”