QUESTION | What is your biggest goal for your term as CNS President?
My number one goal is to bring greater visibility to child neurology and to children with neurological issues. This is a pivotal time for affected children, their families, child neurologists, and specialists in neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD). We are transitioning rapidly from the era of the late 20th and early 21st centuries in which our classic physical diagnostic abilities were refined, first by dramatic advances in imaging, then by equally dramatic advances in molecular diagnosis, to a new era of the mid-21st century in which we will be blessed by a staggering array of advanced molecular therapies. It is astounding that we have three therapies for spinal muscular atrophy and five for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, all approved by the FDA since 2016. And this year we have our first FDA-approved therapy for Friedreich ataxia. It is critically important during this time of joyful upheaval that we ensure that children with neurological disorders have better outcomes and that child neurologists and NDD specialists are leading the way to develop and implement these new therapies in the laboratory, clinical trials, and clinical practice. Child neurologists must become more comfortable with testing and prescribing therapies that require invasive techniques to administer and that have daunting potential side-effect profiles. In effect, many of us should develop skillsets akin to pediatric oncologists and transplant physicians. I would like the CNS to be the hub where child neurologists and NDD specialists can plan and implement the future and ensure the visibility of our patients and our specialty.
QUESTION | What are your additional goals?
There is a movement afoot at the CNS to enhance leadership development for child neurologists and NDD specialists. This is a critically important initiative, one that I will do my utmost to foster. We should be taking on more leadership roles at our home institutions and at our professional organizations, not only at the CNS but in other societies relevant to our practices.
I would like to enhance connections across generations of CNS members, from medical students all the way to emeritus members, as we all have so much to learn from each other. It would be wonderful if the CNS could help mentors and mentees at different institutions find each other.
Child neurologists and NDD specialists need to become more comfortable with financial matters in all settings pertaining to our field. Finances impact our standing and our ability to be investigators and practitioners. We should be more aware of what grants there are, how to compete successfully for them, and what those mysterious indirect costs are. We should be knowledgeable about what RVUs are, how they translate into different dollars in different settings, and how to navigate personal and group expectations.
QUESTION | Why is the CNS a valuable organization for child neurologists to join?
The CNS touches the careers of child neurologists and NDD specialists in a unique way. Like many others, I remember the first CNS meeting I attended, as a resident, in Nashville, Tennessee. Many members speak of the CNS as their professional home. I feel likewise. For me and countless others, the CNS is the organization to which they return, again and again, at various pivotal times in their careers – when they are residents and fellows, early career physicians, seasoned physicians, and in their later years to find old friends from decades past and reminisce about all that they have accomplished during their careers. And now, as the CNS reinvents itself for the mid-21st century, our organization will continue to be as central and important as it was at its founding over 50 years ago.
QUESTION | What are the biggest obstacles facing child neurologists? What can the CNS do to help them?
The two biggest obstacles are that (1) child neurologists and NDD specialists need to adapt nimbly to a rapidly changing world, while they do not always have the resources and mentorship to do so, and (2) child neurologists and NDD specialists in training are not uniformly exposed to research experiences and methodologies that will be critical for their future career development, regardless of practice setting.
The CNS is perfectly positioned to prepare child neurologists and NDD specialists for roles at the vanguard of new knowledge and novel therapies. The membership is an amazing blend of child neurologists across the spectrum – from physician-scientists at the bench to clinical researchers to clinician educators to private practitioners. We have a lot of the expertise and knowledge within our membership to stay at the cutting edge. But we need to communicate better with each other, and sometimes reach outside the realm of child neurology for new models. The CNS can facilitate all of that and more.
By drawing in large cohorts of child neurologists and NDD specialists in training, the CNS can foster mentorships between institutions so that our trainees can enhance their educational experiences in areas such as biostatistics, writing, clinical trial methodology, and neurogenetics. The Pellock Symposium, focusing on key topics in epilepsy, and the CDCNP-K12 program provide wonderful models of what can be done to elevate and connect trainees across the country. Such knowledge will be needed to stay current, not just for academic child neurologists and NDD specialists, but for all of us in all practice settings.
QUESTION | Are there any new initiatives emerging for the CNS?
New initiatives are everywhere at the CNS! There will be new leadership development programming and other fresh changes at the CNS Annual Meeting in Vancouver. We are balancing the rightfully intense focus on the Annual Meeting with more regular membership engagement throughout the year. Committee appointments, terms, and activities are all undergoing governance reorganizations to ensure that they are nimble, active, and reflective of our membership. We are cognizant of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) throughout the organization, with the mindset that promoting DEI will enhance our excellence and health as an organization for many years to come. On a broader scale, the CNS is adapting to this new, post-pandemic world in which there is a frenzy of activity both in person and online, and we will be a major presence in both arenas.
QUESTION | How do you envision working with the CNF to advance Child Neurology?
The Child Neurology Foundation (CNF) and the CNS both have distinguished histories. Both organizations share many common goals, with regular ongoing multi-channel communications between us. The CNF has wonderful initiatives involving patient advocacy and education that complement CNS activities quite well. It is important for our two organizations to work together for the benefit of all. The degree to which our organizations are intertwined is wonderful, and I look forward to working with my counterpart, Stephen Peters, and
many other talented colleagues at the CNF during my term.