Bringing CNS Members Together to Make Children’s Lives Better


Letter from the President – Boston Update

20201 Annual Meeting

“Hear-ye, hear-ye” (as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow might have said):

Listen, CNS members, and you shall hear
Of the mid-May call of Roger Revere,
On the 29th of September, in ’21,
After two years apart
We will gather as one.

He said to his Board, “Should the virions come
By lumen or serum from the inoculum,
We’ll convene for the 50th,
Both in Boston and on-line
A vaccine-enabled meeting live-streamed from the Hynes.”

Ready to ride, he now spreads the alarm
To every child neurologist with a shot in the arm:
“Come to Boston this fall Come – let’s celebrate in style,
The 50th won’t come again And we’ve not met in a long while.

The die has been cast. We will gather this fall in Boston.

Addressing the CNS Executive Board during its annual spring meeting coincident with the (virtual) meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, CNS Executive Director, Roger Larson concluded his presentation of the fall annual meeting budget – one that could result in a substantial deficit, given all the uncertainties of this second pandemic year – by reminding us that the annual meeting is not all about, or just about, or even mostly about the bottom line: “It’s about ‘body and soul’; it’s about expressing and affirming who we are and who we aspire to be.”

Most volunteer professional associations once had, hope someday to have, or hope someday to recapture and have once again what Roger characterized as “body and soul.”

Most of us belong to multiple associations; we know that’s not an easy thing to achieve or sustain. Size and multiplying, often overlapping and competing missions, make it hard for large associations like the AAN and AAP, for example, to maintain the focus and scale needed to realize the cohesive, collaborative, collegial identity “body and soul” implies. In a culture of distraction, increasingly given to short-term, clearly defined transactional relationships, finding and funding intangibles like “body and soul” is becoming increasingly difficult for associations of any size or mission, especially in the virtual, distanced, zoom-driven world COVID-19 has enshrouded us in the past year.

Which is what makes the CNS so remarkable and what makes celebrating its 50th/Golden Anniversary Meeting live in Boston so essential. Whether we make money, lose money, or break even this year, we are not going to let this 50th Anniversary Meeting pass us by.

Not all of our members can or will come, of course. The survey sent out two weeks ago to CNS members suggests 2/3 will come if they can, and 1/3 won’t, or can’t. We will, therefore, stage a hybrid meeting, live-streaming scientific symposia and seminars from the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, and doing what we can to make members scattered around the country (or world) feel engaged and energized, interacting socially on-screen with their colleagues gathered on-site in Boston.

The menu of educational options will be robust, with live-streamed sessions being supplemented by a series of webinars surrounding and/or during the meeting. The scientific program crafted by Carl Stafstrom, Yasmin Khakoo and their committee features a strong line-up of six symposia, nine seminars, and a diverse roster of platform and poster presentations chosen from a pool of extraordinarily high quality proposals and a huge number of abstract submissions, dwarfing other years by far. The NIH-funded CNCDP – Child Neurologist Career Development Program (K-12) – will highlight the promising work of junior investigators. These sessions, staged during the traditional Thursday morning through Saturday morning meeting structure, will be book-ended by two special sessions: 1) a splendid Wednesday morning session organized by the Child Neurology Foundation as Part II of the “genetic diagnostic odyssey” initiated at last fall’s combined CNS-ICNA meeting; this will include a call for undiagnosed cases to undergo whole exome sequencing to be solved and discussed during this meeting; and 2) an inaugural workshop on Saturday afternoon for clinical investigators from all career levels, supported jointly by the CNS, CNF and NIH, and organized by the CNS Research Committee. Steve Roach will also reprise his popular Saturday afternoon (limited enrollment) Biomedical Writing Workshop.

There will be no NDC symposium this year, but members will want to come in Tuesday evening anyway to attend the next morning’s CNF symposium, followed by a once-in-a.lifetime Legacy Luncheon that will recognize not only the 2021 recipients, but all past awardees and elected officers. Newly-minted copies of Child Neurology: Its Origins, Founders, Growth and Evolution will be showcased at the luncheon and throughout the meeting. This second edition of the original Founders book, expertly edited and largely written by Steve Ashwal, covers the earliest beginnings of pediatric neurology to circa 2000.

This year’s award lectures will be stellar, including the traditional trio of Sachs (Jerry Mendell), Hower (Jon Mink), and Dodge YIA (TBA) lectures, with the addition this year of the inaugural Martha Bridge Denckla Award Lecture (Elizabeth Berry-Kravis) on Thursday afternoon recognizing outstanding contributions in cognitive child neurology.

The Thursday morning Presidential Symposium will, I promise you, be very special, sparing you of what may have been the topic in any other year (hint: inherited metabolic epilepsies), to focus instead on the theme of our 50th Anniversary meeting: “The CNS at 50 – Past, Present, and Future.” The initial lecture will feature Dr. Ashwal reviewing the history of the specialty, reflecting his meticulous preparation of the initial and now second editions of the Founders book. I will follow with a State of the Union address to describe the present status of the society. And then the symposium will transition into the Future, by featuring members of our Young Investigators Special Interest Group, including Alex Cohen focusing on developmental cognitive neuroscience, Christopher Yuskaitis on epilepsy genetics, Darius Ebrahimi-Fahkari on movement disorders, Verena Staedke on neuro-oncology, Giulia Benedetti on epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology, and a special roundtable on future directions in cerebral palsy and child neurology, moderated by Bhooma Avaramuthan, that will include Young-Min Kim, Michael Lopez, and Anusha Yeshokumar.

We will welcome back in-person this year our many, much-valued corporate and non-profit sponsors and exhibitors, with special recognition for those Gold Level partners whose generous support has sustained the long term growth and success of our annual meetings and helped see us through the steep challenges of staging virtual/hybrid meetings in 2020 and 2021.

There will be important opportunities for networking and social events, starting with the opening reception on Wednesday, possibly preceded by a special neuro-humanities session featuring our own stand-up comic Joe Pinter, Carl Stafstrom on the integration of art into the neurology clinic, Nina Schor on her masterful poetry, and my own take on the brain and creativity, featuring professional musicians from the Berklee College of Music right down the street. (Note: this may be scheduled on Friday instead, leading into the closing Gala Reception). Meeting rooms and times will be reserved for alumni receptions to be self-organized by individual programs. These will be spread out over all three nights, thereby allowing people to attend multiple receptions, since many of us have trained or practiced in various programs. And there will be a series of videos available before, during, and after the meeting combining literature and music from Boston Children’s sage laureate, David Urion and myself. These will be similar to the nightclub sessions done online for the 2020 CNS-ICNA Meeting, but this time focusing on New England authors. Don’t be surprised to hear renditions of the American classic “Body and Soul” and reprises of the “Best of” from our combined meeting with ICNA.

Bottom line – the real bottom line – there will be great content for all, both live and live-streamed, with special added flair and fanfare to celebrate our Golden Anniversary in Boston. Watch for updates via eConnections and the new CNS website beginning in early June, with registration information going out in late June and on-line registration scheduled to begin in early July.

See you this fall,
Phillip L. Pearl, MD
President, Child Neurology Society
William G. Lennox Chair, Boston Children’s Hospital
Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Institute of Music and Health, Berklee College of Music Boston, MA